Community Event: Eric K. Washington

Event date: 
11/14/2019 - 6:00pm

Join historian Eric K. Washington on Thursday, November 14th at 6pm as he discusses his debut biography, Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal. Join us to explore the legacy of the chief porter - one of the most emblematic figures in the city's African-American community.

In a feat of remarkable research and timely reclamation, Eric K. Washington uncovers the nearly forgotten life of James H. Williams (1878-1948), the chief porter of Grand Central Terminal's Red Caps--a multitude of Harlem-based black men whom he organized into the essential labor force of America's most august railroad station. Washington reveals that despite the highly racialized and often exploitative nature of the work, the Red Cap was a highly coveted job for college-bound black men determined to join New York's bourgeoning middle class. Examining the deeply intertwined subjects of class, labor, and African American history, Washington chronicles Williams's life, showing how the enterprising son of freed slaves successfully navigated the segregated world of the northern metropolis, and in so doing ultimately achieved financial and social influence. With this biography, Williams must now be considered, along with Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jacqueline Onassis, one of the great heroes of Grand Central's storied past.

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Event address: 
New York City Department of Records and Information Services
31 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007