Remembering the ‘Boss of Black Brooklyn’

Author Ron Howell and his book on his grandfather Bertram Baker, the first Black person elected to public office in Brooklyn. (Photo by Photo by Alexandra Simon via Caribbean Life)

Bertram L. Baker, a native of the Caribbean island of Nevis who in 1948 became the first Black man elected to office in Brooklyn, is the subject of the recently released biography, “Boss of Black Brooklyn.” The book’s author, Brooklyn College professor and journalist Ron Howell, shared with Caribbean Life how Baker brought Caribbean immigrants and native Black Americans together politically at a time when the latter had apprehensions about the Democratic Party. Howell said that Baker, who was his grandfather, took advantage of how Caribbean immigrants were more willing to embrace the political party to leverage a shift at a time of great transformations in Black America.

“When people started looking to Brooklyn and a lot of black people were coming, especially from the South, and that’s really what turned Bertram Baker into the powerhouse that he was,” Howell told Caribbean Life’s Alexandra Simon. “He was able to unite the Caribbean immigrants from early 1900s, with black people who were from South, and build a political club.”

Howell will present “Boss of Black Brooklyn” at the Greenlight Bookstore on Oct. 30.

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