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Guide to the Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History collection 2010.020

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Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Brett Dion

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

Biographical / Historical

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 the time these interviews had been recorded in 2010 - a new confluence of amenities, development, and rising property values was affecting the diverse face of the roughly 130,000 residents.

Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History: In January 2010, StoryCorps alum and Crown Heights resident Alex Kelly met with five interns from Paul Robeson High School as placed by the Brooklyn College Community Partnership. Narrators were gathered primarily through contact with the Crow Hill Community Association and recorded in their homes or at LaunchPad, a community center on Franklin Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. New York City Grassroots Media Coalition sponsored the project. A blog tracking the progress of the oral histories was created by the interviewers: http://crownheightshistoryproject.blogspot.com/