Chief Baba Neil Clarke | Weeksville Heritage Center

Pinkster Festival at Weeksville Heritage Center
Artistic Discipline: Interdisciplinary
Category: Local Arts Support
Grant Year: 2022
Location: Bedford-Stuyvesant

The Pinkster Festival is a very important 350-year-old, but little known, Africanized celebration which took place annually in the Hudson River Valley region, including the N.Y.C. area, for almost 200 yrs. Pinkster is Dutch for the Christian holiday of Pentecost, the commemoration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus prompting them to “speak-in-tongues” or different languages and go forth spreading their joyous message. It’s considered to be the beginning of the formal Christian church. According to the Christian calendar Pentecost/Pinkster occurs annually 50 days after Easter. These observations began here with the original Dutch settlers who did engaged in the enslavement of African people from 1626. The Pinkster festival was a time when the Dutch would go to church to observe the Pinkster holiday. They would give their enslaved Africans time off with the freedom to engage in normally uncustomary activities. The Africans took this opportunity to celebrate with their own music, dance and other cultural expressions of their African heritage. The Pinkster Festival evolved into what is probably the oldest openly African holiday celebration in America. It was very popular for nearly 200 years. These celebrations were outlawed in 1811 finally disappearing around 1850.

Image: Pinkster musicians. Photo by Keith Johnston, 2017.