“We inherited such poverty,” said Darden Tatum, a Brooklyn transplant, about the Fort Greene and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods. “You have to re-invent where you’re from.”
Mr. Tatum is the director of the Brooklyn Historical Society, and over the past several years, he has used his organization’s new initiative, Local History U.S.A., to collect history, particularly in the neighborhood. He has compiled oral histories, done street surveys and partnered with residents, community activists and businesses to preserve local buildings. Through an initiative called neighborhood walks and surveys, he has engaged people in physical presentations about their history and experiences.
Local History U.S.A. has inspired others to do similar things in other areas of the city. They have started under the banner of “Save our history” and continue to ask residents, volunteers and real estate agents to share stories and photos with volunteers.
For example, volunteers have been invited to do heritage walks in Mott Haven and Hunts Point in The Bronx and Flatbush and South Jamaica in Queens. In The Bronx, a home has been designated a landmark by the Parks Department. In Queens, two buildings have been given historical designation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The architectural distinctions are hoped to encourage local preservationists to protect this neighborhood’s rich architectural history.
The Brooklyn Historical Society is currently focused on gathering stories about community organizations, local artists and musicians, historical sites and cultural organizations, as well as public places and spaces. To learn more, visit bkhistory.org.