Down These Mean Streets. A Stunning Autobiography of Corruption and Innocence. [Signed Copy]

A Street-Fighting Man

Signed by the author, his first book. This copy owned by a Freedom Summer volunteer and Civil Rights protestor.

Story of a young Puerto Rican man living in Spanish Harlem whose difficult life in the barrios becomes a tangle of crime, Hispanic machismo, drugs, street fights, infidelity, imprisonment. Thomas serves seven years in jail, punished for a bloody armed robbery attempt in which he was shot. In prison, Thomas converts to Islam and, eventually, upon freedom, becomes drug-free and a drug rehabilitation social worker, working first in Spanish Harlem, then in Puerto Rico. “How to Be a Negro Without Really,” “Trying Sex in the Can,” “Mucho Days and Nights in Gray” are sample chapter headings displaying the grit and starkness of Thomas’s writing.

“Critics praised Down These Mean Streets for its powerful depiction of the hellish conditions of inner-city life and hailed Thomas as a chronicler of a previously ‘silenced’ group—the negritos, or black Puerto Ricans of Spanish Harlem.” [Andrews, Foster, Harris] A slang glossary is at the end. Suvak 319: “Thomas [...] succeeds in boldly portraying several major phases of his prison career.”

Description: Down These Mean Streets. A Stunning Autobiography of Corruption and Innocence. [Signed Copy]

New York: Knopf, 1967. First Edition. 333pp. Octavo. Cloth. Signed by the author. Ownership name and two to three words neatly ink underlined on three leaves, [e.g. “Ah’s a home boy” (p169)] by Joseph A. Herzenberg, II while attending Yale in 1968. Herzenberg II, civil rights activist, would become the first elected official in North Carolina to be openly gay.¹ Top-edge stain faded; very good in a pictorial dust jacket in fine condition.


Blockson Collection 2738. 1. “One of his first major involvements with politics was working as a Freedom Summer volunteer in 1964 in Mississippi. He was briefly jailed as a civil rights protester that same year. From 1965 to 1967, Herzenberg worked as assistant professor and chair of the History Department at Tougaloo College, a historically African American school in Jackson, Miss., and a hotbed of civil rights activism in the 1960s. At Tougaloo, he met and was briefly married to an African-American woman at a time when interracial marriages were illegal.” —UNC Finding Aid, Joseph A. Herzenberg Papers, 1883-2006.

Price: $150.00