Thursday, November 18, 2010



(((Go back to look at my previous posting about how to write a query letter, than use this post as a sample of what to say. Good luck!))))

Dear Ms. ___________

Al Capone may have ruled Chicago. Lucky Luciano may have run most of New York City. But from the 1930s to the late 1960s, when it came to Harlem, the undisputed king of the underworld was Bumpy Johnson.

He was called an old-fashioned gentleman. He was called a pimp. A philanthropist and a thief. A scholar and a thug. A man who admonished children to stay in school, and a man who some say introduced heroin into Harlem.

Bumpy was a man whose contradictions are still the root of many an argument in Harlem. But there is one thing on which both his supporters and detractors agree in his lifetime, Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson was the man in Harlem. People best remember him as the hot youngblood who fought to keep the notorious and murderous Dutch Schultz from taking over the Harlem numbers racket. In reality he was so much more.

 If you wanted to do anything in Harlem, anything at all, youd better stop and see Bumpy because he ran the place. Want to open a number spot on the Avenue? Go see Bumpy. Thinking about converting your brownstone into a speakeasy? Check with Bumpy first.

The police knew it they came to him to negotiate peace between young street gangs. The politicians knew it they counted on him to deliver votes on Election Day. Even the Italian and Jewish syndicate knew it, although they had to find out the hard way. When they decided to move on the Harlem numbers racket, Bumpy, only 25, at the time, sprang into action. With only a handful of loyal men behind him, Bumpy waged a successful guerilla war, forcing the white mobsters to finally come to terms with that crazy nigger. Even Lucky Luciano, the head of the organized crime in New York City, publicly gave Bumpy his due Black Harlem only recognized one crime boss, and that was Bumpy Johnson.

Bumpy was willing to use his fists and his guns to get what he wanted, but he was just as willing to use his money to help Harlemites in need. Oh, how Harlem loved him. To this day thirty years after his death people there still sing his praises. He went out of his way to help whomever he could, in whatever manner he could.

Each year he threw a huge Christmas party for the children in Harlem, and gave away thousands of dollars worth of presents to kids who would otherwise have none.

If he saw a familys furniture being moved out in the street because they couldnt pay the landlord not an uncommon sight in Depression-era Harlem he would reach into his pocket and peel off a few large bills from the huge wad he carried, and hand it to the evictors to pay off the back rent.

Yes, Bumpy may have been a criminal, but he was a criminal with a social conscience. In this community that felt exploited and abused by both the government and the white criminal element, Bumpy was an underworld leader who took from the people, but at least gave something back. He may have been a gangster, but he was Harlems gangster.

He chose his course, and he followed it with his eyes open, said the minister that eulogized him in 1968. In a world filled with social contamination and double-talk, maybe there was no other way to be a man.
Since I was born and raised in Harlem, I of course knew of Bumpy all my life. Everyone in Harlem did. But it wasnt until 1994, while watching an episode of Unsolved Mysteries about the only successful escape from Alcatraz Penitentiary, did I realize that I really knew Bumpy Johnson. Up close and personal. They showed a mug shot of Bumpy, and thats when I found out that nice Mr. Johnson, who gave my mother money to help buy her children back-to-school clothes was the same man that U. S. District Attorney Robert Morganthau once called the most dangerous man in New York City.

I became obsessed with learning more about this man Id heard about all my life but yet knew so little about. To my dismay there were no books at all written about Bumpy. Its about time one was done!

In addition to being a Harlem native, I am also a former newspaper reporter, having worked briefly with The Associated Press, The Virginian-Pilot, and spending seven years at The Philadelphia Inquirer. Ive used my journalistic skills to conduct dozens of interviews with people who knew Bumpy personally and, using the Freedom of Information Act, Ive received Bumpys FBI files as well as files maintained by the DEA and other government agencies..

I am also a published novelist of four books, Satin Doll, Im Telling, Using What You Got, and Ida B. all of which have been on the Essence Bestsellers List. But Im very anxious to write my first biography Harlem Godfather: The Rap On Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson -- which will be the first complete biography of a man who for years was Harlems best kept, and most cherished secret.

I have completed a 60-page book proposal (which includes two sample chapters) for Harlem Godfather: The Rap On Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson, which I would love to send to you. If you are interested in receiving a copy of the proposal, please contact me at (215) _ _ _ - _ _ _ _ or by email at -----------

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,

Karen E. Quinones Miller

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