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.
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[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.
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Oral history interview conducted by Peggy Alston
January 18, 2008
Call number: 2008.030.08
18:40 - Performances of "Donnie's House" at the Billie Holiday Theater and on "Good Times" TV series
Oral History Interview with Ralph Carter
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."
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.
Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) and Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration) partnered on the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral history project in 2007-2008 to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Restoration's founding as the first community development corporation (CDC) in the United States. Nearly sixty interviews were conducted with founding Board members, supporters, activists, artists, tenants, and other community members. Audio clips from these oral history interviews were included in the exhibit "Reflections on Community Development: Stories from Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation" (BHS 2008, Restoration 2009).
CitationCarter, Ralph, Oral history interview conducted by Peggy Alston, January 18, 2008, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories, 2008.030.08; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Alston, Peggy
- Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
- Billie Holiday Theatre
- Carter, Ralph David
- Mason, Judi Ann
- Moon, Marjorie
- Robeson, Paul, 1898-1976
- Youth Arts Academy
- Civil rights movements
- Cultural facilities
- Performing arts
- Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidBedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories