Mr. William Harris born in 1936, grew up in the Brooklyn community and has strong, fond memories of the area that was once his home. He attended Brooklyn Presbyterian Church, Myers Street Elementary School, and Second Ward High School. Dr. Harris was a teacher and a principal at schools that were located in Brooklyn, including Myers Street, Biddleville, and Bruns Avenue. Dr. Harris was effusive in his praise for the Brooklyn community he grew up in, the church he worshipped at (as well all the Brooklyn churches), and the schools he learned life-sustaining lessons at. He said that neighbors acted as if they were members of an extended family, nurturing and disciplining children as needed. He said that his teachers instilled in him the importance of planning ahead, the necessity of punctuality, and a respect for work performed with the hands. He passed those and other lessons onto his students and to their parents. Dr. Harris is critical of the urban renewal project that destroyed his neighborhood. Because his boyhood homes, church, and schools are gone, he considers himself “the kid that never was”. He castigated Charlotte’s political leaders that approved of the renewal project, sarcastically referring to them as “so-called city fathers” whose errors included selling the Brooklyn community “a bill of goods” while removing them from their homes and institutions in the name of progress. Dr. Harris said that there are different meanings of the concept “progress”. Despite the removal, Dr. Harris praised former residents for their resilience in moving on with their lives and for keeping the memory of Brooklyn alive. He participated in this interview because he wanted to show that although physical things can be removed, one’s spirit cannot be disrupted.
Tape Log: Oral History Interview with William Harris
Interviewed by Keith Mann
TimeDescription of Interview Contents0:00Dr. Harris had lived in Brooklyn all his early life.4:00Dr. Harris taught at the same elementary school that he attended, Myers Street.5:00Dr. Harris discussed his career which included principalships and a stint with the Educational Testing Service.10:00Dr. Harris reflected on his fond memories of Brooklyn, talking about the neighborhood, the churches, the movie theaters, and the library, lamenting the urban renewal project.15:00Dr. Harris described “the kid that never was” and why he feels that way.18:00Dr. Harris praised Second Ward High School, commending its teachers, band, and its classes(academic and vocational) that helped make him, inter alia, self-sufficient. He was effusive in his praise for Second Ward.29:00Dr. Harris related how he passed the lessons he learned in Brooklyn schools on to his students and their parents.32:00Dr. Harris remembered his circle of friends.34:00Dr. Harris remembered the church he grew up in, Brooklyn Presbyterian.36:00Dr. Harris castigated urban renewal. He praised the victims of the renewal project for their resilience, but criticized the “so-called city fathers”.43:00Dr. Harris told of learning about the urban renewal project through his church, and the limited options the church had to exercise.48:00Dr. Harris reflected on the “bill of goods” that Brooklyn was sold, and different meanings of the concept “progress”.51:00Dr. Harris recalled the lack of protest.54:00Dr. Harris told who benefited from the urban renewal project.66:00Dr. Harris said what lessons city political leaders should take from the destruction of Brooklyn.67:00Dr. Harris discussed ways to keep the memory of Brooklyn alive.70:00Dr. Harris told why he decided to be interviewed.