Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations oral history collection

Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations oral history collection, 2011 – 2014.

Call# 2011.019

Extent: 709.0 gigabytes of oral history interviews with 107 narrators. Collection includes transcripts, audio recordings, and photographs formatted as .wav, .mp3, .pdf, .jpg, and .png files, in addition to 3 linear feet of paper transcripts.  

Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations (CBBG) was an oral history project and public programming series sponsored by Brooklyn Historical Society from 2011 to 2014. CBBG was designed to examine the history and experiences of mixed-heritage people and families in Brooklyn. The project also explored the broader themes of cultural hybridity, race, ethnicity, and identity formation in the United States. CBBG was created by Sady Sullivan, Director of Oral History at Brooklyn Historical Society from 2006-2014, and the project was funded with assistance from public and private grants. CBBG expanded upon Brooklyn Historical Society’s oral history collection, which was founded in 1973 and contains interviews with over 1200 narrators.

This collection contains materials from the CBBG oral history project. Included are transcripts and audio recordings of interviews conducted by 25 oral historians with 107 narrators. Also included are photographs of the narrators and their families. The oral histories were conducted as life history interviews; topics of discussion include self and identity; religion and tradition; laws and mores; food and celebration; love and marriage; parents and children; race and ethnicity; and cultural preservation.

View Finding Aid

Oral histories can be accessed onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society’s Othmer Library and online at the Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations website:

Permission to use the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of both Brooklyn Historical Society and the narrator. Restricted oral histories are clearly marked in the finding aid. For assistance, please consult library staff at

Document Type

  • Digital Photographs
  • Interviews (sound recordings)
  • Oral histories (document genres)
  • Transcripts

Subject Topics

  • Bullying in schools
  • Cultural diversity
  • Education
  • Gentrification
  • Interfaith families
  • Mixed heritage
  • Passing (Identity)
  • Privilege
  • Queer identity
  • Race identity
  • Racially mixed families
  • Racially mixed people
  • Racism
  • Religious identity

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration

Brooklyn History Makers Oral History

Brooklyn History Makers Oral History, 2006 – present.

Call #: 2008.031

Extent: 87 digital audio files (and growing)

This ongoing oral history collection 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.

Some narrators are well-known public figures such as Shelby White (b. 1938), Nelson George (b. 1957), Esther Cooper Jackson (b. 1917), and Ruth Gruber (b. 1911) and others are well-known in their communities such as Joe Holtz, a founding member of the Park Slope Food Coop; Sally Forbes, founder of the Penny Bridge Players; and John and James Caputo of Caputo’s bakery in Carroll Gardens. The oldest narrator in this collection was born in 1910.

This oral history collection focuses on Brooklyn history and the experiences of these narrators document national and international history as well. For example, Robert MacCrate was born in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 1921; a lawyer, he was a member of the civilian council investigating My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. Frank Paley (nee Palescandolo) was born in Brooklyn in 1917 and his book Rumble on the Docks inspired the 1956 movie. Dick Parsons (b. 1948) grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant and was CEO of Time Warner and later chairman of Citigroup and an economic advisor to President Barack Obama.

Select oral histories can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society’s Othmer Library. Restrictions may apply. Permission to use the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of both Brooklyn Historical Society and the narrator. For assistance, please consult library staff at

AIDS Brooklyn Oral History

AIDS Brooklyn Oral History, 1992.

Call #: 1993.001 / ArMs 1994.006

Extent:  30 audio cassettes

In 1992, Brooklyn Historical Society collected oral history interviews with 27 people who were affected by HIV/AIDS, including HIV-positive people; family and friends of people living with HIV/AIDS; and one family of a woman who passed away due to HIV/AIDS.

This oral history project was conducted in the middle of the emerging public health crisis:

The first official reporting of deaths that would later become known as the AIDS epidemic was in 1981.

ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), an international direct action advocacy group working to bring about legislation, medical research and treatment, and policies, was founded in 1987.

In 1992, AIDS became the number one cause of death for U.S. men ages 25 to 44, (30 Years of HIV/AIDS Timeline via

Collection currently closed. For assistance, please consult library staff at


The Origins Of Brooklyn Bridge Park, 1986-1988

by Scott M. Hand and Otis Pratt Pearsall

This is the story of the pivotal first three years along the timeline to Brooklyn Bridge Park  in which the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) halted the Port Authority’s drive, supported by the City, to auction Piers 1-6 to private developers for a massive housing development of 3,000,000 square feet (2,600 units) destructive of the world famous views, and proposed instead a succession of two scenarios for a Park extending from Atlantic Avenue to the Brooklyn Bridge–years which culminated (after a series of 10 meetings/hearings) on December 14, 1988 in Community Board 2’s unanimous 31-0 repudiation of the Port Authority’s plan and embrace of the Association’s concept of “Harbor Park”. It explains the circumstances which prompted the authors, Scott M. Hand and Otis Pratt Pearsall, to initiate organization of the Coalition for Harbor Park (renamed the Brooklyn Bridge Park Coalition, now the Conservancy), and it asks whether, absent the doctrinaire no-housing policy which prompted their resignations as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of the BHA Piers Committee, the Park might have happened well short of the additional quarter century the community was made to wait.

The project was suggested by the announcement of plans to publish a history of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the apparent need, after the lapse of 25 years, for a frank, first-hand account by two of the leading participants.

Researchers and writers interested in referencing or quoting from this monograph are welcome to do so, as long as their use of the material includes the following credit line:
From The Origins Of Brooklyn Bridge Park, 1986-1988 by Scott M. Hand and Otis Pratt Pearsall, a monograph published in 2014, on the Brooklyn Historical Society catablog.

If a direct quote is used, the page number from the monograph should be cited. The credit line must appear in close proximity to the reference,  or in a special section devoted to credits.

A chronological compilation of source documents will be made available for the use of researchers in the Society’s Othmer Library during regular research hours.

The monograph will also be available on the website of the Brooklyn Heights Association.

Link to monograph

Link to monograph’s Index

Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims and Henry Ward Beecher collection, 1819 – 1980

Call Number: ARC.212

Extent: 28.0 cubic feet, in 75 boxes: 32 manuscript boxes, 38 flat boxes, and 5 small boxes.

The Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims and Henry Ward Beecher collection traces the career of the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, the well known 19th century preacher, and the history of Plymouth Congregational Church, of which Beecher was the first pastor. Plymouth Church was a major institution in 19th century Brooklyn, first gaining recognition on national and international levels as Beecher’s pulpit. Beecher was well known for his oratorical ability and for his vocal opposition to slavery and support of the Northern cause during the Civil War. He also spoke out on subjects ranging from women’s suffrage and evolution to organized labor and temperance. Beecher was a popular figure despite controversy that surrounded his activities, including a charge of adultery that resulted in a widely reported trial in 1875.

The collection relates principally to Beecher’s pastorate at Plymouth Church from 1847 until his death in 1887. Other materials, ranging through 1980, concern the church’s other pastors and the history of Plymouth Church itself, which consolidated with the Church of the Pilgrims in 1934. The papers provide insight into the church congregation’s various activities, illustrate the history of Beecher’s influence on his congregation and on 19th century congregationalism, and shed light on both the public and private life of a major American personality of the 19th century.


  • Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-1887
  • Abbott, Lyman, 1835-1922
  • Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-1897
  • Beecher, William Constantine, b. 1849
  • Durkee, J. Stanley, 1866-1951
  • Fifield, Lawrence Wendell, b. 1891
  • Hibben, Paxton, 1880-1928
  • Hillis, Newell Dwight, 1858-1929
  • Hunt, Rose Ward
  • Tilton, Elizabeth M. Richards, b. 1834
  • Tilton, Theodore, 1835-1907
  • Bethel of Plymouth Church (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Church of the Pilgrims (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.). Sunday School
  • Church of the Pilgrims (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Henry Ward Beecher Literary and Debating Society (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Henry Ward Beecher Missionary Circle (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Plymouth Church (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.). Sunday School
  • Plymouth Church (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Plymouth Institute (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Ellinwood, T. J., 1830-1921
  • King, Horatio C., 1837-1918


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) — Church history
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) — Religious life and customs
  • Brooklyn Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • United States — Religion


  • Plymouth chimes (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Abolitionists — New York (State)
  • Adultery — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Antislavery movements — United States
  • Authors, American
  • City clergy — New York (State) — New York
  • Clergy as authors
  • Congregational churches — New York (State) — Kings County — Clergy
  • Congregationalists — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Lectures and lecturing — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Pews and pew rights
  • Reformers — United States
  • Religious education of children — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Religious institutions — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Sunday schools — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Trials (Adultery) — New York (State) — Kings County

Types of material:

  • Cartes-de-visite (card photographs)
  • Church newsletters
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Cylinder phonographs (phonographs)
  • Photographs
  • Picture postcards
  • Scrapbooks
  • Sermons
  • Typescripts

View Finding Aid

American Sugar Refining Company records, 1876-2001

Call Number: 2008.042

Extent: 2.25 linear feet in two manuscript boxes and one oversize box

The American Sugar Refining Company operated a refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for nearly 150 years and employed, at its height, over 4,500 people at a time. Founded in 1807 as Wm. and F.C. Havemeyer, the company went through many name and ownership changes, eventually incorporating as American Sugar Refining Company in 1891, and is today known as Domino Foods, Inc. This collection includes annual reports describing the business operations of the firm (1907-1951), publications featuring photographs and stories about some of those workers (1876-circa 2000), and items relating to a Domino Sugar refinery labor dispute (1999-2001).


  • AFL-CIO.
  • American Sugar Refining Company
  • Havemeyer, Frederick C., 1807-1891
  • Havemeyer, Henry Osborne, 1847-1907
  • Havemeyer, Horace, 1886-1956
  • New York State AFL-CIO.
  • Tate & Lyle (Firm).


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Williamsburg (New York, N.Y.)


  • Food supply — New York (State) — Kings County
  • General strikes -Z New York (State) — Kings County
  • Labor disputes — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Labor — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Sugar factories — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Sugar trade — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Sugar — New York (State) — Kings County

Types of material:

  • Annual reports
  • Financial statements
  • Flyers (printed matter)
  • Picket signs
  • Publications

View Finding Aid

Women’s Alliance of the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn records, 1922-2004

Call Number: 2005.031

Extent: 3.5 Linear feet, In 3 record cartons and 1 oversize flat box.

This collection holds the records of the Women’s Alliance, an organization operating under the agency of the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn. The Women’s Alliance began as the Female Samaritan Society in 1838, several years after the Church’s founding. Members of the group took responsibility for all the physical housekeeping of the church, ran the church’s annual fundraising fair, and helped with parish duties such as visiting the sick and cooking for the congregation. After periods of inactivity in the twentieth century, the group was resurrected in 1973 as the Women’s Alliance, a primarily issue-oriented group concerned with social action and women’s rights matters.

The collection encompasses the period of the resurgence of the Women’s Alliance during the latter half of the twentieth century as a socially conscious and active organization. The inclusive dates span from 1922 to 2004, with bulk dates ranging from 1980 to 1998. The Women’s Alliance records consist primarily of organizational material, including meeting minutes, correspondence, and financial documents. There is also printed matter created or collected by the Women’s Alliance and material related to the causes of concern and group work of the Women’s Alliance. A number of records also reveal the group’s relationships with other female-oriented and religious organizations.


  • First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.). Women’s Alliance
  • Campobasso, Miriam
  • Hoogenboom, Olive
  • Lazarus, Katherine
  • Odessky, Marjory H.
  • Sage, Doris
  • First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.). Samaritan Alliance
  • First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) — Church history
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) — Religious life and customs
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) — Social life and customs


  • Women’s work (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Feminism — New York (State) — New York
  • Pro-choice movement — New York (State) — New York
  • Social action — New York (State) — Kings County — History
  • Unitarianism — New York (State) — Kings County — History
  • Women and religion — New York (State) — New York
  • Women’s rights and spiritualism — New York (State) — New York

Types of material:

  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Minutes
  • Newsletters
  • Photographs
  • Sermons

View Finding Aid

Bob Adelman photographs of Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) demonstrations, Circa 1962

Call Number: V1989.022

Extent: 0.03 Linear feet, 17 items housed in on film slides binder.

The Bob Adelman photographs of Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) demonstrations is comprised of 17 black-and-white slides made in the late 1980s from original photographic prints dating from circa 1962. The photographs pertain to several civil rights demonstrations organized by the Brooklyn chapter of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) including “Operation Clean Sweep,” a demonstration addressing discriminatory sanitation policies in New York City; a demonstration in front of Ebinger’s Bakery in Brooklyn in regards to its discriminatory hiring practices; a sit-in at the Board of Education calling for the end of de facto segregated schools and equal access to quality education; and a sleep-in at a “model home” for newly constructed housing located in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn in regards to discriminatory rental and buying practices. The collection includes photographs of street protests of the aforementioned civil rights actions; a photograph of Arnold Goldwag being arrested during a demonstration; several photographs in which Oliver Leeds, Marjorie Leeds, and some of the Leeds children are involved in demonstrations; and group portraits of other unidentified local civil rights activists. Although unnamed, the collection includes a photograph of the first African-American person hired by Ebinger’s Bakery. All photographs are attributed to Bob Adelman.


  • Adelman, Bob
  • Goldwag, Arnold
  • Leeds, Marjorie
  • Leeds, Oliver
  • Congress of Racial Equality. Brooklyn Chapter
  • Congress of Racial Equality


  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) — Social conditions — 20th century
  • Downtown Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Midwood (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)


  • African Americans — Civil rights — New York (State) — New York
  • African Americans — Education — New York (State) — New York
  • African Americans — Employment — New York (State) — New York
  • Civil disobedience — New York (State) — New York
  • Civil rights demonstrations — New York (State) — New York
  • Civil rights movements — New York (State) — New York
  • Civil rights workers — New York (State) — New York
  • De facto school segregation — New York (State) — New York
  • Discrimination in employment — New York (State) — New York
  • Discrimination in housing — New York (State) — New York
  • Race discrimination — New York (State) — New York

Types of material:

  • Photographs
  • Slides (photographs)

View Finding Aid

New York Daily News strike collection, 1990 – 1990

Call Number: 1990.025

Extent: 0.2 Linear feet, in three folders

This collection contains several items related to the New York Daily News workers strike of 1990, including clippings, publications, union bulletins, fliers, and pamphlets.


  • New York (N.Y.)


  • American newspapers — New York (State) — New York
  • Labor disputes — New York (State) — New York
  • Strikes and lockouts — Newspapers — United States

Types of material:

  • Bulletins
  • Circulars (fliers)
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Fliers (printed matter)
  • Newsletters
  • Pamphlets
  • Publications

View Finding Aid

Scrapbook on Mary A. Dixon Jones’s lawsuit against the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1892 – 1892

Call Number: 1991.034

Extent: 0.21 Linear feet, in one bound volume.

Scrapbook consisting of reports from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on the libel suit filed against the Eagle by Dr. Mary A. Dixon Jones, the chief physician of the Woman’s Hospital. Jones was indicted for manslaughter in 1889 after the Eagle published a series of articles describing her various surgical operations. She was tried and acquitted, but the verdict in the case against the Eagle was in favor of the Eagle.


  • Jones, Mary A. Dixon, 1828-1908
  • Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Firm)


  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)


  • Brooklyn daily eagle
  • Libel and slander — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Medicine — Practice — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Physicians — Malpractice — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Physicians — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Trials (Libel) — New York (State) — Kings County

Types of material:

  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Scrapbooks

View Finding Aid