A walking tour along the scenic Bronx River Greenway on Saturday, March 12 will celebrate the contributions of African-Americans along the rivershed.
Led by Morgan Powell, a landscape designer and Bronx River volunteer since 1993, the two-hour tour, which kicks off at 10 a.m. at the White Castle Restaurant at 2701 Boston Road at the corner of Allerton Avenue, will chronicle the little-known African-American history along the river, spanning a history of over 300 years.
The Bronx River Ramble is hosted by the Bronx River Alliance and Con Edison, with no reservations required.
In honor of women’s history month, the tour will celebrate the contributions of people like Dianne Sargent, who was chairperson of the Bronx Greenway Committee, Janice Walcott who helped clean up the Bronx River Forest with local adults and children in the 1980s and Angnes Haywood, who helped found the Williambridge Branch of the N.A.A.C.P. more than 50 years ago, Powell said.
“The tour follows the greenway and I am motivated by the long-term maintenance of the greenway, which is only going to happen if we keep up with the population movements and get more people living along the Bronx River involved,” Powell said.
The tour covers the areas near the western end of Allerton Avenue, Norwood, Olinville, Burke Avenue, and Williamsbridge, communities where African-Americans make up a majority or a major part of the population, Powell stated.
“There have been well-funded studies of the river’s ecology and its water quality, but no one took the time to do something for the people who live along the river; different people respond to different messages and we are not going to win everyone over by speaking about ecology,” Powell said.
It took Powell nine years to to assemble the data to develop the African-American History walking tour of the river.
“There is an increasing awareness and understanding about what constitutes African-American history,” Powell said.
“This broader view of history will be presented on the tour.”
The tour will highlight two women who are part of the history of the New York Botanical Garden: Jessye Norman, an African-American opera singer who gave a concert at Avery Fisher Hall in 1998 to benefit the garden, and Therese Lemelle, a former art director for the garden’s publications.
Broader instances from history that touched the lives of past residents of the river area that were of African decent will also be discussed, including a slave narrative of a woman named Molly who was held by Issac Varrian, who owned 500 acres in the area now known as Norwood, according to Lloyd Ultan’s Legacy of the Revolution.
The tour also will help participants relive the colonial past through the eyes of African-Americans, explain how the Civil War draft riots of 1863 impacted the town of Williamsbridge, relive civil rights demonstrations on Allerton Avenue, enjoy local botanical innovations and visit a modern-day Caribbean bakery.