LESSONS IN BLACK HISTORY – Samuel J. Battle

Samuel J. Battle – Born in North Carolina in 1883, Samuel “Big Sam” Battle joined the New York City Police Department in 1911, making him the first black police officer in the city of New York. Battle became the first black police sergeant in 1926 and the first lieutenant in 1935. He played a pivotal role in ending the Harlem Riots of 1935, which started when rumors began to circulate that teenage shoplifter Lino Rivera had been beaten to death in the basement of the Kress Five and Ten store. This rumor led to three days of rioting, three dead, and hundreds injured. Battle helped bring the violence to an end when he had his picture taken with Rivera, alive and healthy, and then circulated copies of the photo throughout Harlem. Battle would go on to become the first black parole commissioner in 1941. He passed away in 1966, and in 2009 the intersection of Lenox Avenue and West 135th Street in Harlem was named after him.

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