Tri-State Black History People, Places and Moments: Sandy Ground, Staten Island

Joseph W. Bishop, who died in 1986, is shown in his Sandy Ground blacksmith shop, which operated from a wooden barn in New York's Staten Island for over 125 years. ((AP Photos, Sandy Ground Historical Museum))

When Captain John Jackson bought land in 1828 in what is today known as Sandy Ground, he became the first black landowner in Staten Island. Soon after, other freedmen followed him, and the village became one of the first free black communities in the country.

The community was a successful farming village and prospered even further when it became a prime location for oyster gathering in 1841. Sandy Ground was further enriched culturally when in 1850, the Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded. The church became a social hub for residents of Sandy Ground and likely an important Underground Railroad stop.

Today, the community functions as the oldest black settlement in the U.S.. The church continues to serve the community and visitors can tour the Sandy Ground Historical Society's museum, a Program Site for the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. The group conducts ongoing research and preserves the history of the Sandy Ground community and African American history.

Sandy Ground Historical Society
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columbia.edu
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