Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"One Righteous Man" by Arthur Browne (2015)

This book is a by product of Langston Hughes unpublished biography of Samuel Battle, New York City's first African-American policeman. Hughes was working on a number of projects at the time he accepted this assignment to co-author Samuel Battle's autobiography in the late 1940's.

The author, Arthur Browne, gives all credit to Mr. Hughes where applicable. He has also created a multi layered story of the history of racism in the ranks of Civil Servants in the last days of the 19th Century as well as into the 20th.

Racism wasn't confined to the South as you may have been taught in school. It was rampant in the North as well. Sometimes more oblique ways perhaps, but at other times it was as brutal as the lynchings were.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of reading this was  authors skillful weaving of the history of those times along with Samuel Battle's own story.  It gives great depth to the the narrative. It helps the reader in understanding the systemic racism Mr. Battle was forced to tackle in order to be what he aspired to be. It is also a great history of  one particular street in Harlem which was like a "Doctor's Row", in that many of the most educated  and affluent of the ciiy's African-Americans lived there. 

Today there is a small plaza dedicated to him outside City Hall. But, in reality, no plaza could ever be large enough to hold the spirit of Samuel Battle. This is the story of that man. It is also the story of his vision and how he achieved it.

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