In Episode 30 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia discuss Brooklyn Historical Society’s Puerto Rican Oral History Project (1973-1975), the institution’s first oral history collection, which resulted in over 80 interviews with narrators born as early as the 1880s. They situate this landmark undertaking in the social and intellectual developments of the 1960s and 1970s, from the Civil Rights Movement to the rise of Ethnic Studies programs.
Segment 1: Histories and Ideas
In this segment, Zaheer and Julie discuss the genesis of the Puerto Rican Oral History Project in 1973, including the roles of pioneer Puerto Rican studies scholar John D. Vazquez and community leader Jesús Colón. Zaheer and Julie also provide an overview of the migration history of Puerto Ricans to Brooklyn in the early 20th century. Finally they explore the meaning of the project in context of the emergence of ethnic studies.
Segment 2: Into the Archives
The Puerto Rican Oral History Project records include extensive documentation of this multi-year project. Zaheer and Julie examine some of the documents in the collection, including a letter dated 1971 written by then-Long Island Historical Society’s Executive Director John H. Lindenbusch to Jesús Colón that broaches the idea of doing an oral history project. Zaheer and Julie also examine a poster celebrating Colón, as well as a flyer describing Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños (popularly known as Centro)–the Center for Puerto Rican Studies that was founded in 1973, the same year the Puerto Rican Oral History Project commenced. Lastly, they read a letter from Centro’s Oral History Task Force to the Society’s Librarian offering to transcribe the oral histories that had been largely unaccessible for almost a decade.
Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn
Segment 4: Endorsements
Zaheer endorsed “Elections in the Age of Trump” on Monday, November 5, with FiveThirtyEight‘s Senior Political Writer Clare Malone John Sides, professor of political science at George Washington University and coauthor of the new book, Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America. You can get more information and tickets here.
Julie endorsed “Tales from the Vault: Brooklyn for Peace” on Wednesday, November 7, with two members of our library staff, Maggie Schreiner and Laura Juliano, who examine archival materials from Brooklyn for Peace, an organization founded amid the tensions of the Cold War. You can get more information and tickets here.