NJ Hispanic Research & Information Center Newark Public Library


Oral history is a sound recording of historical information, obtained through an interview that preserves a person's life history or eyewitness account of a past experience. The recordings carry the witness of the present into the future, where through creative programs and publications, they can inform, instruct, and inspire generations to come.

Oral history provides a fuller, more accurate picture of the past by augmenting the information provided by public records, statistical data, photographs, maps, letters, diaries, and other historical materials. Eyewitnesses to events contribute various viewpoints and perspectives that fill in the gaps in documented history, sometimes correcting or even contradicting the written record. Interviewers are able to ask questions left out of other records and to interview people whose stories have been untold or forgotten. At times, an interview may serve as the only source of information available about a certain place, event, or person.

Oral history helps us understand how individuals and communities experienced the forces of history.

–Baylor University Institute for Oral History

New Jersey is home to the seventh largest Latino population in the United States. Between 2000 and 2010 the number of Hispanics in the state rose 39.2 percent, but the history of Latinos in New Jersey spans several generations. The first group to arrive in large numbers was the Puerto Rican community, whose numbers surged from under 10,000 to more than 240,000 between 1950 and 1980. Other Hispanic groups followed: Cubans, Dominicans, Colombians, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, and Mexicans, among others. Today, 18 percent of New Jersey's residents are Latino, making this population the state's largest minority group.

Latino Oral Histories are intrinsic to the New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center's mission to document and preserve the history of Latinos in the state of New Jersey. This collection of oral histories offers direct, first–person accounts of the lives and experiences of men and women from diverse Latino backgrounds who call New Jersey home. Their stories are a living testimony of 20th Century Latino experience in the state, documenting the vibrant role this community has played in New Jersey's social, political, and cultural history.

The New Jersey Historical Commission, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and the Friends of the HRIC have generously supported the development of several distinct NJHRIC Latino oral history projects since 2007:


The Justice Project
"Photographs." Amilkar Velez–López – Papers, Puerto Rican Community Archives at the Newark Public Library. OZ_SZ 4.

The Justice Project

Latino Life Stories

"Campaign – McCann '85." Eliú Rivera – Papers, Puerto Rican Community Archives at the Newark Public Library. OZ_SZ 1.

Latino Life Stories

Search the Latino Oral History Collection:

Latino Life Stories (2007-08)
• Interviews of 15 community leaders from different regions of the state.
Activist Voices (2009-2010) [work in progress]
• Pioneer Puerto Rican community leader, activist, educator, Hilda Hidalgo
• Historian, educator, community leader, Dr. Olga Jiménez–Wagenheim
[This collection will be made available online as funding becomes available for additional processing.]

The Justice Project (2011-2012)
• 10 interviews focusing on the theme of justice. The interviewees' professional backgrounds are diverse, including the legal profession and law enforcement, but also extending into prisoner advocacy, social services, labor organizing, media and electoral politics.
The NJHRIC conducted targeted studies on the Cuban, Dominican, Colombian and Ecuadorian communities in New Jersey during the latter part of the 2000s, for a series of New Jersey Latino Community Profiles. As a result of this research, the Center is now in possession of four distinct collections of interviews documenting these communities. As funding becomes available these interviews will be processed and incorporated into the Latino Oral History Collection.

Biographical sketches, photos, audio clips and fully text–searchable transcripts are available by clicking on the links above.

All content is available free of charge for educational purposes.

Preferred citation: Interview of [Interviewee name] by [Interviewer name], [date of interview]; Hispanic Reference Collection of the NJ Hispanic Research & Information Center at the Newark Public Library.

(Prepared by Ingrid Betancourt. September 17, 2012)

NJ Historical Commission NJ Council for the Humanities Friends of the NJHRIC


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