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.
James E. Robinson
Oral history interview conducted by Doris Rowley-Hoyte
January 15, 2008
Call number: 2008.030.37
Oral History Interview with James E. Robinson
James Robinson was born in 1937 and moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn circa 1944, when Robinson was seven years old; he attended local Brooklyn public schools. In the mid-1960s, Robinson first encountered Restoration when Robinson served as the Director of Urban Renewal of Fulton Park. In 1978, when Restoration's vice president of physical development, James E. Shipp, stepped down, Robinson was retained as Shipp's successor. Robinson served as the vice president of physical development into the early 1980s.
In this interview, James Robinson recites the many roles of Restoration in the community of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Robinson says Restoration's successes in community development are evident in the gentrification that has swept through the neighborhood, but voices dismay at the displacement this has caused for some indigenous residents. Robinson describes an idyllic Brooklyn childhood, with public school students competitive for grades in the classroom and for points on the playground; and remembers teachers comporting themselves with authority and dignity, and a time when parents commanded respect. Robinson details his first interactions with Restoration and his eventual position as its vice president of physical development (succeeding James E. Shipp). He lists key leaders, community organizations, and funding organizations who helped during his tenure, and names a number of accomplishments of which he believes Restoration should be proud. He describes the practice of redlining, saying Restoration combatted the practice, making it easier for residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant to get loans. Robinson says physical development alone is not sufficient in a community's development, but should be accompanied by arts education, cultural activities, and encouragement for entrepreneurs. Interview conducted by Doris Rowley-Hoyte.
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).
CitationRobinson, James E., Oral history interview conducted by Doris Rowley-Hoyte, January 15, 2008, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories, 2008.030.37; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
- Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. Center for Art and Culture
- Billie Holiday Theatre
- Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
- Robinson, James E., 1937-
- Community development corporations
- Economic development
- Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidBedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories