Skip to main content Skip to main navigation

Voices of Brooklyn oral histories

Call Number



2006-2014, inclusive


Brooklyn History Makers


86.01 Gigabytes
in 334 files; Running time (of described records): 114 hours, 7 minutes, 26 seconds.

Language of Materials

English .


This collection includes oral histories collected through several projects undertaken by the Brooklyn Historical Society beginning in 2006. The assembled collection took shape in 2008 under the project title "Brooklyn History Makers." The ongoing oral history collection, retitled in 2016, features a broad range of narrators: jazz musicians, business leaders, civil rights activists, authors, artists, sports players, and longtime neighborhood residents who describe the changes they have observed in their neighborhoods over decades.

Historical note

Oral histories were conducted for projects with a focus on a Brooklyn neighborhood, such as Park Slope, Fort Greene, Coney Island, Red Hook and Vinegar Hill, as well as for projects tied thematically to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Miss Rheingold, and sports. Other individual interviews were arranged for "Brooklyn History Makers" consideration and others were not formally assigned to any project, listing, or collection when they were conducted. Staff for this project included Sady Sullivan (Director of Oral History), Corie Trancho Robie (Interviewer), Alexis Taines Coe (Interviewer), Manissa McCleave Maharawal (Interviewer) and other interviewers. Nearly all recordings and transcripts were born-digital.


The oral history interview collection is organized into eight series based on content. The oral history recordings are arranged alphabetically within each series.

Series 1: Arts and entertainment consists of recordings that focus on the narrator's production of works of art or entertainment media. Photographers, authors, and musicians are prominent.

Series 2: Business and industry includes interviews thematically linked by owning or operating workplaces. Store managers, small business owners, and restaurateurs are mainstays.

Oral histories represented in Series 3: Civic leaders pertain to narrators speaking to their outsized contribution to how New York City citizens live, work, and conduct business in the five boroughs. Developers, government officials, executives, benefactors, and board members are included.

Series 4: Community activists consists of the gathered recordings of people who have a history of or were presently supporting an underrepresented segment of society, or forming a social movement, which thereby effected broad change to a neighborhood, much of Brooklyn, or the country. The content relates directly to organized support of those harmed in natural disasters, creating cooperative business models, forming architectural preservation groups, and documenting civil rights and social justice movements.

Series 5: Our neighbors is the largest series of the collection. The interviews include people from diverse backgrounds making observations or sharing recollections about the growth and condition of several neighborhoods within Brooklyn. Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, and Fort Greene are heavily represented.

Oral histories within Series 6: Sports and leisure pertain to narrators who proactively contributed to the athletic pursuits or relaxing diversions of Brooklyn. Professional and amateur athletes and Coney Island novelties are included.

Series 7: Veterans and wartime consists of the gathered recordings of those focusing on their time serving or time served within the country's armed forces, as well as those in support service organizations. There is also some recollection of civilian life before, during, and after mobilizations for fighting abroad. World War II, Vietnam, and the War on Terror are prominent.

Series 8: Waterfront series consists of six oral history interviews that were conducted during 2017 as a part of the research process for Brooklyn Historical Society's Waterfront exhibition. The interviews are arranged alphabetically by narrator's last name.

Scope and Contents

The Voices of Brooklyn oral histories are a combination of project-based and individual interviews assembled by oral historians and Library and Archives management of Brooklyn Historical Society. Some of the interviews have an accompanying transcript in a digital file.

The Voices of Brooklyn oral histories feature a broad range of narrators. Some are well-known public figures and others are well-known in their communities. This collection focuses on Brooklyn history and the experiences of these narrators document national and international history as well. The oldest narrator in this collection was born in 1910. Within the collection are several series.


Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers with varied restrictions according to narrator agreement. Oral histories can be accessed onsite at the Center for Brooklyn History's Othmer Library and online on the oral history portal.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of CBH. Please see the Oral History Note for guidelines on using Center for Brooklyn History's oral history collections. For assistance, please consult library staff at

Preferred Citation

[Narrator Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer First Name Last Name], [Month day, YYYY], Voices of Brooklyn oral histories, [Object ID]; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The oral histories that make up this collection were conducted by a team at Brooklyn Historical Society including an oral historian and graduate student assistants. The bulk of this work commenced in 2006 and ended in 2017.

Separated Materials

Documents relating to the accessioning, exhibiting, and administrative processes are separate from the collection and are a part of the Brooklyn Historical Society institutional records.

Related Materials

Brooklyn Historical Society has oral history collections and other records related to the Voices of Brooklyn oral histories.

• Narrator Randy Weston recorded an oral history for the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories (2008.030).

• Narrator Ronald Shiffman recorded an oral history for the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories (2008.030). He donated his papers to BHS in 2013 (2013.023).

• Narrator Carlos E. Russell recorded an oral history for the Hispanic Communities Documentation Project records and oral histories (1989.004).

• Narrator Lucille Fornasieri Gold donated her photographs to BHS in 2008 (2008.013).

• Narrator Ellen Liman made a gift to BHS containing her collection of nineteenth century McLoughlin Brothers children books (2007.002).

• Narrator Frank Palescandolo made a gift to BHS containing photographs and a postcard of Villa Joe's in Coney Island in 1992. (V1992.014) His manuscript collection is also at BHS. (2011.014)

• Narrator Robert MacCrate made a gift to BHS containing the papers of Kenneth M. Swezey (2007.005).

• Narrator Shelby White is the subject of a photograph and an interview on audiocassette in two folders of the Packer Collegiate Institute records (2014.019).

• Narrator DK Holland's work on the community newsletter The Hill is represented in Box 1 of Brooklyn neighborhood associations and civic organizations publications (ARC.167).

• Narrator Ed Moran focused on the history of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in his oral history recordings. The church's records were donated in 2009 and 2015 (2009.011).

• Narrator Alan Nisselson donated the Nisselson family papers to BHS in 2016 (2016.022).

• Narrator Mary DeSaussure Sobers donated her collection to BHS in 2005 (2005.053).

For more information on these collections please visit our online finding aid portal.

Related collections located elsewhere include:

• Narrator Maxine Wolfe's oral history in the ACT UP Oral History Project videotapes (MssCol 6148) at the New York Public Library and as a transcript on the ACT UP Oral History Project website,

• The James E. Jackson and Esther Cooper Jackson Papers at the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive (TAM.347)

• The Lesbian Herstory Archives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and

Oral History note

Oral history interviews are intimate conversations between two people, both of whom have generously agreed to share these recordings with the Center for Brooklyn History archives and with researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. Researchers will understand that:

1. The Center for Brooklyn History abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association (2009) and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.

2. Every oral history relies on the memories, views and opinions of the narrator. Because of the personal nature of oral history, listeners may find some viewpoints or language of the recorded participants to be objectionable. In keeping with its mission of preservation and unfettered access whenever possible, BHS presents these views as recorded.

3. Transcripts commissioned by a party other than CBH serve as a guide to the interview and are not considered verbatim. The audio recording should be considered the primary source for each interview. It may contain natural false starts, verbal stumbles, misspeaks, repetitions that are common in conversation, and other passages and phrases omitted from the transcript. This decision was made because BHS gives primacy to the audible voice and also because some researchers do find useful information in these verbal patterns.

4. Unless these verbal patterns are germane to your scholarly work, when quoting from this material researchers are encouraged to correct the grammar and make other modifications maintaining the flavor of the narrator's speech while editing the material for the standards of print.

Collection processed by

Brett Dion

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2024-04-26 19:07:15 +0000.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid written in English

Processing Information

A selection of Voices of Brooklyn oral histories were processed by Brett Dion, oral history project archivist, and Laura Juliano, oral history project volunteer, in 2017. The six oral histories that comprise series 8 were processed by Fiona Wu, archives intern, and Sophia Terry, archives intern, in 2020. Marie Tegeler's interview was added by Alice Griffin in 2024. Selections in each series were processed to the item level. Due to privacy concerns, the specific dates of birth of all narrators or other named individuals were redacted from the digitized transcripts and audio recordings.

Note Statement

Finding aid reflects item-level description of selected oral histories.


Brooklyn Historical Society
Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201