Welcome to the Tamiment Library’s collection of oral histories from the New York City Immigrant Labor History Project Oral History Collection! Use the menu at the top of the page to browse by interviewee name, subject organization, subject compilation, or use the text search function. Image from unknown source of crowds of people

The New York City Immigrant Labor History Project was led by Herbert Gutman, a professor of history at the City College of New York (CCNY), between 1972 and 1976. The project sought to reexamine immigrants’ and migrants’ patterns of cultural adaptation to urban and industrial life in the early 20th century in order to challenge the prevailing theories in social history at the time. Gutman designed the project to combine traditional historical research methods with the relatively new approach of oral history. By documenting the lives of immigrants and migrants who settled in New York, New York between 1900 and 1930 and compiling data on their family relationships, work patterns, and associational lives, Gutman hoped to reveal the ways in which people from rural, non-industrial areas adapted to the structured environment of the factory and the crowded city.

Between 1973 and 1975 almost 230 oral history interviews were conducted with Eastern Europeans, Irish, Italian, Russian, Scandinavian, and West Indian immigrants; black and Puerto Rican migrants; and the children of immigrants and migrants. The interviews were conducted by faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in CCNY’s Department of History. Gutman oversaw the entire project and taught courses designed to prepare the student interviewers for conducting the oral histories. Virginia Yans-McLaughlin, then assistant professor of history at CCNY, co-managed the project with Gutman and directed undergraduate student interviewers. Three junior faculty members, Leon Fink, William Eric Perkins, and Ari Joel Perlmann, conducted interviews and taught courses related to the project. Ronald Grele, an oral historian, served as a consultant and provided direction on the oral history interviews and conducted training sessions for the interviewers.

The project staff worked closely with labor unions, cultural organizations, and nursing homes in New York City, including the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union; the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1814; the Kingsbridge Heights Nursing Home; Local 1199 Drug, Hospital, and Health Care Employees Union; the National Council of Jewish Women; and the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged. These organizations facilitated meetings between project staff and interested members or residents and allowed the project staff to arrange and conduct interviews.

Search through these oral histories by using the search bar or the "Oral Histories" section of this website. Oral histories are organized by name, subject organization, and subject compilation. Further information about the New York City Immigrant Labor History Project Oral History Collection can be found in collection's finding aid

**Funding provided by the New York State Documentary History Program