Skip to Content

Flatbush + Main Episode 06: School Segregation in Brooklyn

By Julie Golia

Posted on September 29, 2016

In episode 06 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia explore the complicated relationship between race, power, and policy in Brooklyn’s educational system over two centuries. They speak with journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and historian Ansley Erickson about the rezoning of one Brooklyn school, P.S. 307, and the roots of school segregation in New York City. They head into the archives to analyze an 1863 letter written by William J. Wilson, an educational leader in Brooklyn’s African American community. In “Voices of Brooklyn,” they listen to the experiences of Mary Barksdale, who served as a local school board representative and president of the parent-teachers association in her son’s school in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York. Finally, they get a glimpse into one of BHS’s most innovative after school programs from Shirley Brown-Alleyne, BHS Manager of Teaching and Learning.

For complete show notes, go to


02:28 – Histories and Ideas: Interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ansley Erickson
18:23 – Into the Archives: William J. Wilson’s Letter to Henry Stiles
28:39 – Voices of Brooklyn: Mary Barksdale
37:35 – BHS’s Cultural After School Adventures (CASA) Program

Segment 1: Histories and Ideas

Our interview with New York Times Magazine Staff Writer Nikole Hannah-Jones and Assistant Professor of History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University was powerful, thought-provoking, and a lot of fun.



Read Nikole’s New York Times article about P.S. 307 here. Make sure to check out the graphic entitled “HOW THE CITY REZONED TWO BROOKLYN SCHOOLS.” It will give you a good sense of the former “postage stamp” zoning of P.S. 307 that Nikole describes.

Segment 2: Into the Archives

The William J. Wilson letter we discuss can be found in the Henry Reed Stiles papers at BHS (box 1, folder 4).

Here are images of the letter:

You can learn more about Wilson in BHS’s long term exhibition, In Pursuit of Freedom, on display in the Shellens Gallery. Explore the exhibition’s accompanying website.

Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn

The oral history interview with Mary Barksdale featured in this episode of Flatbush + Main is from the Sarita Daftary-Steel collection of East New York oral histories. BHS Archivist John Zarrillo is currently completing the processing of this collection, and recommended the interview to us. Once the finding aid is complete, we will update this post with a link.

Below is the full interview with Mary Barksdale:

As a bonus segment, we hear from veteran museum educator and BHS Manager of Teaching and Learning (PreK-5th grade) Shirley Brown-Alleyne. Shirley shares observations and insights about one BHS program, Cultural After School Adventures (CASA) – and how it’s turning fourth and fifth graders into budding historians. Learn more about CASA here.

And here are some images from the amazing book that a recent CASA cohort authored.

Segment 4: Endorsements

Julie endorsed the upcoming program “Block by Block: Exploring Brooklyn with Pat Kiernan and Bill Helmreich.” On October 5, 2016, at 6:30pm, NY1’s beloved anchor sits down with City College Sociologist Helmreich to discuss the latter’s new book, The Brooklyn Nobody Knows: An Urban Walking Guide – and how Helmreich walked all 816 miles of Brooklyn’s streets to write it. Tickets are $10; you can buy them here.

Zaheer endorsed “Nerd is No Longer Niche: An Influential Industry’s Growing Pains,” an October 24, 2016 program (starts at 7pm). A panel including Susana Polo (founder of The Mary Sue), Jill Pantozzi (The Nerdy Bird), Cynthia Francillon (Black Girl Nerds), and Amy Imhoff (Shoes and Starships) consider gender and sexism in this dynamic cultural movement. Tickets are $10; get them here.

Explore more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked