New Web Site Maps New York's Black History


Special from The Record


The launch of a Web-based teaching tool is helping to bring to life African American history in New York City for public school children across the area.


MAAP—an acronym for “Mapping the African American Past”—is the joint creation of the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL), which developed the Web programming and infrastructure; Creative Curriculum Initiatives (CCI), which provided text about historic New York City sites; and Teachers College (TC), which has created a curriculum for use by New York City teachers.


Funded by a grant from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and launched in late February, MAAP creates a visual link between New York City as it is today and the world that African Americans lived in 150 or more years ago, using video, audio, historic maps and other components.


“A critically important strategy in involving young students in the study of history is to make that history come alive,” says Margaret Crocco, professor of Social Studies and Education at Teachers College.


Frank Moretti, executive director of CCNMTL, adds that Web-based learning environments such as MAAP provide simultaneous universal access to an intellectual object at no cost. They also offer students new forms of interactive engagement. CCNMTL has developed approximately 200 large-scale online learning sites for thousands of scholars and faculty members over the past nine years.


Users can visit MAAP and learn about the history of African Americans in New York City by selecting a time period (1800-1899, for example) or a location on a map of the city, or by reading individual entries, such as one about Freedom’s Journal, the first newspaper owned and published by African Americans.


For teachers, the curriculum and lesson plans— developed by students and graduates of the TC Program in Social Studies under the guidance of Crocco and faculty member William Gaudelli—are related to each site and adapted for students in different grades.


The lessons are organized into modules centered on several themes, including the development of the African American community in New York City, resistance and self-determination in the face of slavery and discrimination, and African American contributions to building New York City.


The interactive MAAP site will ultimately showcase 52 historic sites in New York City, including the familiar (the African Burial Ground, Draft Riots, Abyssinian Baptist Church) and the less well-known (African Grove Theater, Colored Orphan Asylum, Hughson’s Tavern).


The Web site, offered free of charge to teachers, is also available to the public and will be actively promoted to tourists. It can be visited at


—Story by John Tucker

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