Sunday, September 27, 2015

One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York, by Arthur Browne

I read this book in June of this year, reviewed it on LibraryThing, and was shocked to see that I hadn't cross-posted it here! I still have it in my possession; I have not yet heard from Alabama State University. I will contact them again.

A biography of Samuel Battle, the first African American police officer in New York City, in 1911, and the challenges he faced getting on the force and fighting for each promotion and honor. He faced not only racial discrimination, but also Tammany Hall and organized crime.
This is also a story of race relations in the early years of the 20th century in the United States. What surprised me: (1) that the civil rights struggle did not begin in the 1950s; it began when the first shipload of African slaves was brought to what was then called the New World, and (2) that prejudice and discrimination was and is a national problem, not only a southern problem.
This book gave a fair and balanced account of Samuel Battle's life and behavior, revealing flaws as well as his many righteous and heroic deeds. We also see his personal life, a strong, loving husband and father, a man of faith, and a leader in his neighborhood and community.
This book is well documented and well researched, relying not only on Mr. Battle's own words in a manuscript written by Langston Hughes, but also citing public records and newspapers of the day. It has an extensive Notes section, as well as a very helpful Index.
I will try to donate this book to the Alabama State University, a historically black school in my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Battle's story should be shared with all who are interested in racial relations and in civil rights.

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