Boss of the Grips

Eric K. Washington discusses Boss of the Grips

Award-winning author shares important NYC history


On Thursday, August 11, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum will host Eric K. Washington, New York City-based independent historian, for an evening lecture on the life of James H. Williams.

Washington’s lecture will draw heavily from his years of archival research and from his acclaimed 2019 book Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal (Liveright Publishing). In Boss of the Grips, Washington uncovers the nearly forgotten life of James H. Williams, the chief Porter of Grand Central Terminal’s Red Caps—a multitude of Harlem-based black men whom he organized into the central labor force of America’s most prestigious train station. Examining the deeply intwined subjects of class, labor, and African American history, Washington’s latest revives the story of a Harlem Renaissance-era labor figure who navigated segregation to achieve social and financial influence.

Boss of the Grips is the winner of the Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in New York History, GANYC Apple Award for Outstanding Book Writing, and a finalist for the Brendan Gill Prize.   

The lecture will take place at 7:00pm in the Museum’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium. Tickets are available online at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s website.

Eric K. Washington is an A’Lelia Bundles Community Scholar of Columbia University (2014-2017), a CUNY Leon Levy Center for Biography (2015-2016), and a Fellow in Residence of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston/Brown Foundation’s Dora Maar House in Ménerbes, France (2017). He is a member of the American Historical Association (AHA), the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the Organization of American Historians (OAH), and the NYU Biography Seminar. In addition to writing books and creating public history programs, Washinton serves on the board of directors of the Biographers International Organization, and on New York City’s Archives, Reference and Research Advisory Board.

Address: 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport, NY 11713

Date & Time: Thursday, August 11th (8/11/2022) at 7:00pm