They called themselves "Vampires," "Dragons," and "Egyptian Kings." They were divided by race, ethnicity, and neighborhood boundaries, but united by common styles, slang, and codes of honor. They fought--and sometimes killed--to protect and expand their territories. In postwar New York, youth gangs were a colorful and controversial part of the urban landscape, made famous by West Side Story and infamous by the media. This is the first historical study to explore fully the culture of these gangs. Eric Schneider takes us into a world of switchblades and slums, zoot suits and bebop music to explain why youth gangs emerged, how they evolved, and why young men found membership and the violence it involved so attractive. Schneider begins by describing how postwar urban renewal, slum clearances, and ethnic migration pitted African-American, Puerto Rican, and Euro-American youths against each other in battles to dominate changing neighborhoods. But he argues that young men ultimately joined gangs less because of ethnicity than because membership and gang violence offered rare opportunities for adolescents alienated from school, work, or the family to win prestige, power, adulation from girls, and a masculine identity. In the course of the book, Schneider paints a rich and detailed portrait of everyday life in gangs, drawing on personal interviews with former members to re-create for us their language, music, clothing, and social mores. We learn what it meant to be a "down bopper" or a "jive stud," to "fish" with a beautiful "deb" to the sounds of the Jesters, and to wear gang sweaters, wildly colored zoot suits, or the "Ivy League look." He outlines the unwritten rules of gang behavior, the paths members followed to adulthood, and the effects of gang intervention programs, while also providing detailed analyses of such notorious gang-related crimes as the murders committed by the "Capeman," Salvador Agron. Schneider focuses on the years from 1940 to 1975, but takes us up to the present in his conclusion, showing how youth gangs are no longer social organizations but economic units tied to the underground economy. Written with a profound understanding of adolescent culture and the street life of New York, this is a powerful work of history and a compelling story for a general audience.
Like Huck's raft, the experience of American childhood has been both adventurous and terrifying. For more than three centuries, adults have agonized over raising children while children have followed their own paths to development and expression. Now, Steven Mintz gives us the first comprehensive history of American childhood encompassing both the child's and the adult's tumultuous early years of life. Underscoring diversity through time and across regions, Mintz traces the transformation of children from the sinful creatures perceived by Puritans to the productive workers of nineteenth-century farms and factories, from the cosseted cherubs of the Victorian era to the confident consumers of our own. He explores their role in revolutionary upheaval, westward expansion, industrial growth, wartime mobilization, and the modern welfare state. Revealing the harsh realities of children's lives through history—the rigors of physical labor, the fear of chronic ailments, the heartbreak of premature death—he also acknowledges the freedom children once possessed to discover their world as well as themselves. Whether at work or play, at home or school, the transition from childhood to adulthood has required generations of Americans to tackle tremendously difficult challenges. Today, adults impose ever-increasing demands on the young for self-discipline, cognitive development, and academic achievement, even as the influence of the mass media and consumer culture has grown. With a nod to the past, Mintz revisits an alternative to the goal-driven realities of contemporary childhood. An odyssey of psychological self-discovery and growth, this book suggests a vision of childhood that embraces risk and freedom—like the daring adventure on Huck's raft.
In recent years, community policing has transformed American law enforcement by promising to build trust between citizens and officers. Today, three-quarters of American police departments claim to embrace the strategy. But decades before the phrase was coined, the New York City Housing Authority Police Department (HAPD) had pioneered community-based crime-fighting strategies. The Last Neighborhood Cops reveals the forgotten history of the residents and cops who forged community policing in the public housing complexes of New York City during the second half of the twentieth century. Through a combination of poignant storytelling and historical analysis, Fritz Umbach draws on buried and confidential police records and voices of retired officers and older residents to help explore the rise and fall of the HAPD's community-based strategy, while questioning its tactical effectiveness. The result is a unique perspective on contemporary debates of community policing and historical developments chronicling the influence of poor and working-class populations on public policy making.
In the 1960s Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood was labeled America’s largest ghetto. But its brownstones housed a coterie of black professionals intent on bringing order and hope to the community. In telling their story Michael Woodsworth reinterprets the War on Poverty by revealing its roots in local activism and policy experiments.
In July 1964, after a white police officer shot and killed an African American teenage boy, unrest broke out in Harlem and then Bedford-Stuyvesant. Protests rose up to call for an end to police brutality and the unequal treatment of Black people in a city that viewed itself as liberal. A week of upheaval ensued, including looting and property damage as well as widespread police violence, in what would be the first of the 1960s urban uprisings. Christopher Hayes examines the causes and consequences of the uprisings, from the city’s history of racial segregation in education, housing, and employment to the ways in which the police both neglected and exploited Black neighborhoods. While the national civil rights movement was securing substantial victories in the 1950s and 1960s, Black New Yorkers saw little or uneven progress. Faced with a lack of economic opportunities, pervasive discrimination, and worsening quality of life, they felt a growing sense of disenchantment with the promises of city leaders. Turning to the aftermath of the uprising, Hayes demonstrates that the city’s power structure continued its refusal to address structural racism. In the most direct local outcome, a broad, interracial coalition of activists called for civilian review of complaints against the police. The NYPD’s rank and file fought this demand bitterly, further inflaming racial tensions. The story of the uprisings and what happened next reveals the white backlash against civil rights in the north and crystallizes the limits of liberalism. Drawing on a range of archives, this book provides a vivid portrait of postwar New York City, a new perspective on the civil rights era, and a timely analysis of deeply entrenched racial inequalities.
Robert W. Snyder's Crossing Broadway tells how disparate groups overcame their mutual suspicions to rehabilitate housing, build new schools, restore parks, and work with the police to bring safety to streets racked by crime and fear. It shows how a neighborhood once nicknamed "Frankfurt on the Hudson" for its large population of German Jews became "Quisqueya Heights"—the home of the nation's largest Dominican community. The story of Washington Heights illuminates New York City's long passage from the Great Depression and World War II through the urban crisis to the globalization and economic inequality of the twenty-first century. Washington Heights residents played crucial roles in saving their neighborhood, but its future as a home for working-class and middle-class people is by no means assured. The growing gap between rich and poor in contemporary New York puts new pressure on the Heights as more affluent newcomers move into buildings that once sustained generations of wage earners and the owners of small businesses. Crossing Broadway is based on historical research, reporting, and oral histories. Its narrative is powered by the stories of real people whose lives illuminate what was won and lost in northern Manhattan's journey from the past to the present. A tribute to a great American neighborhood, this book shows how residents learned to cross Broadway—over the decades a boundary that has separated black and white, Jews and Irish, Dominican-born and American-born—and make common cause in pursuit of one of the most precious rights: the right to make a home and build a better life in New York City.
Hip-hop is now a global multi-billion pound industry. It has spawned superstars all across the world. There have been tie-in clothing lines, TV stations, film companies, cosmetics lines. It even has its own sports, its own art style, its own dialect. It is an all-encompassing lifestyle. But where did hip-hop culture begin? Who created it? How did hip-hop become such a phenomenon? Jeff Chang, an American journalist, has written the most comprehensive book on hip-hop to date. He introduces the major players who came up with the ideas that form the basic elements of the culture. He describes how it all began with social upheavals in Jamaica, the Bronx, the Black Belt of Long Island and South Central LA. He not only provides a history of the music, but a fascinating insight into the social background of young black America. Stretching from the early 70s through to the present day, this is the definitive history of hip-hop. It will be essential reading for all DJs, B-Boys, MCs and anyone with an interest in American history.
How progressive good intentions failed at Coxsackie, once a model New York State prison for youth offenders. Should prisons attempt reform and uplift inmates or, by means of principled punishment, deter them from further wrongdoing? This debate has raged in Western Europe and in the United States at least since the late eighteenth century. Joseph F. Spillane examines the failure of progressive reform in New York State by focusing on Coxsackie, a New Deal reformatory built for young male offenders. Opened in 1935 to serve “adolescents adrift,” Coxsackie instead became an unstable and brutalizing prison. From the start, the liberal impulse underpinning the prison’s mission was overwhelmed by challenges it was unequipped or unwilling to face—drugs, gangs, and racial conflict. Spillane draws on detailed prison records to reconstruct a life behind bars in which “ungovernable” young men posed constant challenges to racial and cultural order. The New Deal order of the prison was unstable from the start; the politics of punishment quickly became the politics of race and social exclusion, and efforts to save liberal reform in postwar New York only deepened its failures. In 1977, inmates took hostages to focus attention on their grievances. The result was stricter discipline and an end to any pretense that Coxsackie was a reform institution. Why did the prison fail? For answers, Spillane immerses readers in the changing culture and racial makeup of the U.S. prison system and borrows from studies of colonial prisons, which emblematized efforts by an exploitative regime to impose cultural and racial restraint on others. In today’s era of mass incarceration, prisons have become conflict-ridden warehouses and powerful symbols of racism and inequality. This account challenges the conventional wisdom that America’s prison crisis is of comparatively recent vintage, showing instead how a racial and punitive system of control emerged from the ashes of a progressive ideal.
In A History of Conversion to Islam in the United States, Volume 2: The African American Islamic Renaissance, 1920-1975 Patrick D. Bowen offers an account of the diverse roots and manifestations of African American Islam as it appeared between 1920 and 1975.
Chronicles the sweeping history of the storied Henry Street Settlement and its enduring vision of a more just society On a cold March day in 1893, 26-year-old nurse Lillian Wald rushed through the poverty-stricken streets of New York’s Lower East Side to a squalid bedroom where a young mother lay dying—abandoned by her doctor because she could not pay his fee. The misery in the room and the walk to reach it inspired Wald to establish Henry Street Settlement, which would become one of the most influential social welfare organizations in American history. Through personal narratives, vivid images, and previously untold stories, Ellen M. Snyder-Grenier chronicles Henry Street’s sweeping history from 1893 to today. From the fights for public health and immigrants’ rights that fueled its founding, to advocating for relief during the Great Depression, all the way to tackling homelessness and AIDS in the 1980s, and into today—Henry Street has been a champion for social justice. Its powerful narrative illuminates larger stories about poverty, and who is “worthy” of help; immigration and migration, and who is welcomed; human rights, and whose voice is heard. For over 125 years, Henry Street Settlement has survived in a changing city and nation because of its ability to change with the times; because of the ingenuity of its guiding principle—that by bridging divides of class, culture, and race we could create a more equitable world; and because of the persistence of poverty, racism, and income disparity that it has pledged to confront. This makes the story of Henry Street as relevant today as it was more than a century ago. The House on Henry Street is not just about the challenges of overcoming hardship, but about the best possibilities of urban life and the hope and ambition it takes to achieve them.
In this nuanced and groundbreaking history, Donna Murch argues that the Black Panther Party (BPP) started with a study group. Drawing on oral history and untapped archival sources, she explains how a relatively small city with a recent history of African American settlement produced such compelling and influential forms of Black Power politics. During an era of expansion and political struggle in California's system of public higher education, black southern migrants formed the BPP. In the early 1960s, attending Merritt College and other public universities radicalized Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and many of the young people who joined the Panthers' rank and file. In the face of social crisis and police violence, the most disfranchised sectors of the East Bay's African American community--young, poor, and migrant--challenged the legitimacy of state authorities and of an older generation of black leadership. By excavating this hidden history, Living for the City broadens the scholarship of the Black Power movement by documenting the contributions of black students and youth who created new forms of organization, grassroots mobilization, and political literacy.