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 Sady Sullivan
April 29, 2008
Call number: 2008.030.13
Oral History Interview with Josephine English
Dr. Josephine English was born in 1920 in Ontario, Virginia. After her mother's early death, English and her siblings were raised by her single father in Englewood, New Jersey. She attended Hunter College as an undergraduate, attained a master's degree in psychology from New York University; and went to medical school at the historically African American Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee. Upon graduation in 1949, Dr. English worked as one of New York's first African American female doctors at Harlem Hospital. After relocating to Brooklyn to work and live, Dr. English founded the Women's Health Center, Adelphi Medical Center, and the Paul Robeson Theater in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. Dr. English died in 2011 at the age of ninety-one.
In this interview, Dr. Josephine English relates stories from her life's history, including tales from her childhood and her career as a doctor. She details her experiences with sexism and racism, encountered during medical school and later, as a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist. She describes her achievements as an OB-GYN: Having delivered thousands of babies (including the six children of Malcom X and Betty Shabazz), and founding the Women's Health Center. Dr. English reflects on her community activism, including founding the Paul Robeson Theater, and the Adelphi Medical Center. She openly shares her personal opinions on the practice of medicine today as it relates to women and the indigent; her thoughts on modern social ills such as HIV, gentrification, and displacement; and her views on politics and religion. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.
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).
CitationEnglish, Josephine, Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan, April 29, 2008, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories, 2008.030.13; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
- English, Josephine, Dr.
- Obama, Barack
- African Americans
- Community centers
- Women's health services
- Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- Fort Greene (New York, N.Y.)
- New York (N.Y.)
Finding AidBedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories