Photo of the Week: West Indian Carnival

[Kiddie Carnival], 1994, 2010.019; West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Kiddie Carnival], 1994, 2010.019; West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Every year on Labor Day, the West Indian Carnival brings thousands of people to the streets of Brooklyn.  Activities begin on the Thursday before Labor Day and conclude on Monday with the parade on Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Carnival evolved among the enslaved African population in Trinidad as a parallel to, and political send up of, the masquerade balls of French plantation owners. In the 1920s, Trinidadian immigrants brought the celebration to Harlem in the form of private gatherings and parties, and by the 1940s the festivities began taking place outdoors. In 1967, after being denied a permit, the Carnival moved to Brooklyn, where it has been ever since. The parade includes colorful and elaborate costumes, music, food vendors, and crowds gathered to celebrate pan-Caribbean culture in Brooklyn.

The photo of the week depicts children in the “Kiddie Carnival” during the 1994 West Indian Carnival. This photograph by Dwan Reece King is part of the West Indian Carnival Documentation Project records comprised of photographs, oral histories, publications, and ephemera related to the Carnival and project. In 1994, Brooklyn Historical Society launched the West Indian Carnival Documentation project to gather personal narratives and life histories of Carnival participants. The project culminated in an exhibition at BHS. The oral histories from this collection are digitized and available at our Oral History Portal.

Angela Dublin, a member of a steel band and carnival participant, is included in the oral history collection. In her 1994 interview, she reflects on the carnival: “What Carnival means to me. Gosh, I think it’s a wide variety of things. It means colors, the wide spectrum of colors; artistically, musically. It also means development, because of such a musical instrument as the pan –also, the growth of Carnival also means growth of generations. I think the growth of generations, and I wish it also means people could see where, and understand and grow to a peaceful united, as how the colors artistically and the music has grown. That peace would be like that.”

Brooklyn Historical Society’s Flatbush + Main podcast has an episode dedicated to the West Indian Carnival. Check it out here!

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

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One Response to Photo of the Week: West Indian Carnival

  1. A special children’s festival is always a good opportunity for us to care for children

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