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Composer Harry Burleigh Honored with Street Naming

On Sunday, September 12, members of the Friends community and the Stuyvesant Square neighborhood celebrated the long-awaited co-naming of East 16th Street between Rutherford Place and Third Avenue in honor of Harry T. Burleigh.

Burleigh was the first African-American composer to win acclaim for his adaptation of African-American spirituals, arranging them in a more classical form. He composed more than 200 works. He was the first Black soloist at St. George's Episcopal Church (across from Friends Seminary) and would remain so for over 50 years. Additionally, Burleigh's son, Alston, was the second Black student to attend Friends Seminary, entering Kindergarten in 1905.

The co-naming represented a community-wide effort that included efforts by the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association and Grade 7 students at Friends, who in Grade 5, took part in a letter-writing campaign to the Community Board to bring about this well deserved recognition. On December 17, 2020, the City Council approved the petition.

Pictured at top: (1) A group of students who participated in the letter-writing campaign stand under the new street sign. (2) A close-up of the sign. (3) A photograph of Burleigh with an inscription to his son, Alston.
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Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.
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