Back to Conference Participants Abstract: The Origins of Black Political Power in Brooklyn.  





I will touch on a few of the African-Americans who were politically active in the late 1800's and early 1900's, but I will focus on Betram L. Baker, who was born one hundred years ago (1898) in the Caribbean and who fifty years ago (1948) became the first black person ever elected to office in Brooklyn. My paper will discuss his immigration from the then-British island of Nevis to the United States in 1914. I will put him into the context of the first wave of West Indian migration to New York City (before, during and just after World War I). I will trace his years of striving for political power and his eventual attainment of it. I will put his 1948 victory into the context of the black presence in Brooklyn, early and mid century. For three decades Bertram L. Baker was the political kingmaker of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Democratic leader who controlled all patronage in black Brooklyn. He died in his home in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1985. He was my grandfather and I have written about him for Brooklyn Bridge magazine and City Limits magazine.