Queens CORE (pt.2)

The chapter worked with the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce to establish a civil rights council, which Dr. Kaufman became a member of, to work on employment opportunities for non-whites. By April 1964, the council claimed to have opened up at least one hundred jobs, from sales clerks to engineers and bank managers.

There was a split in the chapter over participation in the World’s Fair, another indication of the continued infighting within the chapter. According to newspaper reports, Dr. Kaufman and Queens CORE supported the Stall-In. However, his own vice chairman Wright and future chairmen Dorothy Conway and Gular Glover were arrested for demonstrating at the Worlds Fair. Also arrested from the chapter were Robert Jaffe, Mark Brody, Christine Palmer, Thelma Dantzler, Claudia Brown, and William Madison.

chairman Ed Bragg
Kaufman’s tenure as chair was short. By that summer, Ed Bragg, a union leader with Local 1199, had become chair with Dorothy Conway and Rev. Gray as co-vice chairs. Other officers at this time include Rich Johnson, Howard Price, Grace Minns, Robert Hyman, Judson Dinkins and Isaih Clinton. Meetings were held at Grace Methodist Church. By fall, Queens CORE moved its offices to 189-22 Keysville avenue in St. Albans, a solidly middle class section of Queens.

This may have been part of a continuing re-organizing of the chapter. While the chapter remained active, there still was not much being initiated by Queens CORE. It supported Bronx CORE’s demonstrations against a local plumbers union. It was at that summer’s Atlantic City, NJ demonstration supporting the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). It collected signatures for a petition for civil rights bill in DC and held a memorial march right after the bombing in Birmingham that killed four little girls.

Other than a vigil of two Black homes in Laurelton that had crosses burned on them, there was little of interest reported by the chapter. Even into 1965, it was unable to get a solid program off the ground, a problem blamed on cliques and internal dissension.

However, a constant during this time was the ‘Banjo Billy’ campaign. ‘Banjo Billy’ was the sole representation of a Black person in the 160 foot mural, ‘An Historical Pageant of Long Island', on the walls of the Jamaica Savings Bank. Described in the accompanying booklet as a ‘happy-go-lucky slave’, Queens CORE saw him as a ‘thick lipped, wooly headed, foot stomping banjo playing negro’ used to depict ‘the most note worthy contribution to Long Island society’ of Black people. Urging customers to withdraw their funds from the bank until the mural was removed, the campaign began under Dr. Kaufman. It intensified when Bragg delivered a petition to the bank with over ten thousand names, and became critical under Glover. The chapter was eventually successful.

Here Comes Black Power
By September 1965, Dorothy Conway had become chair. Continuing work started with the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, the chapter concentrated on taking on public utilities such as AT+T, Con Edison and Brooklyn Union Gas, for discriminatory hiring practices.

She was followed by Lon de Leon with Irene Jones and Isaiah Moultrie as his first co-vice chairs. De Leon, a musician and local celebrity, had succeeded in getting James Brown to headline at a fundraiser for Queens CORE months earlier. According to a report from CORE, he may have also played a key role in excluding the White members from the chapter. Queens CORE does not seem to have experienced the same type of racial animosity among the membership that other chapters experienced at the time. This does not mean it did not exist but the chapter was not as nationalistic as others like Brooklyn and Harlem CORE. Such sentiments were not completely absent, either.

In June of 1967, two Queens CORE members, Mandola McPherson and Clarence Milton Ellis were arrested along with Arthur Harris of SJ CORE and Herman Ferguson as part of a group of 16 members from the Jamaica Rifle and Pistol Club, Inc. They were ‘charged with conspiracy to commit arson and anarchy as part of an alleged “black revolutionary” plot’. The charges were eventually dropped, but the case became one of the most well known examples of COINTELPRO outside of the Black Panthers.

chairman Gular Glover
By this time, Gular Glover had succeeded De Leon. She was not a nationalist or one who pushed for the Whites to be excluded. She was, however, one of the rare women who led a CORE chapter during its Black Power phase. The chapter boasted of having approximately three hundred members. When interviewed, though, Glover stated only about fifty people could be counted on to show up.

Like other NYC CORE chapters at the time, Queens CORE supported community control of the public school system. Blacks made up 22% of the student population in Queens at the time.

Because of its school protests, specifically its campaign at P.S. 40, Queens CORE was accused of anti-Semitism in June, 1967. As with Brooklyn CORE in the Ocean Hill- Brownsville protests, the charges came about because of statements attributed to demonstrators.

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