On Tuesday, April 14, 1903, an Irish woman named Frances Connors leaned out of her window from the fifth floor tenement house at 743 East 11th Street on Avenue D, New York City, and discovered a man’s body stashed inside a wooden barrel.
The man, who sported a thick mustache speckled with gray hairs and a scar shaped like the letter ‘v’ on his left cheek, had been viciously stabbed, his neck almost severed from side to side. Inspectors on the scene had an inkling the man was one of the many Italian immigrants who had recently made their way into New York, and who perhaps had become involved with La Mala Vita, the bad life. Continue reading
American prisons are overcrowded. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and nearly 2.5 million Americans are serving prison sentences.
Nearly all politicians agree that we need to reform the American prison system, but they disagree on how to do it. Can gaining historical perspective on this present-day problem help us solve it?
in this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we investigate early American prisons and prison life with Jen Manion, an Assistant Professor of History at Connecticut College and author of Liberty’s Prisoners: Carceral Culture in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/080
This week on “The Historians” podcast the guest is journalist David Kinney, co-author of The Devil’s Diary: Alfred Rosenberg and the Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich. (HarperCollins, 2015) The co-author is retired FBI expert on cultural property crime Robert Wittman. You can listen to the podcast here. Continue reading
Plans are being developed for commemoration of at least three significant historical events next year – the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York State, the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, and the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I. These are all exciting opportunities to call attention to New York’s history.
But the New York historical community might consider going even further with these three events. In fact, the historical community might consider making 2017 a special year for New York history. Here are a few possibilities: Continue reading
This week on “The Historians” podcast hear Nova Scotia journalism professor Dean Jobb with the story of Chicago swindler Leo Koretz. Koretz fled from American prosecution in the 1920s and hid out in Nova Scotia. Jobb’s book on a man described as the Bernard Madoff of the 1920s is Empire of Deception (Algonquin Books, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here. Continue reading
Marcia M. Gallo takes a look at one of America’s most infamous crime stories, in No One Helped (2015 Cornell University). This new book examines the 1964 rape and murder of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese, in a middle-class neighborhood of Queens.
Front-page reports in the New York Times incorrectly identified thirty-eight indifferent witnesses to the crime, fueling fears of apathy and urban decay. Genovese’s life, including her lesbian relationship, was also obscured in media accounts of the crime.
Fifty years later, the story of Kitty Genovese continues to circulate in popular culture. Although it is now known that there were far fewer witnesses to the crime than was reported in 1964, the moral of the story continues to be urban apathy. No One Helped traces the Genovese story’s development and resilience while challenging the myth it created. Continue reading
This week on “The Historians” podcast David Fiske discusses his new book, “Solomon Northup’s Kindred: The Kidnapping of Free Citizens before the Civil War” (Praeger, 2016). Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University professor and PBS host, said, “Fiske’s efforts to document these victims and the crimes that robbed them of their families and freedom are heroic indeed and should be applauded.” Fiske previously was the co-author of “Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave.” You can listen to the entire podcast here. Continue reading
Law and order stood as a sign of civilization for many 17th-century Europeans, which is why some of the first European settlers in North America created systems of law and order in their new homeland.
In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we explore the legal history of colonial New England with Abby Chandler, author of Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England 1650-1750 (Ashgate, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/069
The Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights was built in 1765, and is Manhattan’s oldest surviving house. George Washington made it his headquarters during parts of the Revolutionary War, and today it is a not-for-profit museum open to all, yet the mansion flies mostly under the radar of even the most erudite of New Yorkers.
Margaret A. Oppenheimer sheds light on the mansion and its most notorious occupant in her new book, The Remarkable Rise of Eliza Jumel: A Story of Marriage and Money in the Early Republic (2015 Chicago Review Press). Continue reading
Although his father was said to have been born as a slave, and was later a junk dealer in the Augusta, Georgia area, Sumner H. Lark came to be a trend-breaking black leader in New York State who worked to establish an African-American community in Putnam County.
Sumner Lark was born in in 1874 to a father later described as “a pioneer race business man in his home town and accumulated a considerable fortune at one time.” He grew up in the Augusta area, and attended the Haines Institute before attending Howard University, graduating in 1897. He then returned to Georgia, taught Chemistry and Physics at Haines and ran a local newspaper for about a year, having edited a student-run newspaper in college. After marrying he relocated to Brooklyn, New York just after the start of the 20th century. There, he ran his own printing business, and started The Eye, a newspaper which reported information of interest to African Americans. Continue reading