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.
The other day I made a page on little-known gangs in New York City in the 1950s (click here to read more about that). One of the gangs on that list was called the Immortal Sinners. From what I can tell, they were a Black gang from Bedford-Stuyvesant. I never heard of the Immortal Sinners until the other day, and after a cursory glance at my extensive records and a search on the Internet, this gang is virtually unknown. This leads me to believe this was probably a very small gang.
Several neighborhoods in Brooklyn were rife with gang activity in the 1950s and 1960s. Neighborhoods like East New York, Bushwick, Brownsville, Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Fort Greene, the Navy Yard, South Brooklyn, Red Hook, Prospect Park and Crown Heights, being the main areas known for gang activity. Bedford-Suyvesant, a predominantly Black neighborhood was notorious for gang activity. The history of gang fighting in Bed-Stuy reached all the way back into the late 1940s: it was actually where most of the very first gang activity exploded, bringing this problem to the forefront to New York City residents just after World War II.
One part of Bed-Stuy that was particularly aflame with youth gang activity was in the Marcy Projects and Sumner Projects. Both of these projects are in the north part of Bed-Stuy, butting up against Williamsburg in the north – itself a hotbed of gang activity. The Marcy Projects were home to the notorious Marcy Ave Chaplains; in between them was a small one-block buffer and then the Sumner Projects which was turf of another notorious gang called the Buccaneers, bitter enemies of the Chaplains. Other notable gangs in this area were the Stompers, Imperial Lords, Jesters and the Medallion Lords, all with their own “reps” to protect. The history between all of these gangs is a tangled web of friendships, uneasy truces and all-out war. Their existence cast a pall on the neighborhood, making it one of the most dangerous areas of the city and to youth growing up there in the 1950s and 1960s.
Rec enters at schools in the area were flashpoints for gang violence. J.H.S. 33 on Tompkins Ave. between Sumner Projects and Marcy Projects was controlled by the Marcy Chaplains. The rec center at P.S. 59 on Throop Ave. was Buccaneer-controlled. The gangs would fight around the schools, 3:00 p.m. became the fighting hour. The Marcy Ave. Chaplains even made their presence felt further west at 300 Willoughby Avenue which was the home of P.S. 117 in the 1950s (no longer a school now). P.S. 117 had members of other gangs too, but the following is a description of a run-in a boy had with the Marcy Ave. Chaplains around 1958:
Members of other gangs were also going to P.S. 117. One day as I came out of the school, a group of Marcy Street Chaplains were waiting for me. I already knew they had something for me. I sensed their vibes. As I stepped to the sidewalk they surrounded me and demanded money. It was a shakedown. I saw a couple of switchblades in the hands of some of the guys. Not being armed myself, I went into my pocket and pulled out the only $3 I had and handed it over to the head of the group. As I gave him the money, I said, “Remember this, my man. I’ll be back for my money.” They were eager for a fight then since I had given them an excuse to beat me up. In the back of my head I thought, “Wait till I catch them alone! I’m gonna cut some faces and necks.”
A member of the Immortal Sinners, Jesus Martinez, who had been picked up for various criminal offenses, some of them that indicated a preparation for gang rumbles, admitted that he was a member of the gang. He said the Immortal Sinners were a group of boys who banded together for protection against gangs in the nearby project. Martinez lived on nearby Sanford Street and hung out on the corner of Sanford and Myrtle, a block away from the Marcy Ave Projects. He was most probably referring to the Marcy Ave Chaplains.
I wish there was more information on the Immortal Sinners gang, but this is the only info I have found so far. Some gangs like the Marcy Ave Chaplains were notorious and well-known, but for every well-known gang there were several small gangs that virtually nothing is known about now. If anyone knows anything about the Immortal Sinners, or any gang for that matter, please email me at [email protected]