Category Archives: Books

Michael J. Fortner on Criminal Justice – Roots & Reform

By Cher Mullings
Recording by Zenzile Greene

Why would members of the Harlem community consciously support policies that endorse incarceration of their brothers and sisters?

Dr. Michael J. Fortner’s latest book Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and The Politics of Punishment examines how black-on-black crime influenced a chasmic class division within Harlem from the 1940s – 1960s.

Continue reading Michael J. Fortner on Criminal Justice – Roots & Reform

Yuppies Invade my House at Dinnertime: A Classic!

By Kafui Attoh

yuppiesRoughly two years ago, I came across a really great book that I think deserves a plug: Yuppies Invade my House at Dinnertime: a tale of brunch, bombs and gentrification in an American City. Published in 1987 and edited by Joseph Barry and John Deravlany, the book offers a compelling look at Hoboken’s transformation in the late 1980s.

Most compelling is the book’s format. The book is little more than a collection of letters printed in the editorial page of The Hoboken Reporter. Written by locals, displaced “yorkies,” gentrifiers and the begrudgingly gentrified, the letters are impassioned, angry, spiteful, nostalgic, triumphant, cringe-inducing and often deeply amusing. More than anything, they give the reader a visceral sense of both the promise and the costs of the city’s so-called “renaissance.” Continue reading Yuppies Invade my House at Dinnertime: A Classic!

New York Power

By Joseph J. Cunningham

The following is an excerpt from Murphy adjunct Prof. Joseph J. Cunningham’s new book New York Power, which tells the story of the development of today’s New York City electric utility system.

New York City has long represented one of the most concentrated urban developments in the world. That density has placed unique constraints on every aspect of life. Electric light and power appeared during the 1880s, but much development was required to supply urban service at a cost that would make possible large-scale consumption. Innovation was needed most in midtown Manhattan, where the sheer density of electrical load overwhelmed the early systems and which continues to be the greatest concentration of electrical load in the world. The first public service was initiated in 1880 with the illumination of Broadway, Madison Park and some businesses by arc lights of the Brush Electric Company. Two years later, Thomas Edison introduced incandescent light service to the offices and businesses of the financial district from his station on Pearl Street. While that installation entered the record books, his long term objective was the midtown area. Edison considered the establishment of electric service in the area of the West Twenties and Thirties vital to the future of his company. Continue reading New York Power

Sub: The View from the Teaching Underclass


By Joshua Freeman

Shortly after graduating college, when I thought we would seize state power in a couple months, or maybe a couple of years, I took a job as a substitute school teacher in Worcester, Massachusetts. Assigned to a junior high school — this was before the new-fangled middle school became the norm — I immediately found myself immersed in chaos, which somehow I was supposed to control. Kids raucously went about their business, whatever it might have been, paying no attention to anything I did or said. Bathroom passes and just about everything else flew off my desk, and I could not figure out how to stop the boys hiding in the coat closet from lighting matches without abandoning the rest of the class to total chaos — while all I really wanted to do was to get into the coat closet myself and light up a cigarette.

I lasted four days, or maybe it was three. My next job, in a factory making plastic Halloween pumpkins, seemed like a piece of cake in comparison. Continue reading Sub: The View from the Teaching Underclass

Catherwood Library Takes on the Books that Shaped Work in America

The following post was co-authored by Aliqae Geraci, a Murphy Institute Labor Studies Masters Alum and now a research librarian at the Martin P. Catherwood Library, part of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University; and Jessica Withers, a library communications and development assistant. The articled was originally posted on the U.S. Department of Labor Blog. 

As staff of Catherwood Library, one of the few dedicated labor relations libraries in U.S., we are always looking out for innovative ways to join and facilitate conversations about work and labor. As avid readers of the Labor Department’s blog and newsletter, we were thrilled to learn about the list of Books that Shaped Work in America − an initiative of the department and the Library of Congress Center for the Book − and knew immediately that we wanted to be part of the project. It was a moment for us to reiterate our commitment to collecting and preserving the literature and research of labor and the workplace. Our main reading room display was the perfect setting to showcase many books on the list during the spring 2014 semester. Jessica Withers designed the display, creating placards echoing the design of the Books that Shaped Work in America initiative and pulling content from our collection of over 200,000 items. Catherwood owns about half the 100 titles originally selected for the list, and many more are scattered across the numerous libraries at Cornell University. We were able to show the depth and breadth of Catherwood holdings, including a 1974 first edition of Studs Terkel’s “Working” and the graphic adaptation illustrated by Harvey Pekar.

Continue reading Catherwood Library Takes on the Books that Shaped Work in America