By Ross J. Wilson
A journey across New York today is a demonstration of how risk is managed and negotiated in the modern era. From food products to health, crime and terrorism, we are warned to "keep back," "beware," "stay safe" "avoid" or "report." The contemporary city is filled with signs and advertisements for citizens and tourists on how to keep safe. The individual is instructed on how to be responsible for their safety and well-being. This focus on individual responsibility is a product of the safety movement which redefined relationships between individuals, businesses and the city authorities from the nineteenth century onwards. Indeed, by the early twentieth century, the concern for public safety brought parades, monuments and a museum to the city.
By Karen Karbiener
Walt Whitman is the world’s first New Yorker. Declaring himself as both a “Brooklyn Boy” and a “Manhattanese” at the same time Emerson described the Big Apple as a “sucked orange,” Poe denounced its noise and too-rapid development, and Thoreau felt “sick ever since I came here,” Whitman celebrated the urban roots of Leaves of Grass in many of his greatest poems. “Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son” named the city his spiritual forefather in “Song of Myself,” and “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” is just about everyone’s pick for the greatest New York poem ever written. “Proud and passionate city! mettlesome, mad, extravagant city!” he sings in “City of Ships.” “I chant and celebrate all that is yours.”
But 165 years before this blog post on summer city getaways was scribed for Gotham readers, Walt published his own versions of such pieces in the New York Evening Post and the New York Sunday Dispatch. “Swarming and multitudinous as the population of the city still is, there are many thousands of its usual inhabitants now absent in the country,” he wrote in 1851. “Having neither the funds nor disposition to pass my little term of ruralizing at the fashionable baths, or watering places, I am staying awhile down here at Greenport, the eastern point of the Long Island Railroad.”
“Invaders”: Black Ladies of the ILGWU and the Emergence of the Early Civil Rights Movement in New York City
By Janette Gayle
Black female industrial workers are strikingly absent from literature on the Great Migration and black industrial labor in the twentieth century. Studies like Joe William Trotter Jr.’s Black Milwaukee, James R. Grossman’s Land of Hope, Richard W. Thomas’s Life for Us Is What We Make It, and Peter Gottlieb’s Making Their Own Way have advanced our understanding of black industrial workers and their importance in the making of black communities in the Midwest and northern urban industrial cities, but they focus almost exclusively on the experiences of skilled men. Skilled women are virtually absent from these studies. But women were there. If we look closely at the sources, another picture comes into focus, one in which women such as Maida Springer Kemp, Eldica Riley, Edith Ransom, and thousands of others were indeed part of the black industrial workforce in New York City. If we look closely we will also see that the Great Migration was not a completely unskilled migration. Many migrants -- men as well as women -- were skilled workers. The ones who caught my eye were the dressmakers.
The following is an excerpt from the forthcoming Drop Dead: Performance in Crisis, 1970s New York (October 2016),
published courtesy of Northwestern University Press. A book launch and panel discussion of theater in New York City during the 1970s will take place at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center on Monday, October 31. Full event information here.
On a snowy March day in 1964, over ten thousand white parents walked from the Board of Education Building in Brooklyn to city hall in Manhattan to protest against school desegregation in New York City. Carrying signs reading, “We oppose voluntary transfers,” “Keep our children in neighborhood schools,” “I will not put my children on a bus,” and “We will not be bused,” the marchers called their coalition of local organizations “Parents and Taxpayers.”
By Paul A. Ranogajec
Bowling Green, a surviving fragment of New York’s earliest days, was totally transformed in the decades around 1900. What had been a low-scale square of houses and small offices became a skyscraper-ringed urban canyon, a spectacle of corporate and state power. That spectacle resulted from a scenographic approach to architecture in which designers orchestrated buildings and spaces together as an ensemble for dramatic visual and experiential effects. Architects who worked at Bowling Green were committed to the traditional urban streetscape, but their designs also gave form to the imperatives and values of the emerging corporate-capitalist economy. That meant skyscrapers. At Bowling Green, skyscrapers and the new Custom House together reshaped the historic square, providing visible, material proof of the intensity and speed of the economy’s corporate transformation.
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