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Flatbush + Main Episode 07: Brooklyn’s Women Politicians

By Julie Golia

Posted on October 27, 2016

In less than a week, Americans will go to the polls to choose a new president – and for the first time, one of the major party candidates is a woman. In episode 07 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia consider the important legacies left by several of Brooklyn’s female politicians, and the intersectional nature of gender and politics in this incredibly diverse borough. They learn about the remarkable career of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm from historian Zinga Fraser, and draw connections between Chisholm’s politics and today’s political landscape. In their explorations of the papers of NAACP staffer Richetta Randolph, they expand definitions of what constitutes political work. In “Voices of Brooklyn,” they listen to influential activist Elsie Richardson describe her interactions with Robert Kennedy during his 1965 visit to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant. Finally, they welcome BHS Manager of Teacher and Learning Alex Tronolone, who plugs BHS’s Election Day Professional Development programming for New York City’s K-12 teachers.

For complete show notes, go to


02:43 – Histories and Ideas: Interview with Zinga Fraser about Shirley Chisholm
20:12 – Into the Archives: NAACP staffer Richetta Randolph Wallace papers
32:45 – Voices of Brooklyn: Activist Elsie Richardson
45:45 – BHS’s Election Day Professional Development Program for Teachers

Segment 1: Histories and Ideas

After speaking with Zinga Fraser about Shirley Chisholm, we declared the interview nothing short of brilliant. We know you’ll think so too.



Zinga is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Brooklyn College and directs the Shirley Chisholm Project of Brooklyn Women’s Activism.

The scholarship on intersectionality is vast and excellent. Here are but a few suggestions: Kimberle Crenshaw’s 1989 article, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race

and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics”; Elsa Barkley Brown, “‘What has happened here’: The Politics of Difference in Women’s History and Feminist Politics,” Feminist Studies, 18, 2 (Summer 1992), 295-312; and of course, bell hooks, Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981).

Segment 2: Into the Archives

We discussed the Richetta Randolph Wallace papers (Collection #: 1978.137). The letters we analyze are part of Series 2, Correspondence. Wallace was her married name, but she retained use of her maiden name in her professional work, so we followed her lead and referred to her as Randolph.

Here are images of the letters:

There has been some very good recent scholarship on the NAACP. Take a look at Patricia Sullivan’s Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement and Carol Anderson’s Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960

In the segment, Zaheer also recommends Jeanne Theoharis’s The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.

Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn

Elsie Richardson was a community organizer and activist who fought for equity in housing, employment, government, and much more. Her career spanned over a half century. Her interview is from the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral history collection, which was created when Brooklyn Historical Society and and Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation partnered in 2007-2008 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Restoration’s founding as the first community development corporation (CDC) in the United States. The interview is being made available, thanks to a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Below is the full interview with Elsie Richardson:

When she passed away in 2012, historian Mike Woodsworth wrote this homage to Richardson in The Nation.

Segment 4: Endorsements

BHS Manager of Teaching and Learning Alex Tronolone joined Julie and Zaheer to plug BHS’s day-long Professional Development Workshops on Election Day, November 8, 2016. Teachers can sign up here.

Zaheer endorsed BHS’s screening of Los Sures on November 1, 2016 at 6:30 pm. This event is free; it may sell out, so sign up here!

Alex endorsed “The Darker Side of Reproductive History,” moderated by MSNBC’s Irin Carmon and featuring panelists Linda Gordon (Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: The History of Birth Control in America), Adam Cohen (Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck), Iris Lopez, (Matters of Choice: Puerto Rican Women’s Struggle for Reproductive Freedom), and Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, (Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health). The event is Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 7 pm; tickets are $10/$5 for members – sign up here.

Julie endorsed “In Conversation: Claudia Rankine and Alondra Nelson.” The event is Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 6:30 pm. It’s free – get your tickets here.

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