black history

From The New York Times:
Love and Black Lives, in Pictures Found on a Brooklyn Street
A discarded photo album reveals a rich history of black lives, from the
segregated South to Harlem dance halls to a pretty block in Crown Heights.
JAN. 27, 2017

One night six years ago, on a quiet side street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, I came across a photo album that had been put out with the trash. I lived around the corner, and I was walking home when I saw it sitting beneath a streetlamp on Lincoln Place.
It looked handmade, with a wooden cover bound with a shoelace. But it had been tied up with twine, like a bunch of old newspapers, and left atop a pile of recycling.
After hesitating a moment, I picked it up and took it home.
The pages were fragile, and they cracked when I turned them, as if the album hadn’t been opened in a long time, but the photos were perfectly preserved. They seemed to chronicle the life of a black couple at midcentury: a beautiful woman with a big smile and a man who looked serious, or was maybe just camera-shy, and had served in World War II.
As I turned the pages, the scenery changed from country picnics to city streets and crowded dance halls in what appeared to be Harlem, and the couple went from youth to middle age. Looking at the album, I was struck by how joyful the photos were — and by the fact that as fabled as this era was, I had never seen a black family’s own account of that time.
I wondered who these neighbors were, and who had thrown the album out.
For decades, this part of Crown Heights had been mostly black. When I arrived in the neighborhood, several years before, I was one of the few nonblack residents on the block. The neighborhood was changing, though; newcomers were arriving and longtime residents were moving out.
I went back to Lincoln Place, hoping to find the album’s owner; it had surely been thrown out by mistake. Lincoln Place was the very image of old Brooklyn promoted by real estate agents. On other blocks, the houses were carved up or crumbling. Or they had been torn down and replaced by big buildings with spotlights and no-loitering signs. But on Lincoln Place, the stately rowhouses were still intact and well loved. The block was preserved in amber.
I knocked on doors and left my number, but I never heard from anyone. So I put the album on my bookshelf. A few years later, my landlords got an offer they couldn’t refuse, and my short time in Crown Heights was up. I stumbled upon the album while packing and pulled it off the shelf. Now I really had to reckon with it.
Gentrification was transforming the neighborhood — soon there might be no one left who recognized the world in these pictures. And the album was literally falling apart in my hands.…

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Hosted by The Bronx County Historical Society 3313 Bainbridge Ave, Bronx, NY 10467-2835

Join Bronx authors Robert Gumbs and Fordham University’s Professor Mark Naison as they present their book Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1930s to the 1960s, along with the research that was done during the process. The authors will have copies of their book for sale and signing and there is a maximum capacity for up to 40 people. First come, first served.

This lecture will be held at The Bronx County Archives located at 3313 Bainbridge Avenue, The Bronx, New York 10467. For directions, call (718) 881-8900.…

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From “What To Catch At The New York Public Library This Fall

At The Schomburg Center…”When Sugar Hill Was Sweet (September 22), a look at some of the women of Upper Manhattan’s past who have been outshined by their famous husbands, including Shirley Graham DuBois and Eslanda Goode Robeson.”…

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Sun 05 2016 , by

Hopper-Gibbons House

Hopper-Gibbons House Saga Has a New Addition

BY SEAN EGAN | The latest of the dozens of battles (fought both in and out of court) in the years-long war over the fate of the Hopper-Gibbons House has ended in favor of The Friends of Hopper-Gibbons Underground Railroad Site & Lamartine Place Historic District, who seek to protect the integrity of the historic, documented Underground Railroad site located at 339 W. 29th St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Ave.).

The stop at Community Board 4’s (CB4) Chelsea Land Use Committee meeting on May 16 found the Friends and their allies seeking CB4’s denial of support for the owner’s latest plans for the construction, which will be presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on June 21. While this step is promising, the House that once served as an abolition center and safe haven for runaway slaves still has a long way to go to return to its former glory.

 In the past, trouble has surrounded the building because at the outset of construction, the owner was in possession of a permit erroneously issued by the Department of Buildings (DOB), rather than the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) — and began to build a fifth floor on the row house. In 2009, soon after the invalid DOB permit was revoked and Stop Work Orders were issued (though, reportedly, construction continued), the building was granted landmark status as part of the Lamartine Historic District. Thusly, in 2013, the BSA ordered owner Tony Mamounas to get approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) before moving ahead with construction. This decision was reinforced both in Manhattan Supreme Court in 2013, and more recently the NY Supreme Court Appellate Division in 2015 — at which point it was noted by electeds and advocates that the LPC had the authority to make the owner restore the building to its prior state.

Mamounas’ architect presented plans the owner hopes will be approved by the LPC. Photo by Sean Egan.

Lawyer Marvin Mitzner, speaking on behalf of the owner that evening, was there to present to the committee the plans for the building that the owner is currently seeking, and planning on bringing before the LPC. Introducing the project’s architect, the assembled were shown renderings of what they ultimately want the building to look like. Their current plan includes keeping an altered fifth floor on the building in a bulkhead, set back seven feet and at a slant, in order to make it less visible from across the street, creating the illusion (from certain angles) of it being flush with surrounding roofs. They also noted that keeping this floor, with stairs, would provide safer access to the roof.

Other touted improvements to the building included a brownstone base, a new brick façade, and new windows to give it a “more distinct profile” — a positive step, according to Mitzner, who characterized the structure as an “ugly stucco building” that is an “eyesore” in the district. 

Committee member Walter Mankoff spared no time taking Mitzner and Mamounas to task after the presentation.

“I do recall year after year, and month after month,” noted Mankoff, “that construction kept going on, on the fifth floor, deliberately violating rules,” making him find it hard to sympathize with their call to support the plan.…

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Living History Days: MLK, Jr. Weekend (Days Of Freedom Civil War re-enactment of 26th United States Colored Troops
 Sat, January 16th, 2016 |
11:00 am to 4:00 pm

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From delanceyplace.com:

In today’s selection — from Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington.

During the Roaring 20s and into the Great Depression, the hottest club in New York was the Cotton Club, an establishment owned by one of New York’s most notorious gangsters. Though it featured black performers and was located in the middle of Harlem, New York’s preeminent black neighborhood, black patrons were almost never allowed and the decor was made to evoke a Southern slave plantation.

“In 1927 Harlem was a playground for white people who could afford to pay for liquor and sex — and who liked having sex with black people, so long as they didn’t have to talk to them afterward. Of the uptown nightclubs that catered to white patrons, the Cotton Club, which billed itself as ‘the Aristocrat of Harlem’ in its newspaper ads, was the best known and most expensive, as well as the one with the dirtiest pedigree. Owney Madden, the owner, was an Englishman of Irish parentage whose family had emigrated to New York’s Hell’s Kitchen when he was eleven years old. He was slight of stature and spoke in a high-pitched voice that sounded, Sonny Greer said, ‘like a girl.’ But appearances were deceiving, for Madden was a vicious street fighter who in his youth had racked up a long list of cold-blooded killings. He now ran one of New York’s most successful bootlegging gangs, investing his profits in Broadway shows like Mae West’s Sex (and, it was whispered, having a backstage affair with West herself). In 1920, while he was serving an eight-year term in Sing Sing for manslaughter, he acquired a failed Harlem supper club called the Cafe de Luxe that had been ‘owned’ by Jack Johnson, the famous black boxer, who served as the front man for yet another mobster. After Madden was paroled in 1923, he turned it into a cabaret with a stiff cover charge whose scantily dressed dancers and sexually suggestive stage shows became the talk of Manhattan.


“Located on Lenox Avenue at West 142nd Street, the Cotton Club was a second-story walk-up that held between six and seven hundred people who sat in two tiers of tables surrounding the dance floor. The walls were covered with what Irving Mills, who was prone to malapropisms, called ‘muriels.’ The rest of the decor, as Cab Calloway recalled, was suggestive in a less innocent way:

The bandstand was a replica of a southern mansion, with large white columns and a backdrop painted with weeping willows and slave quarters. The band played on the veranda of the mansion …. The waiters were dressed in red tuxedos, like butlers in a southern mansion, and the tables were covered with red-and-white-checked gingham tablecloths …. I suppose the idea was to make whites who came to the club feel like they were being catered to and entertained by black slaves.

“Spike Hughes, who visited the club a few years later, described it as ‘expensive and exclusive; it cost you the earth merely to look at the girl who took your hat and coat as you went in.’ He was stretching it, but not by much.…

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