Book Talk With Author Eric K. Washington: Boss of the Grips | The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

6:00 p.m.8:00 p.m.

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Join NYC Parks' Ebony Society and Art & Antiquities for a book talk with Eric K. Washington, author of Boss of the Grips | The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal.

An illustrated talk about the nearly forgotten life of James H. Williams (1878-1948), the former African-American chief of Grand Central Terminal’s iconic Red Caps. The mostly Harlem-based baggage porters once formed the essential labor force of America’s most august railroad station. Under Chief Williams, literally hundreds of college-bound black men—notably during the Harlem Renaissance era of the 1920s—succeeded in attaining mortarboards by donning a red cap. With this new biography, Williams must now be considered, along with Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jacqueline Onassis, one of the great heroes of Grand Central’s storied past.

Eric K. Washington is a Columbia University Community Scholar, Leon Levy Biography Fellow, and author. His first book, Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem, inspired his interpretive signage in West Harlem Piers Park, which won the Municipal Art Society’s 2010 MASterworks Award. Praise for his new book, Boss of the Grips (Liveright | W.W. Norton), has drawn him appearances at the Schomburg Center, ABC-TV’s “Here and Now,” WNYC-radio’s “All Of It,” and C-SPAN2 BookTV.

This event is FREE and open to the public. 

To RSVP and for accessibility information, contact Art & Antiquities at (212) 360-8114 or

Held in conjunction with the exhibition Namesakes: Honoring African Americans in NYC Parks, presented by NYC Parks’ Ebony Society and Art & Antiquities

Images: author photo by Brice Toul, both images courtesy of Eric K. Washington


Arsenal in Central Park
830 Fifth Avenue
Directions to this location
Location Details:
In the gallery on the third floor.



Event Organizer

Art & Antiquities, NYC Parks Ebony Society,

Contact Number

(212) 360-8114

Contact Email


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