Black History Month: Keeping Spinney Hill's legacy alive

Nestled between the affluent communities of Manhasset and Great Neck is Spinney Hill, a historic black enclave hidden in plain sight.

News 12 Staff

Feb 11, 2019, 1:55 PM

Updated 1,925 days ago

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Nestled between the affluent communities of Manhasset and Great Neck is Spinney Hill, a historic black enclave hidden in plain sight.
In the 19th century, life for free black residents centered on agriculture and the church. Later, during the great migration of blacks fleeing the Jim Crow South, domestic workers and their families settled there.
Filmmaker Lloyd Means came from one of those families. He co-produced a documentary called "Spinney Hill: The African American History of Manhasset and Great Neck," in effort to preserve the area's history.
FULL SERIES: Black History Month
Historian Georgette Grier-Key says Spinney Hill was a place where black-owned businesses could thrive.
"They had property, they owned the land. They had record stores, hotels, nightclub juke joints, restaurants, ice cream shops, churches," Grier-Key says.
But in the 1970s, things changed. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development started an urban renewal project that eventually displaced residents and the businesses in the area.
"They were told that they would have adequate housing coming in, 'You're going to be able to have your businesses put back in place.' This never happened," says Grier-Key.
"They ripped us off, they ripped the whole community off and they never gave us what they promised," says long-time resident Dennis Irby.
Irby helps orchestrate an annual reunion of residents past and honors the contributions of community members. It marks an effort to protect the legacy of a tight-knit community.
"So that we could make the people and the new people aware of the pioneers of this community, the people who have laid their blood and sweat down in this community and have not been recognized," Irby says.


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