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Guide to the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories 2008.030

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Collection processed by Brett Dion and Maria Santiago

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 22, 2017
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Watkins, Thomas H., 2008 January 29

Biographical / Historical

Thomas H. Watkins was born in 1927, in the New York metropolitan area, and moved with his family to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn when Watkins was two years old. Watkins came from a politically interested family; his grandfather, the attorney Glen Jones, argued before Congress for federal protections for Black Americans from lynching. Watkins' career began at The New York Amsterdam News, the city's oldest Black newspaper. In 1952, Watkins founded his first weekly newspaper, the  Afro Times. In 1972, Watkins founded his flagship paper, the  New York Daily Challenge, a daily newspaper distributed city-wide, which was also New York City's first and only Black daily newspaper. The publication's corporate offices stood in Restoration Plaza, home of Restoration. An unabashed capitalist, Watkins founded the   Daily Challenge as a way to route Black New Yorkers' newspaper monies into a paper owned by, written by, and catering to other Black New Yorkers.

Scope and Contents

Thomas H. Watkins, founder, owner, and publisher of the New York Daily Challenge, begins this interview with a short history of each of his three newspapers. He shares his views on the value of entrepreneurship for Black residents of Brooklyn, including the power to uplift from poverty. He remembers the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn of his youth, noting the relationship between churches, education, and social mobility. Watkins discusses Bedford-Stuyvesant's history of community activism, and shares historical details from the actions of the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council, the founding of Restoration, and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. He expounds upon the importance of First Amendment rights and press freedoms, and the relationship between marketing and the media. He shares his disdain for both public and parochial school systems, citing racism as one of its endemic problems. In conclusion, Watkins shares his prognosis of Restoration's legacy and his hopes for its future. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Kennedy, Robert F.
  • Richardson, Elsie
  • Watkins, Thomas H.

Subject Organizations

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Daily Challenge, Inc

Subject Topics

  • Business enterprises -x African Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -y 20th century
  • Economic development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Entrepreneurship -x African Americans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Newspaper publishing -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Schools -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Economic conditions