Archives for oral history

People & Stories Oral History Project: Lord Judah & JCA

This is the first time People & Stories is presenting a produced oral history, and it's for a good reason. Lord Judah is the artist behind H.I.P.H.O.P., which stands for Highly Intelligent People Healing Our Planet. H.I.P.H.O.P. is many things. It's a philosophy for engaging with social issues, a mobile-teaching unit, and an artistic collective. H.I.P.H.O.P. is combining music with a social justice mission through teaching workshops with young people and support for local artists. Lord Judah and JCA mix their personal stories about coming up in White Plains with insights about how to find a place as an artist
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Renee Cohen

Renee Cohen has things to say about White Plains. If you've read any of the newspapers or voted in any elections since the mid-1970s, chances are you've encountered Renee. In this oral history she describes coming to White Plains in 1967, her choice to live an environmentally-conscious life, and the many civic projects she's been a part of. Asked what she would like to see more of in the city, she said, “I just like a mix.” Her perspective as a frequent, long-time pedestrian in the city is insightful–if you usually drive through White Plains, Renee will make you think
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: The Mosleys

Brandon Mosley took the question posed by television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” seriously and set out to discover how he came to be in White Plains. His mother told him stories about his great-aunt's successful cosmetic company in Harlem, his grandfather's influential role in White Plains public schools, and his great-grandfather's life as a preacher in North Carolina–and he discovered many more. He wrote a history of his mother's (Marcia's) side of the family in The Tree That Shades Me, which he self-published. In their oral history, Brandon talks about the process of discovering his family's history
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Goes National!

Kevin Tidmarsh and Saahil Desai, students at Pomona College in California, investigate the stories of early students of color at their school in the first episode of Hidden Pomona, “Stranger In A Strange Land.” Drawing on Leola Bryant's oral history in our People & Stories Collection, Tidmarsh and Desai chronicle the impact White Plains native and Pomona alumnus Eileen Johnson had on the lives of African-Americans.
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Dennis Polanco

Probably known to most White Plains residents as “Mr. Polanco,” since that is what students in his English classes at White Plains High School call him, Dennis Polanco is in fact much more than a teacher. He is a father, musician, and community leader who has great insights into our city.
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Categories: Español, History, and Oral History.

History, Art, & Community

People have been using our White Plains Collection and local history programs to create some great projects lately! Students from a Community Design class at Purchase College taught by Warren Lehrer partnered with the White Plains Business Improvement District and the Library to create designs for poems written by Judith Sloan. Art In Vacant Spaces can be seen filling the windows of storefronts along Court Street, Martine Avenue, Main Street, and Mamaroneck Avenue. Inspiration for the poems was drawn in part from historic photographs in the White Plains Collections (check some out online!) and oral histories from People & Stories.
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Categories: History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Peter Stone

In this interview, Peter Stone and interviewer Rod Carlson show us what People & Stories is all about. Stone has been in White Plains since September 1950. He grew up in a house his family built in North White Plains and, when he was a kid, walked the five miles into downtown. White Plains' rich ethnic mix made a strong impression on him. Stone served as Chairman of the Humans Rights Commission from 1995 to 2008 and also worked as a management consultant in freight transportation. He describes himself as a “middle class, happily married grandfather viewing the world as
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Kevin Doherty

Kevin Doherty grew up in White Plains as part of the post-WW II baby boom, a group that, in his words, “causes problems wherever we go.”  Doherty has done much more than just cause problems though-he raised a family in White Plains and spent many years as an educator with BOCES.  A member of Union Hook & Ladder and a blues aficionado, Doherty also has strong connections to fascinating political and cultural strands of White Plains history.
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Categories: History and Oral History.

Everyone’s a Historian: Community History Day

At White Plains Public Library, we believe in sharing historical authority with the community.  So last Saturday, we created a space in which everyone was a historian.  No one person has a monopoly on the past and no single narrative could possibly tell all our stories.  We all have knowledge of the past, it's just a matter of sharing and using it! Several community members brought items from their personal collections to be digitized and added to our online collection.  We had a diverse group of people, from life-long White Plains residents to current and past members of government to
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Categories: History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Shirley Acevedo Buontempo

Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, Founder and Executive Director of Latino U College Access, is People & Stories' first multi-lingual oral history!  Below are interviews conducted by Ben Himmelfarb and Mariel Perez–one in English, one in Spanish. In both interviews, Buontempo discusses emigrating from Puerto Rico to the Bronx at age ten.  Education and service have always been important to Buontempo, and when she attended Pace University she was introduced to White Plains (through trips to the Galleria!).  She had a career in advertising focused on reaching Latino people, and developed an interest in connecting Latino youth with higher education through her
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Harold Mercer

Harold Mercer is a lifelong White Plains resident whose roots go back to the arrival of his grandfather in the 1890s. His grandfather was an English artist who settled on the east side of White Plains and helped start the Eastside Engine Company. His father, also named Harold Mercer, was the Westchester County Clerk and became the White Plains Civil Defense Director. Mercer remembers attending RKO Keith's on Main Street to see vaudeville acts like Peg Leg Bates and the Three Stooges. He remembers driving his Model A Ford around White Plains during World War II, when recruiters came to
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Dr. Olivia J. Hooker

Dr. Olivia J. Hooker turned 100 in 2015. She is a fascinating, brilliant, fun person, and White Plains is lucky to count her among its residents. Her life started in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where her father owned a successful department store. His store and the neighborhood known as The Black Wall Street were destroyed in what Dr. Hooker called “the terrible catastrophe in Tulsa.” “Other people called it the Tulsa Riot. It really wasn't a riot–we were the victims,” said Dr. Hooker. The Greenwood district of Tulsa was devastated by the racist violence, and news of the injustice was under-reported in
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Cecilia Bikkal

Cecilia Bikkal has called lots of places “home” around the world, but has been in White Plains since the 1980s. In this oral history, recorded in her office overlooking the corner of Hamilton and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Bikkal shares her personal story and her perspective on White Plains. Bikkal came to White Plains on the day the Galleria opened, and went to work for the County Clerk in the 1980s. She became a lawyer after intending to be an architect. Through her place on the Zoning Board of Appeals and work as a lawyer specializing in immigration,
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Al Surya Peterson

Al Surya Peterson has deep roots in the White Plains area and is a knowledgeable and ardent proponent of black history in Westchester County. His grandfather came to work on the Rockefeller Estate in the early 20th century and settled on land owned by a former slave on Saxon Woods Road. In this oral history, Peterson describes growing up in a close-knit black community on the White Plains-Scarsdale border. Although he attended school in Scarsdale, he spent (and continues to spend) lots of time in White Plains. He visited family and friends here during his childhood, was the first African-American
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Lee Palmer

Lee Palmer and the White Plains Public Library are inseparable.  Lee has worked at the library in one way or another since 1966.  After Lee took a class on storytelling at the library in the mid-1960s, a librarian hired her to be a children's storyteller.  In this oral history, you can hear her enthusiasm for that job and the library's central place in White Plains.  Lee also discusses her reasons for moving to White Plains, her reasons for staying, and the fulfillment she gets from her current work as a Friend of the Library.
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Leola Bryant

Leola Bryant sat down with Teddy Lee and Ben Himmelfarb to record this oral history.  Bryant's memory and wit are crisp, and her stories about White Plains are highly informative. She recalls life for children in downtown White Plains and the distinct geographic and ethnic character of the neighborhoods. Bryant is especially insightful about how segregation and discrimination affected black citizens of White Plains. Although she recalls being discriminated against in her job, she feels the schools were free from the prejudice that affected so many other areas of her life. Eileen Johnson, daughter of a White Plains doctor, was
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: The Landrys and Connie Brown

Bob and Lucille Landry, joined by Connie Brown, recorded this oral history at the White Plains Public Library. Bob and Lucille are both lifelong White Plains residents who discuss everything from their education and professional involvements in White Plains to how they met (you'll have to listen to find out).  All three belong to the Westchester Hills Golf Club.  To accompany their oral history, the Landrys donated a number of pictures and documents.
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Teddy Lee, Jr.

Theodore Jay Lee, Jr., better known as Teddy, is the owner of Lee's Funeral Home and a lifelong resident of White Plains. His father, Theodore Jay Lee, Sr., migrated north from Virginia, became a licensed undertaker, and began working in Westchester County. In the late 1920s, Lee Sr. moved to White Plains and opened a funeral home at 57 Brookfield Street. Lee remembers the pride and integrity with which his father operated the business, helping people with personal problems or their taxes in addition to funeral arrangements. Lee vividly recalls life for children in downtown White Plains during the 1930s
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: John Kirkpatrick

As a city planner, lawyer, and common council member, John Kirkpatrick has a studied perspective on the City of White Plains. Originally from Alabama, Kirkpatrick remembers deciding to live in White Plains with his wife because they were attracted by the “ferment in culture” the diverse population creates. Always an active citizen, Kirkpatrick contributed to city comprehensive plans and continues to pay attention to the (sometimes small, sometimes big) details that ensure the development of White Plains creates a warm, accessible, pedestrian-friendly environment. With his nuanced perspective on the past, civic engagement in the present, and informed vision for the
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Julie Cohan

Julie Cohan moved to White Plains when he was 14, and has lived in White Plains ever since. He recalls growing up in the Gedney Farm neighborhood, getting involved in the insurance business, and spending much of his career traveling between White Plains and Albany working in New York State government. Hav-A-Snak, Cohan's coffee shop, was on Main Street and Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains during the 1950s and 1960s. While we were recording, Greta Cohan, joined us and shared some stories of her own about life in White Plains.
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Categories: History and Oral History.