Home > Black American History > Prized Possessions: Prime Real Estate Black Land Owners in Early America

Prized Possessions: Prime Real Estate Black Land Owners in Early America


Early in the history of America, blacks had owned some of the most sought after real estate in the country.  Around 1790, Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable, a French speaking free black man, founded the city of Chicago.  The property that he once owned includes real estate from the banks of the Chicago River north to Chicago Avenue and from State Street east to the lake.  His land also included what is now Chicago’s ”magnificent mile”, one of the richest real estate areas in the world.  The area that DuSable owned now estimated over billions of dollars in value.

The City of Los Angeles was founded by a group of eleven families, totaling a combined 44 people.  Of the 44 people, 26 were black. (Black People Who Made the Old West by William Loren Katz, Trenton: Africa World Press, 1992, pg. 73)  Maria Rita Valdez, a granddaughter of two of those founders, owned Rancho Rodeo de Las Aguas, which is known today as Beverly Hills.  Francisco Reyes owned the entire San Fernando Valley.  William Leidesdorff owned a 35,000-acre estate he called Rio del Rancho Americana.

In New York, blacks once owned land that included parts of what is present day Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park.  Blacks also owned an community, called Seneca Village, which was demolished in order to create Central Park in the 1800’s.  A Black woman, Annie D’Angola, owned the land on which Madison Square Garden now stands.   In the mid 1600s, the Dutch, who were having major skirmishes with the Indians, freed some of their slaves and granted them land in exchange of a yearly allotment of crop supplies.  This was done to provide a buffer between themselves and the Indians.  The land these freed blacks owned stretched from Wall Street to 34th Street.  Blacks also owned the area that City Hall stands on today.  The British eventually took the land from them after they took over New Netherland in 1664.

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