Brooklyn CORE

According to a list found in Rioghan Kirchner's archive of Brooklyn CORE housed in the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, the chapter started in September, 1960. Its first members are listed as: Dr. Robert Palmer, Marjorie Leeds, Harry Kanford, Major Beecher Jackson, Mrs. Clarence Hinnant.

In his dissertation, Purnell introduces as Marjorie Leeds (White) and Dr. Robert Palmer (Black), as the real catalysts. They start the group as part of the Woolworth's protests in 1960 in Brooklyn. Working with Tom Roberts from New York CORE, these two formed the first demonstration line against Woolworth's in Brooklyn.

Dr. Palmer was the first chairman and the first meetings were held at his house and a local YMCA. Ben Brown (Black) was his vice chair.

A small group of Whites and Blacks, the Whites were mostly Jews and the Blacks were 'respectable'. Not all the White members were Jewish, as in the case of Rioghan Kirchner (White), a British expatriate who often had her two children in demonstrations with her.

As with the other chapters that were sprouting up, BK CORE's first campaign dealt with the issue of housing. With help from Gladys Harrington of New York CORE, this led to a series of successful housing campaigns. Like other CORE chapters, BK CORE used the classic testing technique of sending in a Black couple which, if rejected, would be followed by a White couple. If the investigation revealed bias and the realtor refused to negotiate once discriminatory practices were exposed, the group went to direct action. In these first cases, Brooklyn CORE members immediately held a sit in at the rental office or the apartment being rented while some walked a picket line outside.

The role of White members was extremely important in CORE's early housing campaigns. The history of Brooklyn CORE speaks specifically to the roles of its Jewish members in winning the chapter's campaigns.

One of the chapter's regular testers was Rabbi Kurt Flascher, a left of center orthodox Jew, immigrant and Holocaust survivor. Even though he and his immediate family just escaped the Krystal Nacht, he lost extended family. On one occasion after initiating direct action, he was able to use his experiences in dealing with a Jewish landlord by reminding him of how as Jews they had been victims of discrimination. He also spoke to him in Yiddish.

Nicknamed the 'rebel Rabbi', Flascher along with Velma Hill and others from New York-Harlem CORE, later made history when they were arrested in 1963 for sitting in at at a Manhattan apartment building on the upper west side. According to national CORE, 'The case is very significant in view of the facts that these were the very first convictions handed down in a civil rights demonstration in New York State...' .

Arnie Goldwag, who became known as the chapter's chief trouble maker and rabble rouser, took housing protests to another level. During one housing campaign against another Jewish landlord, Goldwag, whose brother was a rabbi and was expected himself to become a Talmudic scholar, actually took his protest to the landlord's synagogue. Goldwag not only picketed in front of his synagogue, he followed him inside the synagogue and walked around with a sign stating the landlord's name and that 'he discriminated against Blacks.' Again, the landlord eventually gave in.

These early cases were all ones that came to BK CORE from walk ins. The chapter switched tactics when it decided to initiate a campaign by going after Lefrak City, the biggest housing complex in Queens with over five thousand apartments in twenty buildings. It was owned by the Lefrak Corporation, one of the largest real estate companies in New York which also owned buildings all over Brooklyn. After testing revealed it had a de facto 'Whites only' policy and corporate heads refused to negotiate, Brooklyn CORE picketed in front of the corporate office while up to twenty five members sat in. Arnie Goldwag as the community relations director went to work with his contacts in the press. Within eight hours, Lefrak gave in. BK CORE member Rose Beverly (Black) eventually took an apartment.

By 1962, Rioghan Kirchner the chairman of the housing committee became vice chairman. For all its activity and success, BK CORE was still a relatively small group with about a dozen active members and forty associates. Its first office was a space a lawyer gave them in his office at 319 Nostrand Avenue.

>>>> Part 2 <<<<