May Day: Labor History of the Brooklyn Navy Yard | Episode 272

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Waterfront workers were at the vanguard of the labor movement; the word “strike” has its origins in work stoppages on the London docks in 1768, when sailors “struck” the sails of ships to keep them in port. In New York, skilled shipworkers organized some of the earliest trade associations, and they agitated for steady wages and reduced working hours as far back as the 1820s. At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, federal regulations and political patronage often stifled workers’ ability to strike, but by the time of World War II, the massive workforce of the Yard was heavily unionized, and the good-paying jobs would form the backbone of Brooklyn’s middle class. In this virtual program, we will examine the long history of labor organizing at the Yard, how workers fought for their rights in the absence of formal unions, and how the unions ultimately proved powerless against changing politics and economics of the shipbuilding industry in New York.

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(Re)connecting Brooklyn’s History: Brooklyn’s Homefront during World War II with Brooklyn Public Library

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The history and legacy of the Second World War can be seen all around us in Brooklyn. Once home to hundreds of factories, shipyards, and warehouses, and responsible for sending millions of service members off to the front lines, Brooklyn was arguably one of the most important communities in waging and winning the war. Using locations from communities across Brooklyn—including famous sites like the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Army Terminal, and lesser-known sites that help tell stories about labor, housing, and culture—as well as primary source documents and oral histories, this program will help illuminate Brooklynites’ experience of World War II.

The (Re)connecting Brooklyn’s History series brings the fascinating work of historians to an audience of students and educators through online presentations and resources for sustained engagement with local history topics.

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The Great War and NYC: Prospect Park

A statue of a soldier who stands clutching his gun and looking off into the distance as an angel begins to wrap her wing and arm around him

April 6, 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the US entry into the First World War. America’s involvement was comparatively brief, yet the war had massive impacts on American society. This year, we will be posting a series of articles about the ways in which the war affected the sites where we work in New York City.


War has played an integral part in the history of Prospect Park. In August 1776, the future site of the Park was a battleground, as American troops tried to stop the British advance in the epochal Battle of Brooklyn. Originally conceived in 1861, the Civil War intervened; this turned out to be a blessing, as the pause gave the Park’s commissioners reason to reconsider the original design – with Flatbush Avenue coursing through the middle of the proposed park – and instead hire the visionary team of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted. 50 years into its life, World War I would arrive to alter the Park’s landscape yet again.>> Continue reading