The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Mar 15 2011
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“[T.J. English] returns with a swashbuckling, racially charged nightmare about New York City in 1960s. This is one nightmare worth reliving because Mr. English so vividly recreates an era….he graphically reconstructs a rampaging decade through three lives.” (New York Times)
“A searing profile of an ugly New York….The Savage City is meant to make us look back in anger and sorrow, perhaps to reflect upon what stayed the same as things changed.” (New York Daily News)
“An epic look at the racial animus, fear, and hatred that characterized [a] troubled decade. . . . Through the lives of three ostensibly unrelated men, English peels back the underlying turmoil that led to the violent period and the unaddressed social ills that remain to this day.” (Booklist (starred review))
“It’s dripping with the kind of detail that’s too good to make up.” (Mother Jones)
“A brutal reminder that New York was not always such a welcoming place.” (New York Post)
“English paints a vivid, gritty panorama of a city wracked by racial insurgency. . . . a gripping, noirish retrospective of an era when brutal misrule sparked desperate rage.” (Publishers Weekly)
“A comprehensive, still-shocking exhumation of racial discord in America.” (Kirkus)
“T.J. English has the mastered the hybrid narrative art form of social history and underworld thriller. The Savage City is a truly gripping read filled with unexpected twists and turns. Highly recommended.” (Douglas Brinkley)
“The Savage City is a necessary examination of the people, passions and maligned principles by which New York City once lived and died. English has a magnificent sense of the manner in which people, landscape, and history are bound together. Every world is a corner and every corner is a world.” (Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin)
From the Back Cover
In the early 1960s, uncertainty and menace gripped New York, crystallizing in a poisonous divide between a deeply corrupt, cynical, and racist police force, and an African American community buffeted by economicdistress, brutality, and narcotics. On August 28, 1963—the day Martin Luther King Jr. declared "I have a dream" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial—two young white women were murdered in their Manhattan apartment. Dubbed the Career Girls Murders case, the crime sent ripples of fear throughout the city, as police scrambled fruitlessly for months to find the killer. But it also marked the start of a ten-year saga of fear, racial violence, and turmoil in the city—an era that took in events from the Harlem Riots of the mid-1960s to the Panther Twenty-One trials and Knapp Commission police corruption hearings of the early 1970s.
The Savage City explores this pivotal and traumatic decade through the stories of three very different men:
- George Whitmore Jr., the near-blind, destitute nineteen-year-old black man who was coerced into confessing to the Career Girls Murders and several other crimes. Whitmore, an innocent man, would spend the decade in and out of the justice system, becoming a scapegoat for the NYPD—and a symbol of the inequities of the system.
- Bill Phillips, a brazenly crooked NYPD officer who spent years plundering the system before being caught in a corruption sting—and turning jaybird to create the largest scandal in the department's history.
- Dhoruba bin Wahad, a son of the Bronx and founding member of New York's Black Panther Party, whose militant activism would make him a target of local and federal law enforcement as conflicts between the Panthers and the police gradually devolved into open warfare.
Animated by the voices of the three participants—all three of whom spent years in prison, and are still alive today—The Savage City emerges as an epic narrative of injustice and defiance, revealing for the first time the gripping story of how a great city, marred by fear and hatred, struggled for its soul in a time of sweeping social, political, and economic change.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
This is the backdrop provided for three people's lives covered in the book. There is George Whitmore, a young black man wrongly accused of certain crimes; William "Bill" Phillips, a cop on the take because that is what the system allowed and; Dhoruba Bin Wahad, whose outrage led him to leadership roles as a black militant. Whitmore's tale alone is surreal and undeniably horrifying.
On a side note, one crime Whitmore was accused of was sensationalized as "The Career Girl Murders". One of the girls was Janice Wylie whose father, Max, was an advertising executive with Lennen & Newell that produced some iconic advertising including "Hey Big Spender" for Muriel.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
NYPD Bill Phillips was a second generation cop. He was corrupt and caught by the Knapp Commission looking into alleged illegal activity by law enforcement before testifying in the early 1970s about a department overwhelmingly white, bias and dirty. Many cops went to jail due in part to his testimony. In 1975 he was convicted of murdering The Happy Hooker and her pimp and spent years behind bars.
Dhoruba Bin Wahad was a founding father of the Black Panther Party who spent years in prison. He made enemies on both sides of the vast racial divide as rival Black groups including inside the Panthers and the white establishment through NYPD and the courts sought to silence him. In 1973 he was convicted of attempted murder of two cops in his third trial.
This is a powerful historical account of a brutal dark period in which T.J. English shines a spotlight on a New York troubled by racial tension as police brutality became a household phrase while the cops faced urban guerilla warfare with no psychological or combat training. The prime trio remains alive and free although each spent long period in jail; through them and their associates, Mr. English describes the Big Apple as rotten to the core.
The Savage City unravels this painful tale through the lives of three diverse men - who never met each other, yet each was part of this landscape and had very public faces/roles. The most tragic figure of the three is George Whitmore Jr., who is 19 years old when he is arrested and charged in the Career Girls Murder, not because he is guilty but because he is naïve and the police is all powerful and only wants to check this case off the list. Bill Phillips is a second-generation cop, who cannot wait to get to shake down businesses and police to supplement his measly police salary, but will his brazenness and police honor code allow him to avoid public scrutiny. For Dhoruba bin Wahad finding few opportunities for a young, black male turns to petty crime and is incarcerated where his introspectiveness leads him to militant activism and one of the founders of the New York Black Panthers party. Through the vibrant voices of the three men, and the well-written narrative, I was able to be caught up in the swirl of police brutality and the racial unrest that were so part of the lives of many black Americans that lived during this time. Change is always difficult, and unfortunately, usually involves violence to make the necessity of change understood. All three of the men did spend time in prison and are alive today, and it would be interesting to hear their voices and views today on how much change has taken place, as cases of uncalled for police brutality have surfaced over the last couple of years.
I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the history of this era, and especially for those who thought that the battlefields of the Civil Rights and black militarism were taking place in the South and West.
This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
Reviewed by Beverly
Only by this book, can we sit back and gauge how far we have moved on from the cancer of institutional racism, and perhaps more crucially, apathy. English has broken the mould here. Daring, brave, and ultimately ground breaking, I challenge anyone to read this book and not feel ashamed, relviled and ultimately shell-shocked by the times that existed within our living memory.
It tell the stories of a corrupt and racist policeman, a black militant, and an innocent young black who is pulled into a maelstrom of injustice and unfairness by the white judicial system.
Although the fates of these three men are not directly related, they happen towards the same backdrop, within the same corrupt and racist system, in the same times of civil rights struggle that characterized New York City and the rest of the country back then.
It is a meticulously research book, written without any political bias, but with sympathy for the fate of the underprivileged, the beaten, the men and women at the bottom of society.
Its narrative is riveting, the facts are astonishing and the events it describes leave you breathless at times.
I grew up knowing New York as the murder capital of the world, and reading this book I now understand why it could come to that. It also sheds a bright spotlight on the black civil rights struggle of the time, and especially the gradual militarization of the frustrated black minority, which was helpless against the extortion, the brutality and the blatant racism brought towards them from the police.
It is not a dry history book, but a book that should be mandatory reading material in each class about US history. well, strike that - there are too many f-words in the police transcripts the author uses here, and also a picture of a naked woman.
But the most shocking thing about this book is that the history it tells, the wrongdoings that occurred way back then, are still not overcome yet. The underlying currents that made all that possible are still there, covered by the veneer of modern comfortable life, but all this could come back in a hurry. Not with the black part of the population perhaps; maybe this time it's the Hispanics turn. And that makes this book so relevant today, even if it just tells an old story from an era long gone.
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