Columbia Launches David N. Dinkins Archives and Oral History

April 29, 2002 - Columbia has launched the David N. Dinkins Archives and Oral History Project, which will include an archive of Dinkins' official and personal papers and corres-pondence, an oral history of Dinkins' life, political philosophy and policy agenda, and a program initiative documenting the influences of black political leaders on New York City and the national political arena.

David N. Dinkins

Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library and its Oral History Research Office will develop the archives and oral history project in cooperation with the School of International and Public Affairs' (SIPA) Center for Urban Research and Policy (CURP) at Columbia. The Dinkins project, directed by Deborah Ward, research scholar and SIPA faculty member, will encourage access to these materials for professional scholars wishing to produce papers, monographs, books and documentary films.

"The Dinkins Archives and the Oral History Project will add immeasurably to the resources for studying New York history at Columbia," said Columbia Librarian James Neal. "These materials will be tremendous additions to the University's oral histories of New York City Mayors Edward Koch, William O'Dwyer, Robert Wagner and Fiorello LaGuardia and of numerous world leaders, including Thurgood Marshall, Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter."

Although originals of Dinkins' mayoral papers will remain at the City Archives, Columbia will maintain photocopies of these documents, along with other materials from Dinkins' life and career, in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The Library maintains other collections relating to 20th-century political life including the Herbert H. Lehman Papers, the Citizens' Union Papers and the Papers of Whitney Young.

The Oral History Research Office will begin a lengthy oral history project with Dinkins and anticipates the second portion of the oral history project will include interviews with black political leaders in New York City, tracing their influence over the last half-century.

The project was announced by James G. Neal, University Librarian, on April 29 at the 8th Annual David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum, sponsored by the School of International and Public Affairs' (SIPA) Center for Urban Research and Policy (CURP) at Columbia. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered the forum's keynote address.

"Columbia is fortunate to have the opportunity to undertake this project in research, education and community outreach," said President George Rupp. "The historical richness of David Dinkins' legacy and the contributions of New York's African-American political leaders will be a tremendous addition to the University's scholarly resources."

The archive and oral history elements will serve as a foundation for program initiatives on black political life in New York City and the nation. Columbia will seek to partner with several New York City institutions in developing a series of program concepts and productions on the history of black leadership. Currently, the University is anticipating working in this capacity with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which is headed by Howard Dodson.

"David Dinkins' significance in New York City's history is unparalleled," said SIPA Dean Lisa Anderson. "As the first African-American mayor of the largest city in the nation, Mayor Dinkins plays a prominent role in the history of African-American politics as well as the study of New York City and the urban history of America -- indeed, in the history of people of African descent around the world." Dinkins, the 106th mayor of New York City, has been a professor in the practice of public affairs at SIPA since 1994.

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office is the oldest and largest university-based archive and program in the world. The collection holds nearly 8,000 tape-recorded and transcribed interviews. The program is also a center for teaching and research, sponsoring an annual summer institute in oral history, and opportunities for students, visiting scholars and fellows.

Columbia University Libraries is the nation's eighth largest academic library system, with 7.5 million volumes, 49,000 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms and other non-print formats. The collections are particularly strong in humanities and history, architecture, East Asian and other Area Studies materials, oral history, theater, and original materials in English and American literature and history. The collections and services are organized into 22 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. The Library's web site at is a gateway to the print and electronic collections and services.

For information contact:

Jean Ashton
Director, Rare Book & Manuscript Library
(212) 854-2231

Mary Marshall Clark
Director, Oral History Research Office
(212) 854-2273