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History > U.S. History > Local and Regional > Middle Atlantic

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Hirelings Cover

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Hirelings

African American Workers and Free Labor in Early Maryland

In Hirelings, Jennifer Dorsey recreates the social and economic milieu of Maryland's Eastern Shore at a time when black slavery and black freedom existed side by side. She follows a generation of manumitted African Americans and their freeborn children and grandchildren through the process of inventing new identities, associations, and communities in the early nineteenth century. Free Africans and their descendants had lived in Maryland since the seventeenth century, but before the American Revolution they were always few in number and lacking in economic resources or political leverage. By contrast, manumitted and freeborn African Americans in the early republic refashioned the Eastern Shore's economy and society, earning their livings as wage laborers while establishing thriving African American communities.

As free workers in a slave society, these African Americans contested the legitimacy of the slave system even while they remained dependent laborers. They limited white planters' authority over their time and labor by reuniting their families in autonomous households, settling into free black neighborhoods, negotiating labor contracts that suited the needs of their households, and worshipping in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Some moved to the cities, but many others migrated between employers as a strategy for meeting their needs and thwarting employers' control. They demonstrated that independent and free African American communities could thrive on their own terms. In all of these actions the free black workers of the Eastern Shore played a pivotal role in ongoing debates about the merits of a free labor system.

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In the Godfather Garden

The Long Life and Times of Richie "the Boot" Boiardo

Richard Linnett

In the Godfather Garden is the true story of the life of Richie “the Boot” Boiardo, one of the most powerful and feared men in the New Jersey underworld. The Boot cut his teeth battling the Jewish gang lord Abner Longy Zwillman on the streets of Newark during Prohibition and endured to become one of the East Coast’s top mobsters, his reign lasting six decades.

To the press and the police, this secretive Don insisted he was nothing more than a simple man who enjoyed puttering about in his beloved vegetable garden on his Livingston, New Jersey, estate. In reality, the Boot was a confidante and kingmaker of politicians, a friend of such celebrities as Joe DiMaggio and George Raft, an acquaintance of Joseph Valachi—who informed on the Boot in 1963—and a sworn enemy of J. Edgar Hoover.

The Boot prospered for more than half a century, remaining an active boss until the day he died at the age of ninety-three. Although he operated in the shadow of bigger Mafia names across the Hudson River (think Charles "Lucky" Luciano and Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, a cofounder of the Mafia killer squad Murder Inc. with Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro), the Boot was equally as brutal and efficient. In fact, there was a mysterious place in the gloomy woods behind his lovely garden—a furnace where many thought the Boot took certain people who were never seen again.

Richard Linnett provides an intimate look inside the Boot’s once-powerful Mafia crew, based on the recollections of a grandson of the Boot himself and complemented by never-before-published family photos. Chronicled here are the Prohibition gang wars in New Jersey as well as the murder of Dutch Schultz, a Mafia conspiracy to assassinate Newark mayor Kenneth Gibson, and the mob connections to several prominent state politicians.

Although the Boot never saw the 1972 release of The Godfather, he appreciated the similarities between the character of Vito Corleone and himself, so much so that he hung a sign in his beloved vegetable garden that read “The Godfather Garden.” There’s no doubt he would have relished David Chase’s admission that his muse in creating the HBO series The Sopranos was none other than “Newark’s erstwhile Boiardo crew.”

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Inside Greenwich Village

A New York City Neighborhood, 1898-1918

Gerald W. McFarland

In the popular imagination, New York City’s Greenwich Village has long been known as a center of bohemianism, home to avant-garde artists, political radicals, and other nonconformists who challenged the reigning orthodoxies of their time. Yet a century ago the Village was a much different kind of place: a mixed-class, multiethnic neighborhood teeming with the energy and social tensions of a rapidly changing America. Gerald W. McFarland reconstructs this world with vivid descriptions of the major groups that resided within its boundaries—the Italian immigrants and African Americans to the south, the Irish Americans to the west, the well-to-do Protestants to the north, and the New York University students, middle-class professionals, and artists and writers who lived in apartment buildings and boarding houses on or near Washington Square. McFarland examines how these Villagers, so divided along class and ethnic lines, interacted with one another. He shows how clashing expectations about what constituted proper behavior in the neighborhood’s public spaces—especially streets, parks, and saloons—often led to intergroup conflict, political rivalries, and campaigns by the more privileged Villagers to impose middle-class mores on their working-class neighbors. Occasionally, however, a crisis or common problem led residents to overlook their differences and cooperate across class and ethnic lines. Throughout the book, McFarland connects the evolution of Village life to the profound transformations taking place in American society at large during the same years.

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Jersey Justice

The Story of the Trenton Six

Cathy D. Knepper

The case of the Trenton Six attracted international attention in its time (1948–1952) and was once known as the “northern Scottsboro Boys case.” Yet, there is no memory of it. The shame of racism evident in the case has been nearly erased from the public record. Now, historian Cathy D. Knepper takes us back to the courtroom to make us aware of this shocking chapter in American history.

Jersey Justice: The Story of the Trenton Six begins in 1948 when William Horner, an elderly junk dealer, was murdered in his downtown Trenton shop. Over a two-week period, six local African American men were arrested and charged with collectively killing Horner. Violating every rule in the book, the Trenton police held the six men in incommunicado detention, without warrants, and threatened them until they confessed. At the end of the trial the all-white jury sentenced the six men to die in the electric chair.

That might have been the end of the story were it not for the tireless efforts of Bessie Mitchell, the sister of one of the accused men. Undaunted by the refusal of the NAACP and the ACLU to help appeal the conviction of the Trenton Six, Mitchell enlisted the aid of the Civil Rights Congress, ultimately taking the case as far as the New Jersey Supreme Court. Along the way, the Trenton Six garnered the attention and involvement of many prominent activists, politicians, and artists, including Paul Robeson, Thurgood Marshall, Eleanor Roosevelt, Pete Seeger, Arthur Miller, and Albert Einstein. Jersey Justice brings to light a shameful moment in our nation’s history, but it also tells the story of a personal battle for social justice that changed America.

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A Journey Into Mohawk and Oneida Country, 1634-1635

The Journal of Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert, Revised Edition

by Charles Gehring

This revised edition includes a new preface, the original Dutch transcription and updated endnotes and bibliography

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King of the Lobby

The Life and Times of Sam Ward, Man-About-Washington in the Gilded Age

Kathryn Allamong Jacob

King of the Lobby tells the story of how one man harnessed delicious food, fine wine, and good conversation to the task of becoming the most influential lobbyist of the Gilded Age. Sam Ward was a colorful character. Scion of an old and honorable family, best friend of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and charming man-about-Washington, Ward held his own in an era crowded with larger-than-life personalities. Living by the motto that the shortest route between a pending bill and a congressman’s “aye” was through his stomach, Ward elegantly entertained political elites in return for their votes. At a time when waves of scandal washed over Washington, the popular press railed against the wickedness of the lobby, and self-righteous politicians predicted that special interests would cause the downfall of democratic government, Sam Ward still reigned supreme. By the early 1870s, he had earned the title "King of the Lobby" and jokingly referred to himself as "Rex Vestiari." Ward cultivated a style of lobbying that survives today in the form of expensive golf outings, extravagant dinners, and luxurious vacations. Kathryn Allamong Jacob's engaging account shows how the "king" earned his crown through cookery and conversation and how this son of wealth and privilege helped to create a questionable profession in a city that then, as now, rested on power and influence.

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Land in the American West

Private Claims and the Common Good

edited by William G. Robbins and James C. Foster

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A Lenape among the Quakers

The Life of Hannah Freeman

Dawn Marsh

On July 28, 1797, an elderly Lenape woman stood before the newly appointed almsman of Pennsylvania’s Chester County and delivered a brief account of her life. In a sad irony, Hannah Freeman was establishing her residency—a claim that paved the way for her removal to the poorhouse. Ultimately, however, it meant the final removal from the ancestral land she had so tenaciously maintained. Thus was William Penn’s “peaceable kingdom” preserved. 

A Lenape among the Quakers reconstructs Hannah Freeman’s history, traveling from the days of her grandmothers before European settlement to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The story that emerges is one of persistence and resilience, as “Indian Hannah” negotiates life with the Quaker neighbors who employ her, entrust their children to her, seek out her healing skills, and, when she is weakened by sickness and age, care for her. And yet these are the same neighbors whose families have dispossessed hers. Fascinating in its own right, Hannah Freeman’s life is also remarkable for its unique view of a Native American woman in a colonial community during a time of dramatic transformation and upheaval. In particular it expands our understanding of colonial history and the Native experience that history often renders silent.

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The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes

The Politics of Civility

John B. Wefing

The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes explores the influential public service of this two-term New Jersey governor, the only person in New Jersey history to serve as both governor and chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court. John B. Wefing's research includes interviews with prominent politicians and leaders who worked with Hughes at various points in his career. The result is a rich story of a public servant who possessed a true ability to work with members of both political parties and played a significant role in shaping modern New Jersey.

Making Mountains Cover

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Making Mountains

New York City and the Catskills

by David Stradling

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