Eric K. Washington is a New York City-based independent historian and author of "Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal" (Liveright/W.W. Norton), a biography of a once influential Harlem Renaissance-era labor figure. His book won the Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in New York History, from the New York Academy of History; as well as the GANYC Apple Award, from the Guides Association of New York City; and was a finalist for the Brendan Gill Prize, from the Municipal Art Society of New York. It was also cited among Open Letters Review 's 10 Best Biographies of 2019, and The Bowery Boys Podcast's 10 Favorite Books of 2019.
He is an A'Lelia Bundles Community Scholar (Columbia University 2014-2017), a Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellow (City University of New York 2015-2016), and a Fellow in Residence of Dora Maar House in Ménerbes, France (Museum of Fine Arts Houston/Brown Foundation 2017). His member affiliations include 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. I'm currently on the board of directors of the Biographers International Organization (BIO), and on New York City's Archives, Reference and Research Advisory Board (ARRAB).
The locale of his first book, "Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem" (Arcadia), inspired the permanent interpretive signage in West Harlem Piers Park, a design project awarded the 2010 MASterworks Award from the Municipal Art Society of New York.
He is the owner of Tagging-the-Past, which endeavors to reconnect forgotten history to present landscapes through articles, talks and tours.
Boss of the Grips: The Life of James H. Williams and the Red Caps of Grand Central Terminal
A long-overdue biography of the head of Grand Central Terminal’s Red Caps, who flourished in the cultural nexus of Harlem and American railroads. In a feat of remarkable research and timely reclamation, Eric K. Washington uncovers the nearly forgotten life of James H. Williams (1878–1948), the chief porter of Grand Central Terminal’s Red Caps—a multitude of Harlem-based black men whom he organized into the essential labor force of America’s most august railroad station. With this biography, Williams must now be considered, along with Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jacqueline Onassis, one of the great heroes of Grand Central’s storied past.
Winner • Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in New York History
Winner • GANYC Apple Award for Outstanding Book Writing (Nonfiction)
Finalist • Brendan Gill Prize (Municipal Art Society of New York)
Open Letters Review • 10 Best Biographies of 2019
The Bowery Boys Podcast • 10 Favorite Books of 2019