May 20th, 2010


Racism & the Mafia in the 1920s

I'm sort of in the character-development stage of my 1920s mafia story, and I'm wondering: how likely/possible is it for an African American man to become a "made" man? This is set in Chicago, and from what I've researched the Chicago Outfit was "racially diverse" but those citations only ever mention Irish, Jews, and Greeks as being included, all of whom are (presumably) white.

Additionally, supposing a black man DID join, what would the attitudes of the other mafia men be towards him? I sort of imagine it being near impossible to rise in the ranks given the racial tensions of the time. I'm also supposing his family/friends would not support his decision to join (if he even tells them).

Can I assume that mafia members were a product of their time, and as such, shared most of the rest of society's view? Would love to have a friendship of sorts between a white mafia guy and a black guy (whether he's a gang member or not) but I'd like to get it right (and not hand-waving ignoring issues).

Google searches included all different combinations of mafia, cosa nostra, racism, chicago, 1920s. Also looked through the archives here and found some very interesting links on mafia of the 1920s in general. I've gotten plenty on attitudes towards black people in general, but nothing about the mafia's specific views.

Will be hitting up the library on the weekend, so if there are book suggestions that would be lovely too. :)

EDIT: Oh, wow, thank you for all the help. I just want to clarify, while I know that race was considered differently then than now, I (perhaps mistakenly) was under the impression that discrimination against another "white" person would be lesser/different than against black people.

I'll probably go with making this man another form of criminal. Have lots of reading to do now. :)

Education in the Victorian era

Searched "Victorian Education", "Cambridge University degrees", "Oxford University degrees", "Victorian educational degrees"

I'm looking for some fairly specific information about education in the late Victorian era (1890-1896). I have a character who I need to be fairly young and yet have a fairly impressive education. Something similar to a child who winds up getting sent to college earlier than is usual and thus winding up with a degree quite a bit higher than his age would suggest. (I realize this sounds a trifle Mary Sueish, but I need him to be a genius with a good education in order to use him as a counterpoint to a far less advantaged young man who is also highly intelligent.)

So the question is, would any English (or Scottish) university of the time accept a very young but brilliant student? If so which ones and what sort of degrees would be available at the time. I know today he could receive a PhD, but was that available at the time?

Also, was there any sort of Department of Archaeology in any of the universities?

(And, while I'm at it, how did they light and heat the British Museum in 1896?)

ETA: I just want to say all of you rock! Some very useful info and I think I know where to go with this now. (Sad part is, this is a relatively minor part of the whole. But I wanted it right, darn it.)