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Guide to the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories 2008.030

Brooklyn Historical Society
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Brooklyn Historical Society

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

Carter, Ralph, 2008 January 18

Biographical / Historical

Ralph David Carter was born in 1961 in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, one of an eventual seven children raised by his single mother. As a boy, Carter found work and fame as a child actor. At the age of twelve, he was nominated for a Tony Award in the best supporting actor category for his Broadway performance in the musical Raisin, based on the Lorraine Hansberry drama  A Raisin in the Sun. It was his sixth Broadway show. Carter was popularly known for playing the role of Michael Evans on the CBS sitcom  Good Times, which aired from 1974-1979; and for his 1975 album, the disco-era hit "When You're Young and in Love."

Scope and Contents

In this interview, the singer, songwriter, actor, and playwright Ralph Carter discusses the historical roots of his childhood in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. He recalls the misunderstood nature of the Brownsville community, including the watchful eyes of vagrant people, and the cultural energy that encircled and influenced his development. He explains his religious or spiritual beliefs and social justice convictions. Carter lauds many of the important mentors in his career, with a particular emphasis on John Amos. Carter prescribes a didactic role for theater and the arts in providing positive Black role models to everyday Americans or depicting the horrors of drug addiction (as in the 1989 Judi Ann Mason play Donnie's House, in which Carter performed the leading role). He remembers the legacy of Restoration and its Billie Holiday Theatre for providing employment to Black performing artists, and intellectual entertainment for a Black audience. Carter expounds upon the importance of diversity in the theater, of cultural heritage institutions in early childhood development, and mentorship in artistic development. Interview conducted by Peggy Alston.

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

Subject Names

  • Alston, Peggy
  • Carter, Ralph David
  • Mason, Judi Ann
  • Moon, Marjorie
  • Robeson, Paul

Subject Organizations

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Billie Holiday Theatre
  • Youth Arts Academy

Subject Topics

  • Actors -- United States
  • Civil rights movements -- United States -y 20th century
  • Cultural facilities -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Performing arts -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Theater -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)