Harlem Chairs: Tammany Hall and Harlem
These barrel chairs came out of the Steele house on 145 Street in Harlem. Aunt Dorothy left them to us. Aunt Dorothy was Frank Steele’s (my husband’s maternal grandfather’s) youngest sister, my husband’s great Aunt.
Aunt Dorothy not only came to Nashville from New York for my middle of the night wedding she brought a friend. And she came dressed jauntily in purple silk.
Aunt Dorothy told me that Adam Clayton Powell, Malcolm X and Thurgood Marshall sat in these chairs.
David’s New York great-grandfather was the first, or one of the first, black members of Tamnmany Hall. Steele was a licensed plumber from the Islands who accumulated real-estate and was very proud to send his son to Alfred University and then on to Medical school. And he kept the barrel chairs full of interesting people.
When Florence, his granddaughter, was a girl living in Tuskegee, Alabama where her father practiced medicine, she would drive from Tuskegee to Montgomery, then she would fly from Montgomery to New York, train from New York, then take the train to White River Junction, then jump a bus to her school in St. Johnsbury. When she wanted to get her hair done she would take the train to Montreal where there were some black people. A car, a plane, a train, and a bus to school. You would almost have to be black to understand why a lot of black people are not convinced by community school arguments. We, as a people, have a history of seeking the best possible school-- no matter how far it is.