THE EBONY DUKES were founded in the spring of 1970 by STAFF 161 in the Fort Apache section of the South Bronx and are considered the first NYC subway graffiti piecing crew.
Inspired by the hippie culture, civil rights and the black power movements of the 60's, THE EBONY DUKES, GC aka T.E.D. INC., were the first group of writers to be dedicated to piecing on the NYC subway system. With STAFF’s leadership, THE EBONY DUKES, GC would become one of the elite graffiti cliques citywide. Along with the vice president, SUPER SLICK 156 and STAFF's younger brother AJ 161 aka ALL JIVE 161/ADAM 12, T.E.D. INC. would build chapters in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Staten Island, and Connecticut. They would welcome writers from different backgrounds and nationalities as well as many females. Some of the writers known to represent THE EBONY DUKES, GC were STAY HIGH 149, SNAKE 131, SPIN, STOP 700, KRANE 150, BOP, SUGAR T 163, VAMM, DEATH, TE-KOOL, LAVA 1&2, THE MAN 550, STICK 1, JESTER, JIVE 3, PIPER, CRACHEE, BLADE, BILLY 167, MR PUG, LINE 149 and STAVE 2. Most of the who’s who of writers in the 70's at one time or another represented THE EBONY DUKES, GC with only a few exceptions. Later on people like SMILEY 149 and FUZZ ONE would carry the torch.
THE EBONY DUKES were originally a street gang from Harlem in the 1940s. One of the original seven members of TED I.N.C., DYNAMITE 161 aka DR SOUL, had an uncle who was a member in Harlem back then named Birdie. One day STAFF and DR SOUL are hanging out on the block with Birdie and he starts reminiscing about the good ole days and starts talking about how he and his gang use to write their names with bucket paint and brushes on the walls of Harlem to let everyone know they were in DUKES territory. This got the attention of the two teenagers who began listening intently to Birdie and his memories of early NYC writing. It was through Uncle Birdie that STAFF was given the blessing to continue the name and tradition of THE EBONY DUKES. STAFF added the letters GC, which stand for Graffiti Clique or Graffiti Club, to THE EBONY DUKES making a separation between the street gang and the graffiti crew. This was a stigma that THE EBONY DUKES, GC were always trying to shake, they were not a street gang but were often seen by outsiders as one.
The name represents the culture of the South Bronx in the late 60's and the struggle the residents had to fight on a daily basis to survive. The impoverished community made up of mainly people of color was constantly oppressed by the establishment and people were fighting back. EBONY represents the people that the establishment is holding down and DUKES represents the fists or the fight itself along with a nod to the Black Panthers well recognized raised fist logo. It literally means the fight of the oppresed community against the establishment. STAFF and a group of brave rebels took their fight with the establishment to the subway system, the most easily accessible symbol of the establishment that was a part of their daily lives and began to bomb the system with their names and by doing so, have changed the landscape of this planet forever.
The work of THE EBONY DUKES, GC and STAFF 161 appears in the 1974 book, The Faith of Graffiti by Norman Mailer with photography by Jon Naar. This was one of the first books published about the NYC subway writing movement and still stands as the best photographic documentation of the pioneering era.
"I joined The Ebony Dukes in 1972, and in late 1972 I did a marlin blue top-to-bottom BL 1 with 'Ebony Dukes' name inside the piece." -BLADE TC5
For more on THE EBONY DUKES, GC please go to WWW.SUBWAYOUTLAS.COM