In Boss of Black Brooklyn author Ron Howell shows how important religion has been in the lives of Caribbean families. This has been especially true of Methodism and Anglicanism. Howell, in his book, shows how those two denominations competed for devotional energies of West Indian men and women in the 1800s and 1900s. The conflicts are seen in two of the principal characters of the book. Bertram Baker, the “Boss of Black Brooklyn” and its first black elected official, was born on the island of Nevis and was a devout Anglican. His father, the Rev. Alfred B. B. Baker, was a Methodist minister. Because the Bakers were maternal ancestors of the author, his book is a memoir. Especially meaningful to me is that Howell’s paternal grandfather was the Rev. Charles G. Howell, who was born in Barbados and graduated more than a century ago from Codrington College, the Provincial Seminary of the Church in the Province of the West Indies (CPWI), where I am now the Dean of Faculty. Rev. Howell emigrated to the United States in 1912 and settled in Brooklyn, becoming the Rector of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, which is in the East New York section of the borough. Boss of Black Brooklyn is a story about politics in early twentieth century Brooklyn, but it is much more than that. It is also a story about the hearts, minds, and spirits of the Caribbean people.
Rev. Canon Kirkley Sands