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

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn 11201

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

Container List

Beckford, Cynthia, 2010 March 31

Biographical / Historical

Cynthia Beckford was born in 1973 in Jamaica. Raised in the Jamaican countryside, at a young age Beckford had dreams of immigrating to urbane London, England. After a brief time spent in the care of an Indian woman who ran a hotel in Kingston, Jamaica she returned home for sewing school and a career as a dress maker. During a visit to the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in the early 1980s, Beckford was awe-struck by its beauty, diversity and experienced a kind of déjà vu for her childhood fantasies of England. After a return to Jamaica, she applied for and was granted permanent resident status. With some help Beckford was able to obtain an apartment - as well as a new life for herself and her son - in Crown Heights.

Scope and Contents

Cynthia Beckford remembers her childhood in rural Jamaica, her first impressions of - and first apartment in - the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, and her career as a skilled dress maker. She glowingly describes Crown Heights as a diverse, peaceful and beautiful residential enclave of New York City. Beckford recounts her first visits to the neighborhood, as well as her subsequent quest for permanent United States residence and employment. Beckford also recalls how after some early setbacks, perseverance, faith, and help from friends - as well as her labor union - she was able to secure a job and apartment, making a new life for herself and her son in a place where she feels blessed to be. Interview conducted by Alex Kelly.

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 the permission of BHS. For assistance, contact

Subject Names

  • Beckford, Cynthia

Subject Topics

  • African American neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • African Americans -- Relations with Jews
  • American Dream
  • Clothing and dress -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Family life -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Immigrants -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Jamaican Americans
  • Jamaicans -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Women -- New York (State) -- New York -x Social conditions

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • United States |x Emigration and immigration