Oral History

In an effort to broaden the documented history of Black people in Cambridge, CBHP established the Black Cantabrigian Oral History Initiative. The Initiative’s purpose is to collect, record, and preserve the life stories of Black Cantabrigians–those who were born and/or raised in Cambridge, or whose families have deep Cambridge roots. Over the course of 2022 and 2023, the CBHP worked in partnership with Elisa H. Hamilton, creator of the Jukebox Project, to record 54 oral histories. Jukebox was commissioned by the Cambridge Arts Council, City of Cambridge, as part of the Percent-for-Art Ordinance, to create a public art project responsive to the new Cambridge Foundry. All Jukebox content has been used with permission from Jukebox. You can access excerpts from those oral histories below.

We are now embarking on a new series of 25 oral histories, funded by a Mass Humanities Expand Massachusetts Stories grant. We are seeking individuals to participate in the Oral History Initiative by sitting for an oral history interview. Interviews are held at the Cambridge Pubic Library and last approximately one hour. The interviews are recorded and transcribed. The recordings and transcriptions are deposited in the archives at the Cambridge Public Library, where they will provide a more balanced view of Cambridge history.

If you would like to be interviewed, please tell us about yourself here.

Paula Paris shares the story of her family home in Cambridge and the close knit Black community that she and her family are still a part of.

Leon Wilson shares the story of how his Cambridge education helped to shape his future.

Robin McCree shares the story of what led her to become the first Black female probation officer in the city of Cambridge, and then later, the first Black assistant clerk magistrate in the city of Cambridge.

Melvin Downes shares stories about growing up in Cambridge and his lifelong love of nature in New England.

Sumner McClain shares stories about some of the distinct memories and people that shaped his experience of growing up in Cambridge

Madlyn Johnson shares memories about her social youth in Cambridge.

Dennis Dottin shares a story about the rich recreational programming that he facilitated as Director of the Neighborhood House Teen Center in Cambridge

Wesley Taylor shares the story of his departure from, and return to Cambridge.

Wendell Bourne shares the story of a pivotal moment in his college experience that forever changed how he understood the world.

David Wood shares memories about his experience of Cambridge, including a story about his great-grandmother and her conviction to hold onto their family home.

Earle Maxwell shares the story of some of his professional experiences working for the The United States Postal Service.

Jeanette Pina shares the story of “The Pearls.”

Phyllis Janey shares the story of some of the teachers who made a strong impression on her growing up in Cambridge

Marian Darlington-Hope shares her experiences of deep community engagement throughout her life in Cambridge.

Bruce Marshall shares some of his experiences of growing up in the Cambridge community.

Robert Murrell Jr. shares his story of how the Harvard Upward Bound program, along with some very special teachers, shaped the course of his life.

Gloria Bourne Lee shares her story of determination and education.

Eddie Harris describes in detailed recollection what it was like for him growing up in Cambridge.

Elsie Thornhill Harding Scott talks about some of her social experiences with The Margaret Fuller House and The Neighborhood House in Cambridge.

Roland Gibson shares his story of how teachers made a difference in his life.

Elaine Thorne shares some of her memories of growing up in The Coast neighborhood of Cambridge.

Linda Johnson shares some of her memories and professional experiences in Cambridge, including working at Mount Auburn Hospital.

Rick Weir shares some of his experiences of coming from Barbados to Cambridge.

Roy (Tony) Charles shares his memories of the Blacksmith House Bakery.

Daniel Queen Jr. talks about his discovery of Cambridge Public Library and how he came to write for the Cambridge Chronicle.

Charlene Reese recalls some of her educational and professional experiences including working as a substitute teacher.

Richard Harding shares his story of attending Rindge Tech and Cambridge High and Latin.

Tony Spears shares some of his experiences of growing up in Cambridge, and recalls a very good secret.

Danita Callender shares some of her memories of growing up in Cambridge.

Joan Johnson shares some of her memories of traveling and camping growing up.

Patricia Lewis talks about some of the wonderful times she had as youth in Cambridge.

Leslie Gore talks about her love for Cambridge.

Darryl Simpson shares his story of basketball and community.

Sherri Dottin talks about some of her experiences growing up and Cambridge and moving away.

Ernest Di Natale shares some of his experiences and memories of Cambridge being a working class city.

Lawrence R. Smith talks about being an entrepreneurial youth that brought him to an interest in electronics.

Chandra Banks shares her story of how Hip Hip has informed her lived experience and professional career.

Lois McGhee shares memories about the 78 RPM records she loved listening to in her youth.

Dana Ellcock reflects on growing up in Cambridge.

Toni Phillips talks about her arrival to Cambridge, and how she became part of the Cambridge community.

Clark Warner remembers some of his experiences in Cambridge schools and reflects on education as a foundational value in his family.

Sheri Callender shares the story of the impact her grandmother has had on her life.

Cameron T.L. McIntosh Sr. shares some of his memories from Cambridge that keep him connected to the community.

Chandra Harrington talks about her unique Cambridge education, and having the opportunity to cook dinner for Julia Child.

Kafi Harrington shares her story of being a fifth generation Cantabrigian, leaving Cambridge, and then coming back.

Earl “Poncho” Johnson shares his memories of growing up and moving to Cambridge.

Michael Bascomb reflections on a memorable teacher who has had a lasting impact on him.

Kamala Harrington recalls some of her professional experiences and finding her creative path. T

Wilhelmina Lewis shares her story of moving from Cambridge to Philadelphia.

Richard Warner reflects on the interconnected, supportive Black community that he experienced growing up in Cambridge.

Emery Springer shares some of his educational and professional experiences, including being one of the first Black students admitted to Northeastern’s Pilot Co-Op Program in the 1960’s.

Clyde Lindsay shares the powerful story of Mr. Frank Frisoli.

Linda Jackson Ezell remembers how much joy she took in attending school when she was growing up in Cambridge.

Mark Braithwaite talks about the impact of growing up surrounded by a community of support that included multiple generations of family, all living in Cambridge at the same time.