Bronx African American Oral History Collection Now Online!


This week, the Bronx African American History Project of Fordham celebrates a major milestone with the uploading of more than 200 of its oral history interviews to the BAAHP’s Digital Research Site at Fordham libraries, making them available to scholars around the nation and around the world. More than twelve years in the making, this collection represents an unparalleled resources for scholars in African American and Urban History. Keep reading for further details of the project provided by Professor Mark Naison.

Professor Naison begins by quoting the words of Professor Brian Purnell of Bowdoin College, a former History major at Fordham and former Fordham faculty member who was research director for the BAAHP:  “These recordings will be an important resource to scholars in African American and Urban History, as well as students of popular culture, for decades to come.”

Professor Naison goes on tell us more about the project:

The interviews not only highlight the settlement of the Bronx by African-Americans and West Indians in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, and the destruction and reconstruction of Bronx neighborhoods in the wake of the arson/disinvetment crisis that hit the borough in the 60’s and 70’s, they illuminate the unique role of  Bronx neighborhoods in shaping American popular music in forms ranging from Mambo, to BeBop Jazz, to Doo Wop, to Salsa, to Hip Hop,   More recent interviews focus on African immigration to the Bronx, documenting the borough’s emergence as the place with the largest concentration of African immigrants in the Western Hemisphere.

Street Naming Event For Jazz Singer Maxine Sullivan Based on BAAHP Research

Street Naming Event For Jazz Singer Maxine Sullivan Based on BAAHP Research

History graduate students and undergraduates have played a central role in the growth and development of the BAAHP, now widely regarded as one of the premier community based Oral History Projects in the nation. Most of the interview transcription for the BAAHP, along with the writing of interview summaries, has been done by undergraduate History students, some of whom have gone on to do doctoral work following their graduation. In addition, the heroic work of digitizing the BAAHP’s huge data base, consisting of audio tapes, video tapes, and transcriptions, has been coordinated by History Doctoral students serving as  Graduate Assistants to the BAAHP, most recently Damian Strecker, who deserves special mention for his role in uploading the Oral History Collection. Finally, a History doctoral student, Noel Wolfe, was the first scholar in the nation to complete a doctorate using the BAAHP data base of documentary collections and oral histories, writing a ground breaking dissertation on  community responses to the crack epidemic in the Bronx.

     The uploading of the BAAHP Oral History collection also represents an important opportunity for faculty and students in underdergraduate and graduate History courses, providing easy access to sources that once only were available in print form in the BAAHP offices or the Bronx County Historical Society. It also will enhance community partnerships with Bronx schools and organizations who see the narratives contained in our data base as a valuable resource
     In future months, our student staff will be uploading our video collection, creating a priceless resource for flim makers as well as scholars. And through it all, our research, and interviewing, will continue. We welcome everyone in the History Department to share this archive, and participate in our work.

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