The first Western-trained Chinese physician to practice in the U.S. lived most of his life in Brooklyn, where he established America’s first modern hospital for Chinese patients. A strong civil rights advocate at a time when his community could boast few of them, he spoke out frequently and forcefully against the injustices to which Chinese in America were subjected.
China-born Joseph Chak Thoms (1862-1929), known in his native Cantonese dialect as Tom Ah Jo, arrived in California as a teenager in the mid-1870s. He had a gift for language and soon mastered English with hardly an accent. After being baptized by a Presbyterian missionary – which earned him a beating from his uncle – he took a job as a cabin boy and sailed around the world on a steamer, visiting Japan and India before returning to America. Continue reading
The Historic Districts Council, an advocate for New York City’s historic neighborhoods representing a constituency of over 500 local community organizations, has named Daniel J. Allen, Board President.
“Mr. Allen has been a valued member of the HDC board for several years. His knowledge and experience as both a professional and community preservationist make him an ideal candidate and we are very happy to welcome him into this new position,” Simeon Bankoff, HDC’s Executive Director said in a statement to the press. Continue reading
The South Street Seaport has been named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places according the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since 1988, the National Trust has used this campaign to raise awareness about the threats facing some of the nation’s greatest treasures.
The South Street Seaport is a designated NYC Historic District and is considered the first World Trade Center, as it was NYC’s birth place of commerce. Continue reading
On May 12, 2015, the Coat of Arms Foundation (COAF) in collaboration with the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B) hosted a presentation by Chris M. Jones on the centennial anniversary of the adoption of the seal of the City of New York on June 24, 1915.
Designed to reflect the full heraldic achievement – arms with charges, crest, supporters, and motto – the seal went into use for “requisite purposes… on documents, publications or stationery issued or used by or in the name or under the authority of the city or of any borough or department thereof.” Continue reading
Last Monday I attended the Broadway opening of Hamilton, the musical. I was really looking forward to the event. The Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society was out in force.
The opening was particularly auspicious coming one day after the anniversary of Hamilton’s death in 1804. Continue reading
Long before digital technology made instant worldwide communication possible, political protests and calls for action reached the public through posters. Posted on walls and bulletin boards, slapped up on store windows and church doors, these works often featured bright colors and modernist art-inspired graphics, and were quickly mass-produced to inform communities, stir up audiences, and call attention to injustice.
This summer, the New-York Historical Society is presenting 72 posters dating from the early 1930s through the 1970s in Art as Activism: Graphic Art from the Merrill C. Berman Collection, on through September 13, 2015. Continue reading
Just across Union Square from The Nation’s headquarters on Irving Place there stands a hole-in-the-wall falafel joint that some of the magazine’s employees— including, rumor has it, the author of this blog post — are known to frequent. Habitually. Like, every day. Sometimes twice. Like salmon swimming home.
Until recently, this behavior had long puzzled scholars — defying, it seems, all we think we know about the instinct to self-preservation. But actually it makes eminent good sense: the falafel joint’s address — 26 East 17th Street — once belonged to the first headquarters of the Union League Club, and it was there, one fateful night in the early summer of 1863, just days before the Battle of Gettysburg, at a clap of divine lightning, at the end of an eternal drum-roll, for good or for ill, depending on whom you ask, the magazine now known the world over as America’s oldest weekly was summoned from the ether and was born. Continue reading
The Lower Manhattan Historical Society (LMHS), a group formed just last August, sponsored the first Independence Day parade in almost forty years in Lower Manhattan on July 3rd.
The parade included marchers from patriotic groups such as the New York Veteran Corps of the Artillery, the Sons of the Revolution of the State of New York Color Guard,, the Color guard of various chapters of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames of America, the French Air Force Reserves, the Chinatown partnership, and native New Yorkers. Continue reading
Magic rites in the jungle seal the fate of a love triangle in the long-forgotten opera of H. Lawrence Freeman restaged on Friday and Saturday at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. Voodoo was composed in 1914 and had its last performance in 1928. The music and libretto come from a composer who was a friend of Scott Joplin. author of more than 20 operas, and founder of the Harlem Renaissance’s Negro Grand Opera Company. The revival features Gregory Hopkins of Harlem Opera Theatre conducting in a production that drew on collaboration with the Harlem Chamber Players and the Morningside Opera. Continue reading
On June 23, the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) voted unanimously to designate the Stonewall Inn an Individual Historic Landmark. The site is the location of the Stonewall riots of June 1969, an event that helped spark the current LGBTQ Pride Movement.
The building is already protected as part of the Greenwich Village Historic District and its significance derives entirely from its historical, social and cultural importance, rather than architectural, marking it a unique designation for the LPC. Continue reading
In Bronx Faces and Voices: Sixteen Stories of Courage and Commitment (Texas Tech University Press, 2014) sixteen men and women – religious leaders and activists, elected officials and ordinary citizens tell their personal, uncensored stories of the New York City borough — before, during, and after the troubled years of arson, crime, abandonment, and flight in the 1970s and 1980s.
The interviews are drawn from the Bronx Institute Archives Oral History Project’s interviews with hundreds of Bronx residents in the early 1980s, now held in the Special Collections division of the Leonard Lief Library of Lehman College, CUNY. Continue reading
In Pamela Newkirk’s Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (Amistad / Harper Collins, 2015) the award-winning journalist reveals a little-known and shameful episode in American history, when an African man was used as a zoo exhibit — a shocking story of racial prejudice, science, and tragedy in the early years of the twentieth century.
Ota Benga, a young Congolese man, was featured as an exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Two years later, in 1906, the Bronx Zoo displayed him in its Monkey House, caging the slight 103-pound, four-foot eleven-inch man with an orangutan. The attraction became an international sensation, drawing thousands of New Yorkers and commanding headlines from across the nation and Europe. Continue reading
A controversial plan to expand the landmark Frick Collection in New York City was withdrawn by its Board of Trustees on Wednesday. Historic preservationists, including New York City’s Historic Districts Council, opposed the plan, in part on the grounds that the new construction would have destroyed a gated pocket park. Continue reading
The Lilac Arts Series, a contemporary art exhibition aboard the historic ship Lilac, will run through August 15, 2015 and focus on three themes inspired by the ship’s story – “Steam”, “Work + Labor” and “Restoration/Reinvention“. The visual art exhibition will feature the work of over 25 artists within the ship’s unique spaces, including several site-specific installations. The exhibition and events are free and open to the public.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Lilac was built in 1933 and is America’s only surviving steam-powered lighthouse tender. Lilac is currently being restored as a unique vehicle for maritime education and community activities and is berthed at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25. Continue reading
The tragically short career of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) has created a penumbra of martyred glory around his work. This must give him a chuckle wherever his spirit looks down on the shuffling hordes trekking to view his work reverently installed at the Brooklyn Museum.
Basquiat was born as a spray-can wielding street artist who liked mess, disorder and chaos. How different was he, when beatified by art gallery recognition and patron purchases? In his art world heyday he got his fine new designer clothes just as stained as his thrift shop threads from his early days. Continue reading
The Museum of the City of New York will present Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival, a celebration of the City’s role as a center of the folk music revival from its beginnings in the 1930s and 1940s to its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as its continuing legacy.