Posts Tagged ‘Little Africa New York City’

The “black and tan” clubs of Minetta Street

November 8, 2010

Minetta Street and Minetta Lane, two tiny paths off Sixth Avenue in the Village, were named in the 1820s for the brook that still runs underground.

Charming, right? But from the Civil War to Prohibition, the Minettas actually had a morally reprehensible reputation.

That’s because the Minettas and the surrounding streets were home to “black and tan” clubs, bars were blacks and whites mingled freely.

The clubs were there because this is where New York’s black residents lived. The neighborhood had been settled by freed slaves, and by the Civil War, it was known as Little Africa, a poor area inhabited by thousands.

“In Minetta Street and Minetta Lane the last of the Cornelia Street colored colony remains entrenched. The crooked, narrow streets are lined with wooden rookeries, amply provided with rear tenements, accessible only through cramped alleys,” states a New York Times article dated February 13, 1910.

Within a decade, black New Yorkers relocated to Harlem, and Italian immigrants moved into the Minettas. Lined with speakeasies during the Depression, it’s now quiet and residential.

[Photo of Minetta Street and Minetta Lane in 1925: NYPL digital collection]