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Community Advocacy Organization

5 Historically Black towns you should know about

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

via Southwest Tribune

Many times, Black history is taught synonymous with enslavement, but there is so much more richness to the culture than this alone. Across the United States, there were Black towns, settlements and villages. Here are a few:

Harlem, New York

Of course, how could we talk about Black settlements without discussing Harlem? While some may consider this more of a city, neighborhood or borough, Harlem was a seat for the Black community far before the Harlem we know today emerged. Most know that the roaring 1920s brought an influx of African American talent- musicians, painters, poets, writers, speakers and artists- flooded the then village-like sub-sector of New York City. What most may be surprised to learn is that Harlem was actually home to many Black residents starting in 1630.

Sugarland, Maryland

Established in 1871, this town was built up by freed slaves, many escaping the atrocities and aftermath of slavery and the civil war. They curated the town out from their centerpiece, a church, in the middle of the village. There are still people alive who were born in this town in the 1940s prior to its fall. Many people have since moved away for more employment opportunities.

Idlewild, Michigan "Black Eden"

Not exactly a town, this was considered a resort spot for vacationing African Americans enjoying lux and time away from racially-fueled issues. Tucked away in the woods of the Huron-Manistee National Forests, it was a retreat unlike any other in the United States. In essence, segregation built the town, allowing Black families to getaway safely. It was a reasonable driving distance from places like Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit — yet invisible enough to be considered a hidden gem. Any given summer, as many as 25,000 people came through the town.

Lima, Oklahoma

One of the 13 Black towns still existing in Oklahoma, Lima was named for its Limestone deposit. Officially settled in 1903 but was said to have been inhabited since 1860s. In a shared history with other Black towns in Oklahoma, African Americans shared land and space here with Native Tribes, both groups stirring clear of oppressive white counterparts. This town was notable, with its own post office from 1907-1957.

Blackdom, New Mexico

The first Black settlement in New Mexico, Blackdom was home to 25 families (300+ people) who shared a little over 15,000 acres of land. They were equipped with their own general store, blacksmith shop, post office, hotel and church. Cotton, onions, sugar beets and cantaloupe were among many crops grown on the land. Over time however, worms ruined the crop and the wells dried up, leading to the demise of the town.


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