Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Ethnic Cleansing of History: When Harlem was Irish

Michael Henry Adams (NYT 5/27/2016) while lamenting the gentrification of black Harlem forgets that before Harlem was black it was Irish and Catholic.  My Irish family is from Harlem.  My grandfather died on the Harlem bus on the way home from visiting his sister in 1938, the same year Brother Rice High School was established at 74 W. 124th Street.   My grandfather, like many of his family and friends, was a devout supporter of Senator Bob Wagner who helped give us Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act.   Little remembered today, Wagner also supported the Tuskegee airmen's right to fly.   Our good friend Joseph Gavagan represented Harlem for many years in Congress until 1944.  He was a longtime ally of the NCAAP's Walter White in the effort to pass anti-lynching legislation.   Our family attended St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church at 211 W 141st Street,  which is celebrating its 125th anniversary.   In 1897,  St. Charles Borromeo held the funeral mass for Captain Edward Patrick Doherty who enlisted in the Union army, fought at Bull Run and throughout the Civil War, and in 1865, led the New York cavalry who hunted down and killed John Wilkes Booth.   It a very odd ethnic cleansing of New York history that forgets Gavagan and Doherty.