chapter  4
John Henry (1936- 1939),
Pages 10

Josh was relatively comfortable with the superintendent's job, but it got derailed through some complex machinations between the management and a new janitors' union. Both he and Billjoined the union, and its contract required that members be paid $65 a month for men and $45 for women. As Josh told the story, the management balked at the higher wages and insisted that although they would pay the new scale, the White family would have to kick back twenty dollars apiece, bringing their actual wages down to the previous rate. Josh would not accept this deal, and he lost the job. "They fired me because I was the shop steward and I was the one who wouldn't kick back, and I told what

happened," he said. To make matters worse, the union gave the Whites no support, and

When Josh lost his job, and with it his home, the Whites moved farther uptown, renting a single room in the apartment of a singer friend,Jean Cutler, at 400 West 148th Street, in the heart of the neighborhood known as Sugar Hill. The quarters were cramped, but the Hill was considered by many people to be the best neighborhood in Harlem. Roi Ottley called it "perhaps the most modern and beautiful resi-

dential area for Negroes in Black America." Though not as tony as the block of mansions a half-mile south, which had been dubbed Strivers Row, Sugar Hill was home to the city's intellectual and artistic elite. These were the days of residential segregation, in the North as well as the South, and even successful African Americans still made their

All in all, the situation was dire. "Carol worked in walk-up flats until

"It was a sad time," Carol recalls, but she is quick to add that it was only because they had been forced to move that they were in the right place when opportunity came knocking. "Truly, it was a blessing in disguise," she says. "Because had we not left the old place, we wouldn't have been around the corner from Leonard."