Bruce Wright, judge

Bruce McMarion Wright (1917 – 2005) was a jurist who served on the New York State Supreme Court. Though he was born in Baltimore, he spent most of his adult life in Harlem. In 1939, he received a scholarship to  Princeton University, but was denied admission when he arrived and the university learned that he was black.  Notre Dame also denied him admission on the same grounds. He was able to study at Virginia Union University, and graduated from Lincoln University in 1942. He served in the Army, in a segregated unit during World War II and eventually ended up in Paris. His early ambition to become a poet was fulfilled when… Read More

Read more

Bob Spike, Civil Rights Activist

Robert Warren Spike (1923 – 1966) was a clergyman, theologian, and civil rights leader. Born in Buffalo, NY, he came to NYC while studying for the ministry. He began his career as pastor at the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village in 1949, reviving the social activism of this famous urban church. During his time at the church, neighborhood kids played basketball in the church’s ramshackle gym and an interracial, international residence for students was established. Spike also helped to create an art gallery where artists could exhibit their unconventional works. In 1958 Spike left his parish ministry to take on a national role as General… Read More

Read more

George Downing, abolitionist and activist

George T. Downing (1819-1903) was an abolitionist and activist for African-American civil rights. From the 1830s until the end of slavery, Downing was active in the abolitionist movement and in the Underground Railroad, with his restaurant serving as a rest house. During the American Civil War, Downing helped recruit African American soldiers. Downing’s grandparents were former slaves. He attended one of the first free African schools in New York City and went on to Hamilton College. In 1842, Downing started a catering business in Manhattan. His work brought him in touch with many of the elites of the city, including the… Read More

Read more

Lewis H. Michaux, bookstore owner, civil rights activist

Lewis H. Michaux (1895–1976) was a Harlem bookseller and civil rights activist. Between 1932 and 1974 he owned the African National Memorial Bookstore in Harlem, New York City, one of the most prominent African-American bookstores in the country.  Before coming to New York he worked as a pea picker, window washer and deacon in a church in Philadelphia. Michaux opened the African National Memorial Bookstore in 1932 on 7th Avenue and stayed there until 1968, when he was forced to move the store to West 125th Street (on the corner of 7th street) to give space to the State Harlem… Read More

Read more

Elias Karmon, Mr. Bronx

Elias Karmon, known as “Mr. Bronx” for his long dedication to the borough, was a businessman, civic leader, civil rights advocate and philanthropist, Karmon was one of the borough’s biggest boosters through its darkest days and its renaissance. For 40 years he was the proprietor of Hollywood Clothes at Prospect Ave. and 163rd St., and then began buying buildings, getting involved in important civic causes, doing good deeds. Karmon belonged to the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. He served as president of the original Bronx Chamber of Commerce for four years, and also held the positions of treasurer, second vice-president and… Read More

Read more