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 Ka-Kam Chui
September 02, 1993
Call number: 1994.007.18
0:03 - 自我及家庭简介, 孩子们的教育及中英两种语言 Introduction of self and family, Children's education and the two languages
5:38 - 在开平香港两地成长, 海外工作的父亲, 家庭美国重圆 Growing up in Kai Ping and Hong Kong, father working abroad, family reunited in America
15:33 - 在唐人街的生活, 1973年的政府资助的双语教育和纽约帮派, 苏华德公园高中 Living in Chinatown, federal funded bilingual education and gangs in 1973, Seward Park High School
26:58 - 与不同种族的人群打交道, 在针织厂兼职, 兄弟姐妹 Interactions with mixed race groups, part-time job at a Chinese sewing factory, siblings
37:15 - 歧视, 多文化的环境, 美国与香港的教育, 兄弟姐妹 Discrimination, multicultural surroundings, education in America and Hong Kong, siblings
44:13 - 大哥和1974年的喜双逢酒楼, 城市大学, 在布鲁克林定居 Oldest brother and Hay Soen Fung Restaurant in 1974, City College, settled in Brooklyn
54:03 - 在唐人街和布鲁克林的投注公司工作, 当时日落公园的生活环境 Working at OTB in Chinatown and Brooklyn, living environment around Sunset Park in 1970s
Oral History Interview with Johnny Lee
"Johnny Lee" was born circa 1961 in Hong Kong, China, the youngest of five siblings. He immigrated to New York City as a teenager, and finished high school at Seward Park High School in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan. The son of a working-class family, Lee sewed buttons in a Chinatown garment factory during high school, and washed dishes at a Chinatown restaurant as a young man. He attended City College for one year before leaving to pursue stable government work at an Off-Track Betting branch. At the time of the interview, Lee was in his forties and lived with his wife and three children in the three-family home that his parents purchased and converted into a five-family house.
In this interview, using a pseudonym, "Johnny Lee" recounts his life history. He recollects being raised in Hong Kong by his mother while his father worked in America. He remembers his time at Chinatown's Seward Park High School's bilingual program, classmates who dropped out to join Chinese gangs, after-school work as a button-sewer in garment factories, college work as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant, and the decision to leave City College to pursue full-time work at an Off-Track Betting location. Lee discusses the boom in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan's garment factories, the increase in competition, and resultant deflation in real wages and living standards. He talks about working-class income, real estate prices, his family's decision to purchase a home, and the rejuvenation of the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn and its Eighth Avenue small businesses. Interview in Cantonese conducted by Ka-Kam Chui.
Brooklyn Historical Society collaborated with the Chinatown History Museum (now the Museum of Chinese in America) in order to conduct a series of oral histories with residents of the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Cantonese, Mandarin, and English language interviews focused on what was then a new presence of Chinese and Asian immigrants concentrated along Eighth Avenue. Among the topics that are explored in the interviews are tensions between different groups of Chinese immigrants, crime and safety in the neighborhood, Sunset Park's relationship to Manhattan's Chinatown, and how long-term residents of Sunset Park had adjusted to the area's "newcomers."
CitationLee, Johnny, Oral history interview conducted by Ka-Kam Chui, September 02, 1993, New Neighbors: Sunset Park's Chinese Community records, 1994.007.18; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Lee, Johnny
- Child labor
- Chinese Americans
- Economic conditions
- English as a second language
- High school students
- Social history
- Working class
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- Chinatown (New York, N.Y.)
- Hong Kong (China)
- Sunset Park (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidNew Neighbors: Sunset Park's Chinese Community records