Extended Audio Sample

Download One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York, by Arthur Browne Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Arthur Browne Narrator: Dominic Hoffman Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
Regular Price: $22.50 Download
— or —
FlexPass™ Price: $18.95$5.95$5.95 for new members!
Download learn more )

A history of African Americans in New York City from the 1910s to 1960, told through the life of Samuel Battle, the New York Police Department’s first black officer.

When Samuel Battle broke the color line as New York City’s first African American cop in the second decade of the twentieth century, he had to fear his racist colleagues as much as criminals. He had to be three times better than his white peers, and many times more resilient. His life was threatened. He was displayed like a circus animal. Yet, fearlessly claiming his rights, he prevailed in a four-decade odyssey that is both the story of one man’s courageous dedication to racial progress and a harbinger of the divisions between police and the people they serve that plague twenty-first-century America.

By dint of brains, brawn, and an outsized personality, Battle rode the forward wave of African American history in New York. He circulated among renowned turn-of-the-century entertainers and writers. He weathered threatening hostility as a founding citizen of black Harlem. He served as “godfather” to the regiment of black soldiers that won glory in World War I as the “Hellfighters of Harlem.” He befriended sports stars like Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, and Sugar Ray Robinson, and he bonded with legendary tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Along the way, he mentored an equally smart, equally tough young man in a still more brutal fight to integrate the New York Fire Department.

At the close of his career, Battle looked back proudly on the against-all-odd journey taken by a man who came of age as the son of former slaves in the South. He had navigated the corruption of Tammany Hall, the treachery of gangsters like Lucky Luciano and Dutch Schultz, the anything-goes era of Prohibition, the devastation of the Depression, and the race riots that erupted in Harlem in the 1930s and 1940s. By then he was a trusted aide to Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and a friend to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Realizing that his story was the story of race in New York across the first half of the century, Battle commissioned a biography to be written by none other than Langston Hughes, the preeminent voice of the Harlem Renaissance. But their eighty-thousand-word collaboration failed to find a publisher, and has remained unpublished since. Using Hughes’s manuscript, which is quoted liberally throughout this book, as well as his own archival research and interviews with survivors, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Arthur Browne has created an important and compelling social history of New York, revealed a fascinating episode in the life of Langston Hughes, and delivered the riveting life and times of a remarkable and unjustly forgotten man, setting Samuel Battle where he belongs in the pantheon of American civil rights pioneers.

Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “This is a riveting and important read. Samuel Battle’s story reminds us that when it comes to fighting crime, empathy and respect are equally as powerful as batons and guns. One Righteous Man is an especially relevant contribution to our national conversation about how to best ensure every officer upholds the oath to protect and serve every American.”

    Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP

  • “Narrator Dominic Hoffman’s deep, raspy voice guides listeners through the ever-changing world of Samuel Battle, the first African American policeman in New York City in 1911. His biography proves a fascinating lens through which to explore race, urban life, and the monumental shifts in American culture in the first half of the twentieth century. Hoffman’s cadence and emphasis draw out the stark contrasts of Battle’s life as he struggled to maintain justice in a society that denied him equality in the eyes of the law. Hoffman adds the right amount of emotion and deliberation to capture Battle’s challenges and triumphs. A strong narration and compelling story make this entire production a powerful experience.”


  • “An especially timely book.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “What is seemingly about a pioneering trailblazer is really Arthur Browne’s sweeping treatise on the experiences of African Americans from slavery to freedom, and it is very impressive in the rich detail and context in which he situates not only Samuel Battle but also Samuel Battle’s parents and grandparents going back to the Revolutionary period.”

    Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Write a Review
What is FlexPass?
  • Your first audiobook is just $5.95
  • Over 90% are at or below $12.95
  • "LOVE IT" guarantee
  • No time limits or expirations
About the Author

Arthur Browne has written the first-draft history of New York for more than forty years. As a reporter and editor, he has chronicled six mayors, from Abe Beame through Bill de Blasio, and coauthored I, Koch, a biography of Mayor Ed Koch. Browne presently serves as the Daily News editorial page editor. In 2007, he led a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for editorials that documented the epidemic illnesses afflicting thousands of 9/11 rescue and recovery workers.