The Mission: Gilberto Concepción de Gracia and His New York Years, 1936-1939


The Newark Public Library is partnering with The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, CUNY to bring to New Jersey the exhibition, The Mission: Gilberto Concepción de Gracia and His New York Years, 1936-1939.

Dr. Gilberto Concepción de Gracia (1909-1968) was a lawyer, journalist, author, politician and founder of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. As a young and promising lawyer, Concepción de Gracia came to New York City in 1936 with a mission: to defend Nationalist Party President Pedro Albizu Campos, and other nationalists imprisoned and accused of sedition, against the United States government in Puerto Rico. Dr. Concepción de Gracia moved with his wife Ada Suárez to a vibrant and emerging Puerto Rican community in Manhattan. There he collaborated with the Hispanic Harlem elected officials. He befriended a charismatic Italian-American Congressman, Vito Marcantonio, and also worked with the first Puerto Rican to hold a State Assembly seat stateside, Oscar García Rivera.

Puerto Rican and United States politics colliding and forcing the community to take sides; the Ponce Massacre effects spilling over outside the island; the Harlem Riots facing blacks and Hispanics; Spaniard exiles looking for supporters in a Civil War, prelude to World War II and community and family matters all wove together to capture this time period. How did these three years shape Gilberto Concepción de Gracia’s life and political thinking? Did they impact the man that in 1946 founded and became the President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party?

Alma Concepción, Concepción de Gracia’s daughter born in New York City during these years, and Centro Senior Archivist Pedro Juan Hernández are the curators of this exhibition, originally created for the Centro Gallery and exhibited there from July 16, 2009 to November 30, 2009. Yesenia López, Archivist at the Library’s Puerto Rican Community Archives / NJHRIC, is complementing this exhibition with a section on the history of the Puerto Rican community in New Jersey.

The exhibition features photographs, correspondence and other documents from the Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies and the Gilberto Concepción de Gracia family archives, and newspaper clippings from journals and periodicals published from 1936 to 1946. This New Jersey installation also features archival materials, articles, and photographs that document the history of the Puerto Rican community in New Jersey, mid-twentieth century, from the Puerto Rican Community Archives / New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center of the Newark Public Library.

The Mission can be viewed from April 29 through July 31 in the Fourth Floor Gallery of the Main Library, 5 Washington Street, Newark.

For more information about the exhibit, please call La Sala Hispanoamericana at 973-733-7772, or e-mail Ingrid Betancourt at, or Yesenia López at

Opening Reception

Thursday, April 29, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Main Library, Fourth Floor Auditorium

The Newark Public Library and The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, CUNY, are pleased to invite the public to the opening reception for the exhibition, The Mission: Gilberto Concepción de Gracia and His New York Years, 1936-1939.

The program will open with an introduction to the exhibit by curators, Pedro Juan Hernández, Senior Archivist at El Centro, Alma Concepción, Independent Scholar, and Yesenia López, NJHRIC Archivist. Dr. Gerald Meyer, history professor at Hostos Community College, will provide a historical context for this exhibit with a talk about the Puerto Rican community in NYC during this time period, and the relationship and political collaboration between US Congressman Vito Marcantonio and Gilberto Concepción de Gracia. Professor Meyer is the author of Vito Marcantonio: Radical Politician, 1902-1954 (SUNY Press), and has written over fifty articles, encyclopedia entries, and reviews on a wide variety of subjects.

This event is free and open to the public.

Reservations are appreciated, but not required: 973-733-7772.