One big reason we study history is that it repeats itself. The anti-immigrant hysteria being stirred up today is nothing new, especially in Greenpoint. While researching a book on local political boss Peter J. McGuinness (1888-1948) I found an interesting piece of little-known local history.
In 1928 Jim McQuade was desperate to knock McGuinness out of his job as Greenpoint’s Alderman at City Hall. McQuade, looking to attract the votes of the sizeable Polish community and smear McGuinness, publicized the fact that in 1912 McGuinness had been part of a local anti-immigrant group called the “Native Borns.” McQuade claimed that McGuinness was “an active organizer” of the group and that the organization was similar to the Ku Klux Klan. McQuade funded the printing of a letter signed by three locals detailing the activities of the “Native Borns,” which included not patronizing foreign shops, not voting for foreign born candidates and discriminating against foreigners in all ways possible. There were hundreds of members in the area and “Native Borns” even attacked people who spoke foreign languages in the streets. Continue reading