SPOTLIGHT ON: BLACK HISTORY MONTH
By Christine Bruzzese
has been designated Black History Month in honor of African-American
culture and achievements. This article features some related resources
in the City Hall Library collection.
Several books deal with the black population and various issues they
face as citizens of New York. In the Black: A History of African-Americans
on Wall Street by Gregory S. Bell tells the story of African-Americans
who set out to establish themselves in the security and investment banking
fields despite prejudice, lack of funds and many other barriers in the
time period of 1920 to today. Caribbean New York: Black Immigrants
and the Politics of Race by Philip Kasinitz examines the role and identity
of the West Indian community in New York.
The Mayor's Commission on Black New Yorkers was established by
Mayor Koch in January 1986 and completed their study in November 1988.
The Commission found that black New Yorkers tended to be less educated
and more economically disadvantaged than whites. This report offers possible
solutions and also contains useful statistical information on education,
economic development, poverty and employment.
Biographies of such prominent African-Americans as Adam Clayton Powell,
Jr., Shirley Chisholm, Constance Baker Motley and J. Raymond Jones are
available to the researcher. Consult the biographical and clippings files
for information on African-American politicians and officials as well
as history, culture and life in New York City.
A Pioneering African-American City Official
November 24, 1920, to a father who began life in slavery, Percy Sutton
grew up in San Antonio, Texas. After serving as intelligence officer
in World War II, Sutton attended law school in New York City, supporting
his family by working two jobs. Following additional military service
during the Korean War, he opened a law practice in Harlem. In the 1950s
and 1960s Sutton became active in the civil rights movement and political
campaigns, finally winning a State Assembly seat in 1966. Later that
year, the City Council selected Sutton to replace Constance Baker Motley
as Manhattan Borough President after she resigned to accept appointment
as a federal judge. In his private law practice Sutton represented the
estate of Malcolm X, arranging for his burial at Ferncliff Cemetery in
Hartsdale, New York, when every other local cemetery refused the remains
of the assassinated black activist.
In the November 1966 election, Manhattan Borough voters selected Sutton
to serve out Motley's term; he went on to win two additional terms
as Borough President. After an unsuccessful attempt to run for Mayor,
in 1977, Sutton returned to private law practice and ownership of Inner
City Broadcasting, a multimedia company with the Amsterdam News, and
black-themed radio stations and cable franchises under its umbrella.
A pioneer and leader in civil rights, politics and business, Percy Sutton
died on December 26, 2009.
The City Hall Library collection includes annual reports produced by
Sutton as Borough President of Manhattan and the Municipal Archives maintains
records from the office of the Borough President during his two-terms
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