overview

Many New York City public parks and playgrounds are named in honor of prominent figures in New York City and American history.

Langston Hughes Playground, in Manhattan, inadvertently honors an LGBT individual.

Header Photo
Courtesy of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.

History

Many New York City public parks and playgrounds are named in honor of prominent figures in New York City and American history. The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project compiled a list of 13 public parks and playgrounds named after gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals, several of which intentionally honor an LGBT individual. This list includes Langston Hughes Playground, in Manhattan.

Formerly known as St. Nicholas Houses Playground North, it was re-named for Langston Hughes in 2020 in honor of the Black experience in New York City, and also inadvertently for his LGBT history. African-American poet and writer Hughes (1901-1967) was one of the foremost figures of the Harlem Renaissance, which promoted Black art and culture. His lifelong fascination with Harlem is evident in much of his writing, which often features the neighborhood and the people he encountered there. He would later be referred to as the “Poet Laureate of Harlem.” Though private about his personal life, he is generally believed to have been gay. He was an active participant in the gay social circles of the Harlem Renaissance and included homosexual subtext in his writing.

The complex of St. Nicholas Houses was constructed in 1953 by the New York City Housing Authority, along Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard between West 127th and 131st Streets. The Authority leased two parcels of land to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation in 1953 for playground construction. These became St. Nicholas Houses Playground South and St. Nicholas Houses Playground North.

Sources

  1. Arnold Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes: Volume II: 1941-1967, I Dream a World, second edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

  2. Audre Lorde, I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities (New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1986).

  3. Jennifer Schuessler, “Langston Hughes Just Got A Year Older,” The New York Times, August 9, 2018.

  4. “Langston Hughes,” LGBTQA Resource Office, University of Illinois–Springfield, bit.ly/2fjpOoG.

  5. “Langston Hughes Playground,” NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, on.nyc.gov/3lXu3IR.

  6. Marjorie Pearson, Langston Hughes House Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, August 11, 1981).

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