Society & Culture
Pastrami a go-go and other rye tales of the city welcomes author Eric K. Washington, historian and author, and his first book. In this engaging conversation, host Arlene Schulman talks to the author of the absorbing 'James H. Williams: Boss of the Grips' about the newly discovered history of the man who served as boss of the Red Caps and played a pivotal role in the history of New York City. Williams organized a workforce of black men, most based in Harlem, into an essential labor force in New York City's Grand Central Station. Washington reveals that despite the highly racialized and often exploitative nature of the work, the Red Cap was a highly coveted job for college-bound black men determined to join New York’s burgeoning middle class. Washington chronicles Williams’s life, showing how the enterprising son of freed slaves successfully navigated the segregated world of New York City. Williams promoted civic and cultural projects, organized both a baseball and a basketball team, and an orchestra. An homage to the Red Caps as sung by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra in 1937 accompanies the conversation.