I’ve just finished watching the two seasons of Godfather Of Harlem and certainly hope there will be a third season.
I was looking around for something new to watch and happened upon this. I didn’t know if it was my cup of tea. But I’m so glad I took a chance on it.
Godfather Of Harlem stars Forest Whittacker, who I’ve always thought was a superb actor.
There was also an actor, Nigel Thatch, who played Malcolm X, and he kicked his role out of the ballpark.
Bumpy Johnson, The Godfather Of Harlem:
Godfather of Harlem tells the true story of infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson. In the early 1960s, Bumpy Johnson returned from ten years in prison to find a different Harlem than the one he left behind.
He walked the streets in a dapper suit and tie, ever the businessman. Anything that happened in the crime world of the neighborhood had to get Bumpy Johnson’s seal of approval first.
Bumpy Johnson might have been a gangster, but he also had a soft side.
A 1960s version of Robin Hood, some said, because he used his money and power to help the people of Harlem. He delivered gifts and meals to his neighbors.
A Softer Side Of Bumpy Johnson:
Bumpy loved poetry and some of his poems were published in Harlem magazines.
His wife once noted that he was known to talk to the youth about learning academics instead of a life of crime. And though he’d spent hard years at Alcatraz, he maintained a sense of humor about his run-ins with the law.
He also had affairs with celebrities such as the editor of Vanity Affair, Helen Lawrenson, and actress Lena Horne.
Frank Lucas, who in the late 1960s and early 1970s built a heroin empire, said that Bumpy was not a typical gangster. “He worked in the streets, but he wasn’t of the streets.
“He was refined and classy, more like a businessman with a legitimate career than most people of the underworld. I could tell by looking at him that he was a lot different from the people I saw on the streets.”
Some suspect that Johnson had something to do with the infamous escape from Alcatraz while he served his time there.
Unconfirmed reports alleged that he used his mob connections to help the escapees secure a boat to San Francisco.
Portrayal Of Malcolm X In The Godfather Of Harlem:
Nigél Thatch played Malcolm X in the television series Godfather of Harlem. His portrayal was magnificent.
He was nominated for a best-supporting actor award at the 51st NAACP Image Awards for the role.
Nigel Thatch also portrayed Malcolm X in the 2014 film Selma. I want to see this as well.
Mobster Vincent Gigante:
Another gangster who was front and center in Godfather Of Harlem was “Chin” Gigante played by Vincent D’onofrio. He was Bumpy Johnson’s enemy.
When Bumpy got out of prison, Gigante undermined his efforts to regain control of the streets of Harlem.
Chin was considered one of New York City’s most notorious mobsters. He got the nickname “Chin” from his mother who called him “Chinzeeno.”
Chin was a former boxer. He worked his way up from an enforcer/hitman’s driver to a top boss of the Genovese crime family.
Later, he was called the “Odd Father” for his strange behavior. He would roam the streets of Harlem in a bathrobe.
But it was later learned that he was just trying to con the FBI to avoid jail time.
In the 1990s his reign came to an end when he was sent to federal prison on racketeering and conspiracy charges. Gigante died in federal prison in 2005.
Why I Found This Show & Story Behind It Important:
You might be wondering why I’m writing about this era about the gangsters of Harlem.
It was also the story of what happened before and up to the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
It’s one thing to read about what happened to African-Americans before the Civil Rights Act was passed. But to see it played out is another thing altogether.
The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. It addressed voting rights, employment, public accommodations, education, and more.
The Godfather Of Harlem was sprinkled with actual photos taken during the upheaval of that time.
You also may think I’ve given too much away to watch Godfather Of Harlem, but I’ve really just given background. It’s the stories themselves that are so compelling.
The Godfather Of Harlem is a gem of a TV series. There were 20 episodes. I hope there will be more.