chapter  10
WHEN FRANK SINATRA CAME TO ITALIAN HARLEM
The 1945 "Race Riot" at Benjamin Franklin High School
WithGERALD MEYER
Pages 16

New York City's worst racial incident within the public school system in the immediate postwar period erupted on September 27, 1945, at Benjamin Franklin High School, an all-boys school located on Pleasant Avenue between East 114th and 116th Streets in Italian Harlem. The neighborhood was, at the time, one of the largest Little Italy's in the city, with approximately sixty thousand residents.1 The school's 1,162 students reflected the multiethnic neighborhood, 37 percent of whom were Italian American, 13 percent African American, 9 percent Puerto Rican, and 41 percent "other" which included a large number of Jewish students.2 Over a span of two months, this incident generated more than eighty articles and editorials in New York City's press as well as mention in the black press outside of New York City.3