The event is free and open to the public, but we ask that you RSVP in advance, since seating is limited.
In a feat of remarkable research and timely reclamation, Eric K. Washington uncovers the nearly forgotten life of James H. Williams (1878–1948), the chief porter of Grand Central Terminal’s Red Caps ― a multitude of Harlem-based black men whom he organized into the essential labor force of America’s most august railroad station. Washington reveals that despite the deeply 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 bourgeoning middle class. Examining the deeply intertwined subjects of class, labor, and African American history, Washington chronicles Williams’s life, showing how the enterprising son of freed slaves successfully navigated the segregated world of the northern metropolis, and in so doing ultimately achieved financial and social influence. With this biography, Williams must now be considered, along with Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jacqueline Onassis, one of the great heroes of Grand Central’s storied past.
- Moderator Patricia Bosworth, Vanity Fair Contributing Editor and author of eight biographies including the upcoming Protest Song, the story of Paul Robeson vs. J. Edgar Hoover.
- Sylvia Jukes Morris, who was married to Morris for over 50 years, and is the author of the two-volume biography, Rage for Fame: The Ascent of Clare Booth and Price of Fame: The Honorable Clare Booth Luce.
- Robert Loomis, renowned Random House Editor who edited all of Morris’s books and whose stable of authors include Maya Angelou, William Styron, Shelby Foote, and Stacy Schiff.
- Leonard de Graaf, Head Archivist at the Thomas Edison National Park, and author of Edison and the Rise of Innovation.
- Sylvia Nasar was an economics correspondent for the New York Times and held the Knight professorship at the Columbia Journalism School. She is the author of A Beautiful Mind and Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius. She is currently working on Fellow Countrymen about six men and women in the West who colluded with the Soviets in the 1930s and 1940s.
Reservations are full, but seats are being held aside for current students in the M.A. Program in Biography and Memoir.
Please RSVP to BAM@gc.cuny.edu.
This event will be LIVE-STREAMED.
12th Annual Leon Levy Biography LectureIn telling the stories of three powerful men—Andrew Carnegie, William Randolph Hearst, and Joseph P. Kennedy—David Nasaw discovered that individuals, no matter how rich and politically influential, do not make history by themselves. Nasaw—who is the Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Distinguished Professor of History at The Graduate Center—reveals what he learned about the exercise and limits of power, in this year’s annual talk on writing and researching biography. His highly acclaimed and best-selling books include The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy; Andrew Carnegie; and The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst.