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Voices of Mixed Heritage

Voices of Mixed Heritage: Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations invites students and educators to engage with the topic of mixed heritage and identity in the United States from the mid-19th century to the present.

Students will investigate the voices and representation of those who identify as mixed-heritage individuals through oral histories, archival primary sources, popular culture references, and contextualizing secondary sources. These resources will allow students to unpack complex political concepts such as race, racism, identity, equity, and self-determination.

CBBG curriculum cover image
Image of two people at table - person on left asks

Why Study Voices of Mixed Heritage?

Voices of Mixed Heritage builds on Brooklyn Historical Society’s groundbreaking initiative, Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations (CBBG). From 2011–2014, the CBBG project created an oral history archive with a supporting public programming series. The project examined the history and experiences of mixed-heritage people and families, cultural hybridity, race, ethnicity, and identity in the historically diverse borough of Brooklyn and, as a result, created a space for dialogues around racial justice.

This curriculum offers an historical context for discussions about mixed heritage and identity, with an emphasis on mixed race and racial justice. The focus on race is intended to act as a tangible entry point for students to begin to examine identity and heritage, and as a springboard for other facets of identity politics.

Voices of Mixed Heritage includes:

  • Primary and secondary materials from the BHS collection and other archives, including photographs, newspaper and magazine articles and oral history transcripts.
  • Oral history files to let students hear first-hand from people who are a part of Brooklyn’s unique history.
  • Critical thinking questions and document-analysis activities to help students observe, question, analyze and interpret the material.
  • A Teacher’s Guide, with lesson plans, historical background information, time lines, teaching ideas, guiding questions, extension activities, and reproducible activity sheets.

Oral History Interviews

Corbin Laedlein - Were You Adopted?

Corbin Laedlein was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His mother is also a native of Brooklyn and his father grew up in southern New Jersey. Laedlein was raised in Red Hook and Bedford-Stuyvesant, and attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City and Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. While at Rutgers, he co-founded Fusion: The Rutgers Union of Mixed People, an organization for mixed-race students to talk about identity, racism, relationships, and other social issues. After graduation, Laedlein went on to work for Added Value, a non-profit in Red Hook that aims to develop new leaders through urban agriculture.

Sonnet Takahisa - Being In Between

Sonnet Takahisa was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She has Japanese, and Russian and Polish Jewish ancestry. She grew up in Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Canarsie, Brooklyn. Takahisa attended Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts for an undergraduate degree in East Asian Studies and Japanese Studies, and the University of Washington at Seattle for a graduate degree in East Asian Studies. She worked as the director of education at the The National September 11 Memorial & Museum and also as a consultant at various art and cultural heritage institutions.

Asha Sundararaman - Third Culture Kids

Asha Sundararaman was born in Palo Alto, California. She grew up in California, Indiana, Canada, and Nigeria. Her father, an immigrant from India, worked for Chevron and was relocated several times during Sundararaman’s childhood. Sundararaman attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she was an active member in Fusion, an organization for mixed race students. She attended graduate school in London, England, and also lived in India and Angola. She later moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn, and worked as a volunteer coordinator for Orbis International, an organization that works to prevent blindness in developing countries.

Robert Hammond - Makes Me 100% True American

Robert S. Hammond, born 1926, grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a predominantly Italian neighborhood. His mother was African American and Native-American from a tribal-owned island off the coast of South Carolina, and his father was African American and European-American and also from the South. Hammond enlisted in the Navy in 1943 when he was 17 years old. After joining the Navy choir, he was selected as one of seven African American men from his group to be enrolled in the Hospital Corps School. This was the first group of African American men to be enrolled in the medical training. After he left the Navy, Hammond moved to Brooklyn, completed high school at Boys High and opened a restaurant and nightclub on Fulton Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Hammond went to a historically black college and got his master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan. He has had a long career in public health in California and elsewhere.

Sergia Andrade - Where Do I Fit?

Sergia Andrade grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and in France. Her parents emigrated to France from the West African island Cape Verde and then later moved to Brooklyn. Her mother’s family was an aristocratic Portuguese colonial family in Cape Verde, while her father’s family was descended from black African slaves. Through genetic testing, Sergia also discovered she has Jewish ancestry

Thanks to Our Partners

Voices of Mixed Heritage: Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations and the corresponding curriculum kit have been made possible by generous support from the following organizations.

  • Logo for National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Logo for IMLS
  • Logo for Brooklyn Brewery
  • Logo for Two Trees Management Co, LLC
  • Logo for the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
  • Logo for the New York Community Trust
  • Logo for the New York Council for the Humanities
  • Logo for the Nissan Foundation
  • Logo for Sweet N Low
  • Logo for NYC Department of Youth & Community Development
  • Logo for NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
  • Logo for New York State Council on the Arts

Additional funding was provided by:
New York City Council Members Letitia James (Council Member 2004-2013), Brad Lander, Darlene Mealy, and Albert Vann (Council Member 2002-2013).