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Guide to Voices of Crown Heights oral histories 2016.027

Brooklyn Historical Society
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Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Brett Dion

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on December 19, 2017 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Historical note

History of Crown Heights: From the late nineteenth century up to the World War I era, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights was known for being an upper and upper middle class residential enclave. Russian Jews, Irish, and Italians moved there as a part of the boom in immigration from 1880 to 1940. Smaller migrations to Crown Heights occurred as well, with Caribbean migrants among these. Seeing an opportunity for first-time home ownership, some of Harlem's African American residents moved to the neighborhood in the 1930s. A great wave of Caribbean immigration followed in the 1960s and 1970s. With many White residents removing to the suburbs, those immigrants along with Caribbean Americans and African Americans invested and lived in the majority of residences from the 1960s to the 1990s. The Lubavitcher Hasidim, a Judaic movement that established its headquarters in Crown Heights in 1940, accounted for about eight percent of the population, according to 1990s figures. In 1991, long simmering tensions between members of the Lubavitcher and Black communities, and two fatalities, propelled the neighborhood into three days of unrest and violence. Encapsulated by the news media as the "Crown Heights Riot," the community took years to heal. Another demographic shift began as the 1990s ended; and by 2010 a new confluence of amenities, development, and rising property values was affecting the diverse face of the roughly 130,000 residents.

Voices of Crown Heights project: Staff for this project included Zaheer Ali (Oral Historian), Amaka Okechukwu (Project Coordinator), Svetlana Kitto (Interviewer), Walis Johnson (Interviewer), Obden Mondésir (Interviewer), and several more interviewers. From December 2016 to April 2017, project staff conducted three workshops for community partners and affiliates, with the purpose of informing participants about the neighborhood history, exposing participants to primary sources, and training participants in oral history methods. Unique to the Voices of Crown Heights project was its public engagement with oral history and contemporary neighborhood concerns. A first set of programs were done in partnership with WHC, and the second with BMC; BHS concluded with two final programs in June and July 2017. Project staff have presented about the Voices of Crown Heights at conferences, seminars, and panel discussions, engaging specialists, scholars, and oral history practitioners.