Flatbush + Main Episode 31: The Blackout of 1977

In Episode 31 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia discuss the infamous Blackout of 1977, the economic and social context that led up to the event, its impact on many Brooklyn neighborhoods, and its enduring legacy.

Index
Index
02:15 Histories and Ideas
20:58 Into the Archives
30:42 Voices of Brooklyn

For complete show notes, go to brooklynhistory.org/flatbush-main.

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Segment 1: Histories and Ideas

Zaheer and Julie lay out the chronology of the blackout, which took place from July 13 to July 14, 1977. They contextualize the event in the context of 1970s New York City – deindustrialization, the financial crisis, white flight, red lining, declining city services, and the crowding and segregation present in many of the borough’s neighborhoods. They also discuss the loaded and racialized language used around the blackout – and how its use endures today.

For a great read on New York in the 1970s, check out Kim Phillips-Fein’s Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics.

Segment 2: Into the Archives

Julie and Zaheer examine evocative slides capturing the aftermath of the blackout – including the destruction of houses and widespread fires – in the 1977 Blackout Slide Collection (2007.042). Explore the finding aid here. You can find images from the collection online here.

Extinguishing a fire in the Ruth & Sam Book Shop building, 1977; v2007.042.56; BHS.

Extinguishing a fire in the Ruth & Sam Book Shop building, 1977; v2007.042.56; BHS.

Destroyed building next to Ruth & Sam Book Shop, 1977; v2007.042.33; BHS.

Destroyed building next to Ruth & Sam Book Shop, 1977; v2007.042.33; BHS.

Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn

In this segment, Julie and Zaheer listen to the experiences of Rudy Suggs during the 1977 Blackout. You can access his full interview on BHS’s Oral History portal here.

Segment 4: Endorsements

Julie and Zaheer did a joint endorsement of “Black-Owned Businesses: A History of Enterprise and Community in Brooklyn,” an event on Monday, February 11. Explore the rich history and social impact of businesses owned by and serving black communities in Brooklyn. Historian Jason Bartlett is joined by Cynthia Gordy Giwa, editor-in-chief of the online publication Black-Owned Brooklyn, and Jyll Hubbard-Salk, founder of Crown Heights yoga studio Urban Asanas, to discuss the challenges and triumphs of the network of black business owners then and now, and how growing economic empowerment has tied directly to the struggle for equality. Moderated by Digital Editor at Black Enterprise and host of What’s Eating Harlem?, Selena Hill. The event starts at 6:30 and there’s a public reception beforehand, provided by TD Bank, that starts at 5:15. Tickets are $5 and free for members; buy them here.

Flatbush + Main tackled this very topic last year – check out the episode here!

Julie Golia

About Julie Golia

Julie Golia is the Director of Public History at Brooklyn Historical Society and co-host of BHS's podcast, Flatbush + Main.
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