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One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York
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One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  66 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
A history of African Americans in New York City from the 1910s to 1960, told through the life of Samuel Battle, the New York Police Department’s first black officer.
When Samuel Battle broke the color line as New York City’s first African American cop in the second decade of the twentieth century, he had to fear his racist colleagues as much as criminals. He had to be thr
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 30th 2015 by Beacon Press
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Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history buffs
The Heat From Harlem

One Righteous Man, the story of Samuel Battle, the first African-American to penetrate the thick white wall of New York's finest, is the history of race relations in the Big Apple, most specifically the neighborhood of Harlem; it's a shameful history, as one might have guessed, laying bare the insecurity, hubris, and ignorance of the non-black citizenry of New York from the fin-de-siecle through the decade of Civil Rights.

(some spoilers below)
Though its author, Arthur Browne
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Samuel Jesse Battle (1883-1966) was the eleventh child born to former slaves in New Bern, North Carolina. He was unusually large in size from birth, with a temperament that matched his physical stature. His dreams of a better life were also larger than life from a young age, thanks to the books that he read and the New York bound trains that regularly passed through town. However, New Bern and the post-Reconstruction South was no place for an aspiring African American boy to survive, nonetheless ...more
Nov 02, 2015 rated it liked it
The history behind this book is just astonishing. To realize what the black man suffered at the hands of white man, not so long ago, is disgusting and inhumane. I am glad to be more educated about our history as a nation and to be inspired by Battle, who lived an exemplary life of remarkable courage.
I have to say though, that this was a very tedious read for me. It felt exactly like a history textbook and I had a hard time staying focused and getting through. The author went down so many rabbit
Michael Jones
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this. Very gritty and shows a different side of life than we are used to today. There is much wisdom for some of today's issues. The man was very gifted and had a really tough uphill struggle but continued to be winsome and actually kind in the midst of very difficult trials that would cause most to give up.
May 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is not just a well written and fascinating read, but it is an important book that I hope will help a lot of people understand the race dynamics which are still very much in play in our nation today.
There are circumstances in this world that require a person to make difficult decisions, where there are no “right” options that the person can feel really good about. Samuel Battle met these situations repeatedly, and he did so with amazing courage. He set his face toward justice and truth, and
David Lucander
I heard the author give a talk, he called Samuel Battle the Jackie Robinson of NYPD. Well said indeed. This is a fine book that is measured in its rhetoric, smart in its analysis, and lucid in its organization. A bit of a panegyric at times, it's clear the author thinks very highly of is subject. Would have been nice to get Browne's NYPD personnel file more involved (if it exists). I'm well versed in NYC and African American history so it was fine for me, but I could imagine a reader less famili ...more
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
The biography of Samuel Battle, the first Black man on the New York City police department. It is a long troubled path full of mistreatment and persecution but through hard work he is able to succeed. The book also chronicles his son Wesley who is the first man to integrate the New York City fire department who suffers similar problems. One interesting sidelight is that the book takes place during the Harlem Renaissance and describes many of the interesting people of that era. A good book for h ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-black
If you want to know what this book is about, do read the description of the book on its Amazon page. It's quite possibly the best book description I have ever read, and I'm guessing it was the author who wrote it. Author Arthur Browne is a lifetime newspaper man, and knows how to write for the general public. In one way, he may be like Samuel Battle, too--it appears he might be a man who has not been promoted in his field as he should have been promoted. It took a long time for Mr. Battle to go ...more
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this to be an eye opening biography with both triumphant and tragic episodes. It illuminates the great struggle Battle faced and how his courageous efforts led him to usually come through, but not unscathed. It offers a great look at the history of our nation and does not avert the reader from some of the more horrific deeds & practices of the times.

I would like to see this made into a long form TV documentary such as what can be found in the several streaming services (I doubt a mov
Kimberly Cunningham
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Samuel Battle son of former slaves, truly amazing individual. His story is NY's story and how segregation existed way after slavery was abolished in NY. What he faced, the barriers he overcame and the people of the Harlem Renaissance he rubbed elbows with is astounding. Segregated police force, segregated fire departments, segregated housing, prejudice, brutality are all outlined in this book. Highly recommend this book.
Kathy Heare Watts
I won a copy of this book during a Goodreads giveaway. I am under no obligation to leave a review or rating and do so voluntarily. I am paying it forward by passing this book along to a business organization that offers business skills, hope, and dreams to be used in their ministry.
Lane Willson
He was the victim of injustice. He understood the oppressive weight of poverty. He was demeaned by those with the power to do so. But Samuel J. Battle, the first African-American member of the New York Police Department, was never humiliated, because, from the moment he grasped the value of his dignity, he never relinquished it for a single second. One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and The Shattering of The Color Line in New York by Arthur Browne is a powerful telling not only of Battle’s achie ...more
Jerry Morris
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Langston Hughes wrote Samuel Battle's biography, Battle of Harlem, more than fifty years ago. It was about the life of the first black policeman in New York City. But no one wanted to publish it. So Battle had another friend revise the manuscript, and Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the Forward. Still, no one wanted to publish it.

Now, Arthur Browne, who has probably written more about New York and prominent New Yorkers than anyone else, has gotten Beacon Press to publish his book on Samuel Battle. Arthu
Apr 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This awesome book is a history of African Americans in New York City from the 1910's to 1960, told through the life of Samuel Battle, the New York Police Dept first black officer. He broke the color line but he still had to fear his racist colleagues as much as the crimiails. But he was fearless as he tackled corruption, the gangsters, the Prohibition, the Depression and the race riots in Harlem. He became an aide to Mayor La Guaudia and received several promotions. He hired Langston Hughes to w ...more
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One Righteous Man is a Bio that has been in the works for decades, starting with the first draft by none other than Langston Hughes. In this present incarnation, the first to actually be published, the slow integration of African Americans into New York’s civil service ranks is closely inspected.

Being the first Black NYC police officer was no easy task, and Samuel Battle was up against many obstacles-all of which he hurdled with poise. This is an important book in many respects; in addition to r
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History buffs, youth
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Saw on Goodreads
Note: Received book from Goodreads Giveaway.

Excellent book for history buffs. Not only is the book a great story of a very brave African-American, but it also provides good insight on the history of police practices as well as the social evolution of NYC. Righteous is a good term, also heroic comes to mind, because not only was it difficult for Samuel to get on the Force, once on it took incredible fortitude and grit to deal with the constant insults as well as the very real threat of danger fro
Jul 28, 2016 rated it liked it
this book is not written completely chronologically, and when listening to the audio version, it can be a charlene to follow the caps individuals that enter and leave Battle's life. It is a thorough accounting, both of the Jim Crow culture of New York and of the lives of a few individuals with the courage to make a difference. Because of the detail given about some of the abuses,including lynchings, it probably isn't appropriate for readers younger than about 13 or so.
Exapno Mapcase
Apr 21, 2015 added it
Shelves: lter
This is really three books in one, with the main focus being Samuel Battle the first black policeman in New York City. The other parts are a review of civil rights, (and a reminder that mass violence is not new,) and a history of Harlem society in which Battle was considered a moral and upstanding light. Browne uses the Langston Hughes bio to good effect, but I feel goes on to many subjects that aren’t really germane to the story.

Free review copy.
Andrew Mclaughlin
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. The author does a very nice job of humanizing Battle while placing him into historical context.

As someone who likes reading non-fiction and history I plowed right through this one.

The only Caveat I would offer is that the epilogue does not go enough into Battle's legacy, like for instance there is a picture of a square being dedicated to him but no story about how the dedication came about.
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Movements emerge from the actions of one individual at a time. This is the compelling story of one such man and his times. Samuel Battle, very much on his own, broke the color line in NYPD in 1911. He overcame indignities born of the racism of the times - and sadly, not far enough removed from our times.
Jim Willse
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I actually read this a while ago, but listing it now for my Goodreads buddies. A terrific history of the first black cop in NYC, and much, much more, by a superlative journalist. Can't recommend highly enough. For a video of Browne's eloquent talk about Sam Battle at his Schomburg Library book party, see
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We cannot hide the myth that the southern part of our country was bigoted and the north was not,,,or much less so,,,,this book is essential reading in the history of race relations in the United States.
Julie Faust
I didn't finish the book because it was just too dry of a read. The author didn't do a very good job capturing what it must have been like for him. It just read like a bunch of disconnected episodes.
Jun 28, 2015 rated it liked it
The material is fascinating, but it is easy to get bogged down in the multitude of characters passing through.
Joanna Hanes
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
learned alot about the period.
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
A lot of great information, but hard to read due to the author way of writing .
Evans Donnell
rated it really liked it
Aug 17, 2015
rated it really liked it
Apr 15, 2017
Kevin Reynolds
rated it it was amazing
Jul 07, 2015
Lori Changstrom
rated it it was ok
Jul 13, 2015
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