Mapping the Metropolis: Riot!

As we make our way through Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, we’re dipping into some of the maps and essays featured within the atlas—each offering a vividly imagined version of New York that reveals a richly layered, social history. For more peeks inside, head here.


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Detail from the map “Riot! Periodic Eruptions in Volcanic New York,” featured in the book “Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas”

This week, we take a look at New York City’s history of resistance. “However you classify riots,” write the book’s editors, “New York City has been good at them, or at least good at having them. . . . Riots happen when those in charge can contain that energy no more—or fail to give it proper release.”

Walking through New York means passing through sites of popular uprisings and violent clashes, where people took to the streets to protest and make their strife known. In his essay, “The Violence of Inequality,” contributor Luc Sante writes that nearly half of New York’s riots have been about race, beginning as early as 1712.

The Negro Riot of 1712 was New York’s very first social upheaval. Its facts are scant—between twenty and seventy African slaves allegedly set fire to a building on Maiden Lane, then the city’s northern boundary, and attacked whites attempting to douse the flames, killing nine. Of the forty-three slaves arraigned, eighteen were acquitted, twenty hanged, and three burned at the stake. In 1741 the facts are even murkier—a ship was seized, possibly for piracy, and its African crew were sold as slaves, but they managed to break free and burn down a number of houses, including the governor’s mansion. The Doctors Riot of 1788 was sparked by medical students digging up cadavers for dissection from the Negroes Burial Ground. A petition from African American citizens was ignored by the authorities, but when a newspaper article alleged that the body of a white woman had been dug up, citizens attacked the hospital and the violence resulted in some twenty deaths.

In the 19th century, these riots were sometimes sparked by opponents of slavery—the Eagle Street Riot of 1801 began with an attempt to free slaves—and sometimes by supporters, as when anti-abolitionists ransacked the home of an abolitionist and attacked the abolitionist-owned Bowery Theater in 1834.

The white abolitionists of the period tended to be well-educated members of the upper classes; their activities were resented by many in the white working class—mostly Irish Catholic immigrants—who saw free blacks as competing for their jobs and accepting lower wages. Tempers rose to the point of violence in the Anti- Abolitionist Riots of 1834, when a mob ransacked the Rose Street home of the abolitionist Lewis Tappan and attacked the Bowery eater, whose stage manager was a British-born abolitionist—he appeased them by sending out an actor in blackface to sing “Zip Coon.” The Brooklyn Cigar Factory Riot of 1862 was the work of local Irish and German unskilled laborers who resented the fact that African Americans, who commuted from other parts of the city, were employed as skilled cigar rollers and made more money.

The map and Sante’s essay focus on mass eruptions sparked by race as well as those rooted in wealth and class—inequality being a chief theme among these uprisings. 2011’s Occupy Wall Street makes its mark on the map as does the deadliest riot in American history, The Draft Riots of 1863 where thousands of pro-South and pro-slavery New Yorkers lashed out in a deadly mix of racial hatred, economic insecurity, and class warfare as they rampaged through Manhattan, beating and murdering black men, soldiers, and police. But the map also contains some of the weirder and more inexplicable riots in the city, such as the fashion faux-pas that launched a citywide crime spree: The Straw Hat Riot of 1922. 

Take a peek at a few highlights and plots on the map below:

Nonstop Metropolis is available in paperback and hardcover.


Dance RecitalJJ SchapiroNonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Rebecca Snedeker, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know and see New York City, in an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey.

More Stories from the Metropolis—and Beyond

The list of contributors to Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is as diverse and varied as the maps themselves. Through poignant and powerful essays and beautifully rendered maps, they pay homage to the city while also critiquing and challenging the way we see and think about New York—from its racial and economic inequality to its incubation of artists and the avant-garde. They are journalists, artists, geographers, poets, musicians, city planners, cartographers, and historians who celebrate the complexity, the unique vitality, the hidden layers, the overlooked stories, and both the ugly and beautiful aspects that shape New York.

This week we highlight some recommended books by just a few of the contributors to further your reading, and while not comprehensive or exhaustive, this is a fine place to begin as you learn about the people within the Nonstop Metropolis.


Teju Cole

Teju Cole’s surreal and haunting 2012 novel, Open City (Random House, 2012) about identity and dislocation follows a young med student as he wanders the streets of Manhattan, “this strangest of islands.” The book garnered numerous accolades, including the Pen/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction and is a perfect accompaniment to Nonstop Metropolis.

You can find his writing in Nonstop Metropolis included in “Our City of Songs,” an essay celebrating the music about New York’s parks, corners, subway lines, and neighborhoods. His piece on Mos Def , Talib Kweli, and Common’s “Respiration,” which he says has “taught me something about how to love a city’s complicated dreams,” is not to be missed.

Continue reading “More Stories from the Metropolis—and Beyond”


Last-Minute Gift Idea: See New York in Dozens of New Ways

Take a peek inside the book the New York Times calls “a document of its time, of our time.” Named a “Best Book of 2016” by the San Francisco Chronicle and one of Publishers Weekly‘s “20 Big Indie Books of 2016,” Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro has garnered love and praise from far and wide, from New York to London and beyond. This week we take you to a few stops on the maps through the lenses of some of the media—who are among those who walk, live, breathe New York as well as those who love it from afar.

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“. . . the maps themselves are things of beauty.”New York Times 

While the New York Times praised Nonstop Metropolis and its various contributors for capturing this time and place in the city, it also celebrated the book’s artistry, pointing out the level of attention and engagement it took to create this extraordinary series of documents. (To see how that magic was made, go behind-the-scenes with the book’s Art Director, Lia Tjandra, and Principal Editor, Dore Brown.) Twenty-six in total, the gorgeously rendered maps chart New York’s layered and hidden histories and truths. Take a quick flip through a couple of the maps below:

Continue reading “Last-Minute Gift Idea: See New York in Dozens of New Ways”


Mapping the Metropolis: City of Women

As we make our way through Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, we’re dipping into some of the maps and essays featured within the atlas—each offering a vividly imagined version of New York that reveals a richly layered, social history. For more peeks inside, head here.


In New York, most of the city streets, stations, monuments, and bridges have been named for men. In Rebecca Solnit’s essay “Power of Names,” featured alongside the map “City of Women,” she describes the conventions and power structures behind the naming of cities and even whole regions:

“. . . names perpetuate the gendering of New York City. Almost every city is full of men’s names, names that are markers of who wielded power, who made history, who held fortunes, who was remembered; women are anonymous people who changed fathers’ for husbands’ names as they married, who lived in private and were comparatively forgot­ten, with few exceptions. This naming stretches across the continent; the peaks of many western mountains have names that make the ranges sound like the board of directors of old corporations, and very little has been named for particular historical women, though Maryland was named after a Queen Mary who never got there.”

Here, editors Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro along with cartographer Molly Roy have renamed New York’s subway stations with the names of women by plotting the places where significant women have lived, worked, gone to school, danced, painted, wrote, and rebelled in order to come up with “a feminist city.”

CityofWomen_SolnitNMNY

Solnit goes on to recognize some of the outstanding women whose efforts have contributed to society as a whole and what the map “City of Women” symbolizes:

“New York City has had a remarkable history of charismatic women from the beginning, such as seventeenth-century Quaker preacher Hannah Feake Bowne, who is routinely written out of history—even the home in Flushing where she held meetings is often called the John Bowne house. Three of the four female Supreme Court justices have come from the city, and quite a bit of the history of American feminism has unfolded here, from Vic­toria Woodhull to Shirley Chisholm to the Guerrilla Girls. Not all the subway stations are marked, and many of the women who made valuable contributions or might have are forgotten or were never named. Many women were never allowed to be someone; many heroes of any gender live quiet lives. But some rose up; some became visible; and here they are by the hundreds. This map is their memorial and their celebration.”

Peruse the map above (click to expand it) and take a look at a few highlights below:

Nonstop Metropolis is available now in paperback and hardcover.


Dance RecitalJJ SchapiroNonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas is the final volume in our trilogy of atlases by Rebecca Solnit, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Rebecca Snedeker, and a host of notable contributors. Following the publication of the critically lauded Infinite City (San Francisco) and Unfathomable City (New Orleans), we bring you this homage—and challenge—to the way we know and see New York City, in an exquisitely designed and gorgeously illustrated atlas that excavates the many buried layers of all five boroughs of New York City and parts of New Jersey.

LIVE from the New York Public Library: Nonstop Metropolis on 10/18

Tomorrow, Oct 18th, from 7:00 – 9:00pm, lucky New Yorkers will get to hear about the creative process and stories surrounding the making of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas at LIVE from the New York Pubic Library (a limited number of tickets are still available; book ahead to avoid disappointment!).

Live NYPL

A city is made of layers—of vitality, of diversity, of richness, but also of inequity and erasure. Weaving together a tapestry of this robust city, Nonstop Metropolis collects writings from linguists, music historians, cartographers, artists, and more. LIVE from the NYPL welcomes the minds behind this project—writer and activist Rebecca Solnit, geographer Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, essayist Garnette Cadogan, and authors Suketu Mehta and Luc Sante—for a discussion about this thriving metropolis.

Nonstop Metropolis

About the authors:

REBECCA SOLNIT is a prolific writer, and the author of many books including Savage Dreams, Storming the Gates of Paradise, and the best-selling atlases Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas and Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, all from UC Press. She received the Corlis Benefideo Award for Imaginative Cartography from the North American Cartographic Information Society for her work on the previous atlases.

JOSHUA JELLY-SCHAPIRO is a geographer and writer whose work has appeared in The New York Review of Books, New York, Harper’s, and the Believer, among many other publications. He is the author of Island People: The Caribbean and the World.

GARNETTE CADOGAN is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. He is the editor-at-large of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas and is at work on a book on walking.

SUKETU MEHTA is the New York-based author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found which won the Kiriyama Prize and the Hutch Crossword Award, and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, the Lettre Ulysses Prize, the BBC4 Samuel Johnson Prize, and the Guardian First Book Award. He has won the Whiting Writers’ Award, the O. Henry Prize, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for his fiction. Mehta’s work has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Granta, Harper’s Magazine, Time, and Newsweek, and has been featured on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ and ‘All Things Considered.’ Mehta is an Associate Professor of Journalism at New York University. Mehta was born in Calcutta and raised in Bombay and New York. He is a graduate of New York University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

LUC SANTE‘s books include Low Life, Evidence, The Factory of Facts, Kill All Your Darlings, and The Other Paris. He has been a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books since 1981 and had written for a wide variety of other publications. His awards include a Whiting Writers Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Grammy (for album notes), an Infinity Award in Writing from the International Center of Photography, and Guggenheim and Cullman fellowships. He teaches writing and the history of photography at Bard College.