Sunday, March 7, 2010

Professor James Fisher

Last year, I had the honor of taking Dr. James Fisher for the course Religion and the American Self. Dr. Fisher, an American Studies professor at Fordham, recently released a book called On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie and the Soul of the Port of New York (Cornell University Press). The book chronicles the back story of Elia Kazan's award-winning 1954 film On the Waterfront, about a tight web of dockworkers, union organizers, crime bosses, politicians and church leaders bound for decades to the corrupt Irish-controlled ports. The book begins after the Civil War, when Irish Tammany took control of Manhattan's Lower West Side waterfront with a "mob-like system of violence and intimidation" (Publisher's Weekly Review). The crime bosses spent years using bribes, unjustified fees, and exploitive labor that ultimately impoverished the communities they helped build. In the 1940s, a charismatic Jesuit priest named John M. "Pete" Corridan worked tirelessly to counter this corruption through the politicians, the media, and even Hollywood powerbrokers.

Dr. Fisher's book has been called "possibly the most thorough genealogy of Irish-American waterfront crime to date." During class last year, Dr. Fisher took us to the waterfront, conveniently located just a few blocks from Fordham's Lincoln Center campus, where he shared with us the overpowering corruption and violence on the West Side docks. In January, Professor Fisher was featured in this very interesting New York Times article.

Professor Fisher is one of the shining examples of the great work coming out of Fordham's faculty and we congratulate him for the years of labor he put into this book.

1 comment:

Sara said...

Yes, I was in that class with you! Good times :) After seeing the waterfront now, isn't it crazy to imagine what it must have been like sixty years ago?! While now the waterfront is a lovely sight to see, during the '40s you wouldn't want to go anywhere near those docks!