A Pickpocket’s Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Biography, Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2013-03-29 01:54Z by Steven

A Pickpocket’s Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York

W. W. Norton & Company
480 pages
5.5 × 8.2 in
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-393-32989-6

Timothy J. Gilfoyle, Professor of History
Loyola University, Chicago

In George Appo’s world, child pickpockets swarmed the crowded streets, addicts drifted in furtive opium dens, and expert swindlers worked the lucrative green-goods game. On a good night Appo made as much as a skilled laborer made in a year. Bad nights left him with more than a dozen scars and over a decade in prisons from the Tombs and Sing Sing to the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he reunited with another inmate, his father. The child of Irish and Chinese immigrants, Appo grew up in the notorious Five Points and Chinatown neighborhoods. He rose as an exemplar of the “good fellow,” a criminal who relied on wile, who followed a code of loyalty even in his world of deception. Here is the underworld of the New York that gave us Edith Wharton, Boss Tweed, Central Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge.


In 1840 New York City had no professional police force, a low murder rate, and no bank robberies. Within decades, however, this changed; serious crime proliferated and modern law enforcement was born. By 1890 Gotham’s police budget had grown more than sixteenfold and became New York City’s single largest annual expenditure. Detective work was transformed into a public and private specialty. The murder rate had doubled, and larceny comprised one-hall to one-third of all prosecuted crime in the state. Newspapers regularly reported that illegal activities were rampant, the courts and police powerless. New York City had become “the evillest [sic] spot in America.” For the first time, observers complained about “organized crime.”

A new criminal world was born in this period. It was a hidden universe with informal but complex networks of pickpockets, fences, opium addicts, and confidence men who organized their daily lives around shared illegal behaviors. Such activities, one judge observed, embodied an innovative lawlessness based on extravagance, greed, and the pursuit of great riches. A new “class of criminals” now existed. Many of these illicit enterprises were national in scope, facilitated by new technologies like the railroad and the telegraph, economic innovations like uniform paper money, and new havens for intoxication like “dives” and opium dens. For the first time both criminals and police referred to certain lawbreakers as professionals.

George Appo was one such professional criminal. At first glance Appo hardly seemed a candidate for any criminal activity; his diminutive size and physical appearance evoked little fear. By age eighteen he stood less than five feet five inches in height and weighed a slight 120 pounds. Everything about him seemed small: his narrow forehead, short nose, compact chin, and tiny ears that sat low on his head. Although Appo’s face displayed features of his mother’s Irish ancestry, his copper-colored skin reminded some of his father’s Chinese origins. Appo s brown eyes were less noticeable than his pitch-black hair and eyebrows, the latter meeting over his nose. The tattoos E.D. and J.M. were inscribed on his left and right forearms, respectively.

But Appo was one of New York’s most significant nineteenth-century criminals. A pickpocket, confidence man, and opium addict, he lived off his criminal activities during his teenage years and much of his adult life. On successful nights during the 1870s and 1880s, he earned in excess of six hundred dollars pilfering the pockets of those around him. equivalent to the annual salary of a skilled manual laborer. Even more lucrative was the elaborate confidence scheme known as the “green goods game.” The most successful operators—”gilt-edged swindlers” according to one—accumulated fortunes in excess of one hundred thousand dollars. By 1884 America’s most famous detective, Allan Pinkerton, identified the green goods game as “the most remunerative of all the swindles,” “the boss racket of the whole confidence business.

Appo made money, but his life was hardly a Horatio Alger tale of self-taught frugality and upward mobility. The offspring of a racially mixed, immigrant marriage, Appo was separated from his parents as a small child. Effectively orphaned, the young boy grew up in the impoverished Five Points and Chinatown neighborhoods of New York. He never attended school a day in his life. Appo literally raised himself on Gotham’s streets, becoming a newsboy and eventually a pickpocket and opium addict. This new child culture of newsboys, bootblacks, and pick-pockets, fed by foreign immigration and native-born rural migration, mocked the ascendant Victorian morality ol the era. New York needed no Charles Dickens to create Oliver Twist or Victor Hugo to invent Jean Valjean. Gotham had George Appo.

Appos youthful adventures persisted into adulthood. For more than three decades he survived by exploiting his criminal skills. Appo patronized the first opium dens in New York, participated in the first medical research on opium smoking, and appeared in one of Americas first the theatrical productions popularizing crime. On at least ten occasions he was tried by judge or jury. As a result he spent more than a decade in prisons and jails. Therein he experienced New York’s first experiment in juvenile reform with the school ship Mercury, as well as the lockstep, dark cells, and industrial discipline of American penitentiaries. He personally witnessed the lunacy found in the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, the easy escapes from the Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary, and the corruption associated with the nation’s largest jail: New York’s “Tombs.” During various incarcerations Appo’s teeth were knocked out, and he encountered a wide array of prison tortures. Life outside prison was even bloodier. On the street Appo was physically assaulted at least nine times, shot twice, and stabbed in the throat once. More than a dozen scars decorated his body.

Above all George Appo was a “good fellow,” a character type he identified and wrote about. A good fellow engaged in criminal activities while displaying courage and bravery, “a nervy crook,” in Appo’s words. Good fellows like Appo did not rely on strong-arm tactics to gel their way Instead they avoided violence, employing wit and wile to make a living. Theirs was a world of artifice and deception. When successful, a good fellow lavished his profits on others. He was “a money getter and spender.” Such mettle, pluck, and camaraderie implied a level of trustworthiness, mutuality, and dependability. Above all a good fellow was loyal, willing to withstand, in Appo’s words, “the consequences and punishment of an arrest for some other fellow’s evil doings both inside and outside of prison.”…

Read the entire Preface here.

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A Little Too Much Is Enough

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Media Archive, Novels on 2013-02-18 19:09Z by Steven

A Little Too Much Is Enough

W. W. Norton & Company
November 1996
240 pages
5.4 × 8.1 in
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-393-31559-2

Kathleen Tyau

Filled with love and food, this story of the Hawaiian Wong family is an exuberant banquet of characters and stories.

Mahealani Wong was named for the full moon she was born under as her Chinese grandmother believed it would bring her good luck. She has a full helping of her fathers full Hawaiian lips and the rebellious heart of an American teenager. In this vibrant tale, Mahi tries to get more than the “little too much” that is enough for the loving and hard-to-let-go-of-one-another Wong family.

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Soul to Soul: A Black Russian American Family 1865-1992

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Europe, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2013-02-18 01:59Z by Steven

Soul to Soul: A Black Russian American Family 1865-1992

W. W. Norton & Company
318 pages
Hardcover ISBN-10: 0393034046; ISBN-13: 978-0393034042
Paperback ISBN: ISBN 978-0-393-31155-6

Yelena Khanga (with Susan Jacoby)

As the Soviet Union crumbled in early 1991, a young Russian woman in search of her past found her way to Mississippi, to the rich cotton land where her great-grandfather, a former slave, had become the largest black landowner in Yazoo County. In this extraordinary memoir, we share the life and family legacy of the Khangas over four generations and three continents. 32 pages of photos.

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Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2012-05-05 21:01Z by Steven

Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White

W. W. Norton & Company
May 2002
320 pages
5.5 × 8.3 in
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-393-32309-2

Earl Lewis, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Emory University

Heidi Ardizzone, Assistant Professor of American Studies
University of Notre Dame

When Alice Jones, a former nanny, married Leonard Rhinelander in 1924, she became the first black woman to be listed in the Social Register as a member of one of New York’s wealthiest families. Once news of the marriage became public, a scandal of race, class, and sex gripped the nation—and forced the couple into an annulment trial.

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Doing Race: 21 Essays for the 21st Century

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Census/Demographics, Communications/Media Studies, History, Law, Media Archive on 2010-06-24 18:55Z by Steven

Doing Race: 21 Essays for the 21st Century

W. W. Norton and Company
April 2010
590 pages
6.2 × 9.3 in
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-393-93070-2

Hazel Rose Markus (Editor)
Stanford University

Paula M. L. Moya (Editor)
Stanford University

A collection of new essays, written by a team of interdisciplinary authors, that gives a comprehensive introduction to race and ethnicity.

In Doing Race, scholars from across the disciplines have written original essays on race and ethnicity aimed at an undergraduate audience. The book provides a practical response to the view, common in American debates, that race and ethnicity no longer matter, or that race and ethnicity should not be taken into account when deciding how to structure society and formulate public policy. It also answers the question of why race and ethnicity play such a large role in fueling violence around the globe.

Doing Race shows that race and ethnicity matter because they are important resources in answering the fundamental, even universal “Who am I?” and “Who are we?” questions. It demonstrates how understanding how identities are shaped by race and ethnicity is central to understanding individual and collective behavior in the United States and throughout the world.

Drawing on the latest science and scholarship, these original essays provide undergraduates with an effective framework for understanding the persistence of racial inequalities and problems in the 21st century.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Doing Race

Hazel Rose Markus


Paula M. L. Moya

Part I: Inventing Race and Ethnicity

  • Defining Race and Ethnicity: The Constitution, the Court, and the Census, C. Matthew Snipp, Sociology
  • Models of American Ethnic Relations: Hierarchy, Assimilation, and Pluralism, George Fredrickson, History
  • The Biology of Ancestry: DNA, Genomic Variation, and Race, Marcus W. Feldman, Biology
  • Which Differences Make a Difference? Race, Health, and DNA, Barbara Koenig, Medical Anthropology

Part II: Racing Difference

  • The Jew as the Original ‘Other’: Difference, Antisemitism, and Race, Aron Rodrigue, History
  • Knowing the ‘Other’: Arabs, Islam, and the West, Joel Beinin, History
  • Eternally Foreign: Asian Americans, History, and Race, Gordon H. Chang, History
  • A Thoroughly Modern Concept: Ethnic Cleansing, Genocide, and the State, Norman M. Naimark, History

Part III: Institutionalizing Difference

  • Race in the News: Stereotypes, Political Campaigns, and Market-Based Journalism, Shanto Iyengar, Communication and Political Science
  • Going Back to Compton: Real Estate, Racial Politics, and Black-Brown Relations, Albert M. Camarillo, History
  • Structured for Failure: Race, Resources, and Student Achievement, Linda Darling-Hammond, Education
  • Racialized Mass Incarceration: Poverty, Prejudice, and Punishment, Lawrence D. Bobo and Victor Thompson, Sociology

Part IV: Racing Identity

  • Who Am I? Race, Ethnicity, and Identity, Hazel Rose Markus, Psychology
  • In the Air Between Us: Stereotypes, Identity, and Achievement, Claude M. Steele, Psychology
  • Ways of Being White: Privilege, Stigma, and Transcendence, Monica McDermott, Sociology
  • Blacks as Criminal, Blacks as Apes: Race, Representation, and Social Justice, Jennifer L. Eberhardt, Psychology
  • We’re Honoring You Dude: Myths, Mascots, and American Indians, Stephanie Fryberg and Alisha Watts, Psychology

Part V: Re-presenting Reality

  • Another Way to Be: Women of Color, Literature, and Myth, Paula M. L. Moya, English
  • Hiphop and Race: Blackness, Language, and Creativity, Marcyliena Morgan and Dawn-Elissa Fischer, African and African American Studies and Africana Studies
  • The ‘Ethno-Ambiguo Hostility Syndrome’: Mixed-Race, Identity, and Popular Culture, Michele Elam, English
  • ‘We wear the mask’: Performance, Social Dramas, and Race, Harry Elam, Drama
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Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America’s Future (Revised and Updated)

Posted in Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2010-06-24 17:42Z by Steven

Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America’s Future (Revised and Updated)

W. W. Norton & Company
June 2010
288 pages
5.5 × 8.25 in
Paperback ISBN 978-0-393-33685-6


Angela Glover Blackwell

Stewart Kwoh

Manuel Pastor, Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity
University of California, Santa Cruz

With a mixed-race president, a Latino population that is now the largest minority, and steadily growing Asian and Native American populations, race is both the most dynamic facet of American identity and the defining point of American disunity.

By broadening the racial dialogue, Blackwell, founder of PolicyLink; Kwoh, president of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center; and Pastor, professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at USC, bring new perspective to this essential American issue.

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Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Media Archive, United States on 2010-03-04 04:38Z by Steven

Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience

W. W. Norton & Company
August 2006
336 pages
5.5 × 8.2 in
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-393-32786-1

Edited by Chandra Prasad

With an Introduction by Rebecca Walker

With a roster of acclaimed fiction writers, Mixed shatters expectations of what it means to be multiracial.

Globally, the number of multiracial people is exploding. In 10 US states, the percentage of multiracial residents who are of school age—between 5 and 17—is at least 25 percent. In California alone, it is estimated that 15 percent of all births are multiracial or multiethnic. Despite these numbers, mixed-race people have long struggled for a distinct place on the identity map. It was only as recently as 2000 that the U.S. Census Bureau began to allow citizens to check off as many racial categories as are applicable-White, African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, American Indian, and Alaska Native. Previously, Americans were allowed to check off only one, leaving multiracial people invisible and unaccounted for.

Though multiracialism has recently become a popular aspect of many memoirs and novels, Mixed is the first of its kind: a fiction anthology with racial overlap as its compass. With original pieces by both established and emerging writers, Mixed explores the complexities of identity that come with being a multiracial person. Every story, crafted by authors who are themselves mixed-race, broaches multiracialism through character or theme. With contributors such as Cristina Garcia, Danzy Senna, Ruth Ozeki, Mat Johnson, Wayde Compton, Diana Abu-Jaber, Emily Raboteau, Mary Yukari Waters, and Peter Ho Davies, and an illuminating introduction by Rebecca Walker, Mixed gives narrative voice to the multiple identities of the rising generation.

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The History of White People

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States on 2009-12-27 01:32Z by Steven

The History of White People

W. W. Norton & Company
March 2010
448 pages
6.125 × 9.25 in
ISBN: 978-0-393-04934-3

Nell Irvin Painter

A mind-expanding and myth-destroying exploration of “whiteness”—an illuminating work on the history of race and power.

Eminent historian Nell Irvin Painter tells perhaps the most important forgotten story in American history. Beginning at the roots of Western civilization, she traces the invention of the idea of a white race—often for economic, scientific, and political ends. She shows how the origins of American identity in the eighteenth century were intrinsically tied to the elevation of white skin into the embodiment of beauty, power, and intelligence; how the great American intellectuals— including Ralph Waldo Emerson—insisted that only Anglo Saxons were truly American; and how the definitions of who is “white” and who is “American” have evolved over time.

A story filled with towering historical figures, The History of White People closes an enormous gap in a literature that has long focused on the nonwhite, and it forcefully reminds us that the concept of “race” is an all-too-human invention whose meaning, importance, and reality have changed according to a long and rich history.

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The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Virginia on 2009-12-26 01:56Z by Steven

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

W. W. Norton & Company
September 2008
800 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-06477-3
6.5 × 9.6 in
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-393-33776-1
816 pages
6.1 × 9.2 in

Annette Gordon-Reed, Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History; Professor of History, Faculty of Arts & Sciences
Harvard University

Winner of the National Book Award and the 2009 Pulitzer Prize

In the mid-1700s the English captain of a trading ship that made runs between England and the Virginia colony fathered a child by an enslaved woman living near Williamsburg. The woman, whose name is unknown and who is believed to have been born in Africa, was owned by the Eppeses, a prominent Virginia family. The captain, whose surname was Hemings, and the woman had a daughter. They named her Elizabeth.

So begins this epic work—named a best book of the year by the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Amazon.com, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a notable book by the New York Times—Annette Gordon-Reed’s “riveting history” of the Hemings family, whose story comes to vivid life in this brilliantly researched and deeply moving work. Gordon-Reed, author of the highly acclaimed historiography Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, unearths startling new information about the Hemingses, Jefferson, and his white family. Although the book presents the most detailed and richly drawn portrait ever written of Sarah Hemings, better known by her nickname Sally, who bore seven children by Jefferson over the course of their thirty-eight-year liaison, The Hemingses of Monticello tells more than the story of her life with Jefferson and their children. The Hemingses as a whole take their rightful place in the narrative of the family’s extraordinary engagement with one of history’s most important figures.

Not only do we meet Elizabeth Hemings—the family matriarch and mother to twelve children, six by John Wayles, a poor English immigrant who rose to great wealth in the Virginia colony—but we follow the Hemings family as they become the property of Jefferson through his marriage to Martha Wayles. The Hemings-Wayles children, siblings to Martha, played pivotal roles in the life at Jefferson’s estate.

We follow the Hemingses to Paris, where James Hemings trained as a chef in one of the most prestigious kitchens in France and where Sally arrived as a fourteen-year-old chaperone for Jefferson’s daughter Polly; to Philadelphia, where James Hemings acted as the major domo to the newly appointed secretary of state; to Charlottesville, where Mary Hemings lived with her partner, a prosperous white merchant who left her and their children a home and property; to Richmond, where Robert Hemings engineered a plan for his freedom; and finally to Monticello, that iconic home on the mountain, from where most of Jefferson’s slaves, many of them Hemings family members, were sold at auction six months after his death in 1826.

As The Hemingses of Monticello makes vividly clear, Monticello can no longer be known only as the home of a remarkable American leader, the author of the Declaration of Independence; nor can the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president have been expunged from history until very recently, be left out of the telling of America’s story. With its empathetic and insightful consideration of human beings acting in almost unimaginably difficult and complicated family circumstances, The Hemingses of Monticello is history as great literature. It is a remarkable achievement.

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An Illuminated Life: Bella da Costa Greene’s Journey from Prejudice to Privilege

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States, Women on 2009-12-05 04:15Z by Steven

An Illuminated Life: Bella da Costa Greene’s Journey from Prejudice to Privilege

W. W. Norton & Company
June 2007
592 pages
6.6 × 9.6 in
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-393-05104-9

Heidi Ardizzone, Assistant Professor of American Studies
University of Notre Dame

Named a New York Times Editor’s Choice.

The secret life of the sensational woman behind the Morgan masterpieces, who lit up New York society.

What would you give up to achieve your dream? When J. P. Morgan hired Belle da Costa Greene in 1905 to organize his rare book and manuscript collection, she had only her personality and a few years of experience to recommend her. Ten years later, she had shaped the famous Pierpont Morgan Library collection and was a proto-celebrity in New York and the art world, renowned for her self-made expertise, her acerbic wit, and her flirtatious relationships. Born to a family of free people of color, Greene changed her name and invented a Portuguese grandmother to enter white society. In her new world, she dined both at the tables of the highest society and with bohemian artists and activists. She also engaged in a decades-long affair with art critic Bernard Berenson. Greene is pure fascination—the buyer of illuminated manuscripts who attracted others to her like moths to a flame.

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