Oral histories are intimate conversations between and among people who have generously agreed to share these recordings with BHS’s archives and researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. BHS abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.
Every oral history relies on the memories, views, and opinions of the narrator. Because of the personal nature of oral history, listeners may find some viewpoints or language of the recorded participants to be objectionable. In keeping with its mission of preservation and unfettered access whenever possible, BHS presents these views as recorded.
The audio recording should be considered the primary source for each interview. Where provided, transcripts created prior to 2008 or commissioned by a third party other than BHS, serve as a guide to the interview and are not considered verbatim. More recent transcripts commissioned by BHS are nearly verbatim copies of the recorded interview, and as such may contain the natural false starts, verbal stumbles, misspeaks, and repetitions that are common in conversation. The decision for their inclusion was made because BHS gives primacy to the audible voice and also because some researchers do find useful information in these verbal patterns. Unless these verbal patterns are germane to your scholarly work, when quoting from this material researchers are encouraged to correct the grammar and make other modifications maintaining the flavor of the narrator’s speech while editing the material for the standards of print.
All citations must be attributed to Brooklyn Historical Society:
[Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer’s First name Last name], [Month DD, YYYY], [Title of Collection], [Call #]; Brooklyn Historical Society.
These interviews are made available for research purposes only. For more information about other kinds of usage and permissions, see BHS’s rights and reproductions policy.
Oral history interview conducted by Alex Kelly
March 31, 2010
Call number: 2010.020.004
Oral History Interview with Cynthia Beckford
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 deja 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.
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.
Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History includes interview audio and summaries created and collected within the context of a community project undertaken by project director Alex Kelly and Paul J. Robeson High School interns Treverlyn Dehaarte, Ansie Montilus, Monica Parfait, Quanaisha Phillips and Floyya Richardson. These interviewers recorded conversations with forty-three narrators. In addition to the educational experience for the student interns, the oral histories were conducted as life history and community anthropology interviews. Topics of discussion include family and parenting, migration, cultural and racial relations, occupations and business, education and religion, housing and gentrification, civil unrest and reconciliation, and community activism.
CitationBeckford, Cynthia, Oral history interview conducted by Alex Kelly, March 31, 2010, Listen to This: Crown Heights Oral History collection, 2010.020.004; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Beckford, Cynthia
- African American neighborhoods
- American Dream
- Clothing and dress
- Emigration and immigration
- Family life
- Jamaican Americans
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
- New York (N.Y.)
Finding AidListen to This: Crown Heights Oral History collection