Before you get to the article…
On February 23, 2018, my book on the Mau Maus and Sand Street Angels, who were two Brooklyn youth gangs from the 1950s, has been completed. It took 15 years of research and writing to complete Brooklyn Rumble: Mau Maus, Sand Street Angels, and the End of an Era. This book is roughly 6″x9″ and has 370 pages and includes a look at the characters in the Mau Maus and the details of a gang killing that happened in February 1959 in front of the iconic Brooklyn Paramount Theater (now Long Island University). If you want to buy a copy, click here and this link will take you to an online ordering page.
On October 31, 2015, someone wrote on my Guestbook, inquiring if the Mau Maus and the Suicide Mau Maus were the same group. There is some confusion about the matter, on account of the similarities of the names. I will try to explain how that exactly worked.
Many people who read up on this topic of fighting gangs from NYC are aware of the Mau Maus, a Puerto Rican gang who had their turf deep in the Fort Greene Projects. In fact, that is what I am currently writing my book about. More on that here. However, there was another group called the Suicide Mau Maus, who, while not nearly as big as the Mau Maus and not as long in existence, also had a vicious reputation. The Suicide Mau Maus had their turf in the Farragut Projects, a hope, skip and a jump from Fort Greene. They were much smaller than the Mau Maus with about a dozen boys counted as their members.
You would think that the two gangs would be “brother clubs” or at least friendly with each other, just based on the name. However, this was not the case. The two groups hated each other and engaged in gang fights, using whatever weapons they could lay their hands on. The Suicide Mau Maus who later just called themselves the “Suicides,” dropping the “Mau Maus” from their name, also fought against the powerful Fort Greene Chaplains, a black gang who shared their turf with the Mau Maus in the Fort Greene projects and had been in existence since the early 1950s.
Making matters a bit more confusing is the fact that often gangs would have an inner core that referred to themselves as the “suicide squad.” In other words these were the most dedicated of all the members. They were willing to do whatever it took to defend their turf and wreak revenge on their enemies. I’m not sure why or how they figured on calling themselves the Suicides, but I think it is pretty obvious the name is very ominous. In the summer of 1961, seven members of the Suicides got in a fight with Leroy Bowman of 111 Bridge Street and stabbed him to death. Bowman was a member of the Fort Greene Chaplains.
A few years ago I found a picture from 1960 taken of Teen Challenge (which at that time was still in it’s infancy) workers at a church gathering with members of the Mau Maus, Chaplains, Hellburners and Suicide Mau Maus. The workers are standing to the left of the image. Unfortunately the picture is not very clear, but it is the best I have and the only known picture I am aware of with Suicide Mau Maus in it.