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The March

Aug 28, 2013 4:00 PM | 1 comment

With the country's eyes turned toward the past today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington we thought it only appropriate to turn our own eyes to a few items from the Collection dealing with this historic event. Below you will see scans of an Organizing Manual, a Bus Captain's name tag, and pages from the Lincoln Memorial Program. All of these materials come from the Civil Rights in Brooklyn Collection donated by the recently departed, and sorely missed, Rioghan Kirchner. Because of people like her history was not only made, but also preserved for future generations. We can't thank her enough. Though imperfect effects, these small ephemeral items help bring our shared history closer. We hope you think so too.

The Organizing Manual covers everything from the demands of the marchers to the ideal box lunch for participants: "peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, an apple or other fruit, a brownie or plain cake, and a soft drink." Marchers were warned against bringing perishables like mayonnaise and salads.


As the sizeable crowd could attest, the March on Washington was a massive organizational undertaking. The Brooklyn CORE contingent alone sent 13 busses to Washington, each one overseen by a name-tagged captain.

Front page of the program from the March. Dr. King follows Rabbi Joachim Prinz and precedes the head of the March, A. Philip Randolph

A list of demands printed in the program, as well as a map of the route.

Also among these items we find a number of photocopied news stories from local and national newspapers covering the March. This image, clipped here but without a source attribution, depicts a number of the Brooklyn CORE members who skipped the comfort of the bus in order to walk 237 miles to Washington only to... walk some more. After over 100 years of struggle and hardship, what were a few more days and a mere 237 miles to these inspiring demonstrators for peace and equality?

Brooklyn Connections Continues to Connect Students to Local History

Aug 23, 2013 10:20 AM | 0 comments

The Brooklyn Collection is pleased to announce that it has received funding to continue the Brooklyn Connections program.  Our generous funders, the David and Paula Weiner Memorial Grant, the Morris & Alma Schapiro Fund, and the Tiger Baron Foundation have ensured the program will go on!  The program will continue to be available at no cost to Brooklyn classrooms for the 2013-2014 school year.  We are proud to be in our seventh year of operation. 

Thanks to our generous funders, Brooklyn Connections will be able to expand in several important ways:

*Additional staffing will allow us to serve an impressive 28 partner schools.

*The introduction of elementary schools to the program will make Brooklyn Connections accessible to more students and teachers in need.

*We will work with pre-service teachers in two universities to help them incorporate research into their classrooms.

*Connections educators will continue to write lessons and curricula that is Common Core aligned.

*Each partner school will receive a collection of Brooklyn history books, maps and other materials, ensuring that research can take place in the library AND the classroom.

*Connections staff will organize one teacher open house and six free teacher workshops that will focus on developing research skills in the classroom and local history.  These sessions will be open to all New York City teachers!

*We are pleased to announce, thanks to the David and Paula Weiner Memorial Grant, we brought on NYU Professor Daniel Walkowitz to research and write curricula on social movements in New York City. The new curriculum will be taught in middle and high school schools by Brooklyn Connections educators. Stay tuned for upcoming educator professional developments using the social movements' curricula.

If you are a teacher, school administrator, parent or other education-minded Brooklynite that is interested in bringing Brooklyn Connections to a classroom near you, please check out our website.  Our 2013-2014 application is available and ready for you.  With more staff, classroom materials and online support, there's never been a better time to join us.  Please stay tuned to Brooklynology for more information about upcoming teacher workshops and other outreach initiatives.


*Educator open house - October 2, 4:00PM-6:00PM.  Tour our Brooklyn Collection, view thousands of primary sources and learn about the Brooklyn Connection program.

*Teacher Workshop - Doing History: Connecting Teachers to Local History with Historian John Manbeck, December 9, 2013 9:00AM-3:00PM.  Work with original archival documents, practice using our materials to fulfill Common Core standards and develop new methods for increasing student engagement using Brooklyn's history.

Please email for more information.

Rioghan Kirchner

Aug 14, 2013 10:07 AM | 1 comment

We at the Brooklyn Collection are very sad to announce the passing of a great friend to the library, Rioghan Kirchner.  Visitors to the collection may recall seeing Rioghan at her volunteer post in our reserve room, where she spent every Tuesday afternoon indexing the Black News newsletter (a resource that she donated) with her faithful dachsund Teddy waiting patiently at her feet.  Her warmth and humor will be missed by all who knew her. 

In addition to her work with us in preserving the history of the civil rights movement in Brooklyn, Rioghan was herself an activist in that struggle, and her personal story is an interesting one.  Born in Liverpool, England, Rioghan began her journey to the United States by first immigrating to Canada, marrying an American, Paul Kirchner, and then moving to Brooklyn in 1955.  Her first job after arriving here was as a clerk at the Kings Bay branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.  Soon after receiving her degree from Brooklyn College, she worked for many years in the Domestic Violence Unit of South Brooklyn Legal Services.  She retired in 1987 as a legislative assistant to the City Council.

Inspired by the Southern Freedom Riders, she joined CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) in 1961, thinking that she would simply be addressing envelopes and licking stamps in an effort to promote the cause.  Instead she took on a much more direct, active role.  As Brian Purnell described in his study of Brooklyn's civil rights struggle, Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings (for which Purnell interviewed Kirchner and many other members of Brooklyn CORE), Rioghan was enlisted as a "tester".  Her job was to masquerade as a potential renter to landlords suspected of housing discrimination and ferret out those who denied rental opportunities based on race.  She went on to become Housing Chairman and then Vice-Chairman of Brooklyn CORE.  Later, she helped start FOCUS (Freedom Organization Coordinated Unity in Shorefront) and organized the campaign against real estate brokers engaged in discriminatory housing practices. 

Above, Rioghan and another protestor in the back of a police van after their arrest at a demonstration against unfair hiring practices at Ebinger's Bakery.  Below, Brooklyn CORE members leaving the 67th precinct after their release, singing "We Shall Overcome".

Spurred by a desire to educate and inform new generations of Brooklynites in the history of the civil rights struggle as it played out in their borough, Rioghan donated her collection of CORE and FOCUS materials to the Brooklyn Collection.  It is a rich resource that includes flyers for protest rallies, photographs, ephemera and clippings about the civil rights movement as it unfolded across the country.  Several members of Brooklyn CORE participated in the March on Washington, which has been much in the news lately as its 50th anniversary is later this month, and their efforts are also documented in Rioghan's papers.  We are also lucky to house the Civil Rights in Brooklyn Oral History Collection, donated by Brian Purnell, which preserves the first-person testimony of Rioghan and her fellow activists. 

Below, Kirchner and other CORE members at the Fast for Freedom -- a 24-hour fast staged at Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty in August of 1961 as a show of solidarity with Freedom Riders.


Brooklyn Schools: A Look at Ephemera and More

Aug 8, 2013 1:04 PM | 0 comments

At the Brooklyn Collection, we have a large assortment of Brooklyn school ephemera, newspaper clippings, photos, yearbooks and even school newspapers.  I've written a few entries about schools the Brooklyn Connections program has partnered with: Erasmus Hall (STAR Early College), MS 57 and PS 26 (Brooklyn Excelsior).

Recently as I was doing some research for yet another Brooklyn Connections partner school, I came across this:


School Diary, Primary School 3, 1878.  The flip side of the Diary states, "New and improved series of school records adapted for public of private schools...adopted by the New York City Board of Education."

I was fascinated when I opened up the diary.  Students were rated perfect, imperfect, very poor, and failure and they were graded on punctuality and behavior along with subjects such as reading, writing, arithmetic and history.  For record keeping, students were given an "x" next to the subject they failed on a particular day. Guardians were required to sign off weekly to indicate they were are aware of how their children did in school.  Today, student's study ELA (English Language Arts), math, science, social studies and if they're lucky, art and music. In NYC public schools, elementary and middle school stududents are rated on a rubric of 1-4 using careful language: (4=exceeds standards,3=meets standards, 2=approaching standards and 1=needs direct support).

The diary is much like today's progress reports from public schools.  Along with progress reports, report cards are distributed typically four to six times a year--depending on the grade and school.  Brooklyn Collection has a few examples of report cards, like this one from Boys' High School, June 1960:

We have a small collection of classroom materials from the Limbert/Thorer family which include report cards, commendation notices and notebooks.

Above, Christine Limbert's 5th grade report card from 1905.  She was graded on effort and proficiency.  It also indicated she was "deficient in arithmetic."  Below, Christine Limbert's class photo from PS 102.

The classroom materials collection has several different notebooks--math, science, history and penmanship (a now long-forgotten subject in public schools).

Christine Limbert's penmanship book.

Annie Thorer's English notebooks

We also have some permanent records dating back to 1902. 

Viola Schafer's record from 1908-1914.

Partner schools in the Brooklyn Connections program often use the school newspapers collection to conduct research, or in the case of one school, used it as inspiration to restore the school newspaper.  The revitalized school newspaper didn't work out -- for various reasons -- but the students (and teachers) had a blast reading about their school from the perspective of alumni.

Sometimes while researching you'll find the most interesting items in the most obscure places.  While researching the Bushwick Campus, I found sheet music for the school anthem from 1912.

"Hurrah for Bushwick High." 1912. Brooklyn Collection. Sheet Music Collection.

Of course other schools had school songs, here are some Boys' High School songs found in the student handbook from 1924.

B.H.S. Marching Song

We are the boys of B.H.S. you hear so much about, The people stop and stare at us whenever we go out, We're noted for our winsomeness, the clever things we do, Most everybody likes us; we hope you'll like us too.


While we go marching, and the band begins to play, You can hear them shouting, The boys of B.H.S. are on the way, Our minds are filled from wisdom's store, our work is done with care, Of 'ologies and 'osophies, We've had a goodly share. But when our work is over and the daily tasks are done, We leave dull care behind us, and have our little fun.

No school collection would be complete without yearbooks. We have yearbooks spanning 159 years from dozens of Brooklyn schools.

I encourage our classes to do research about their school, which usually yields some interesting results; maybe they will find out their school was built on a cemetery, or that former students tried to abolish teachers or even protested the schools' administration -- not that we recommend that sort of thing.