Voices of Cayuga County
Voices of Cayuga County is a local oral history collecting and archiving project coordinated by the Seymour Library and the Cayuga Museum of History and Art. Through this project, the museum and the library intend to create an ongoing culture of story-sharing in Auburn and provide an accessible database of local oral histories that better reflects the community’s diversity and how that diversity has impacted Auburn and the county’s history. By making a conscious effort towards enhancing a diverse representation and focusing on individual stories, the goal is for the community to become more directly engaged with archiving their personal connection to and role in history.
While our institutions maintain significant collections concerning the history of the county and city, we have very little representation or documentation of first-person accounts regarding the history of our Black, Latina/o, and LGBTQ+ communities. This community-led project is just the beginning of telling these stories. Please peruse the finished videos and downloadable transcripts found here on the website. You will also find this content at New York Heritage Site and Seymour Library websites.
Thank you to all the community members who agreed to be interviewed for this project, and thank you to the interns whose hard work made this project possible!
John Hardy (Jack) describes life in Cayuga County. He was born in Auburn and has returned to live in the house he grew up in, after a career with Colgate Palmolive. His father was the city’s first African American firefighter. He describes Auburn’s multicultural neighborhoods and his work on the Civil Service Commission.
Ray Richardson describes life in Cayuga County. He was born in Brooklyn and moved to Auburn as a child in the 1990s, where he converted from Islam to Christianity. He discusses his education and career, besides Auburn’s history and the pandemic.
Stephen Gamba describes life in Cayuga County. He grew up in Auburn in the 1970s, where his dad worked at Alco. His two older brothers have since moved to Cato, north of Auburn. He describes the Italian neighborhood he grew up in, as well as the difference he sees in self-expression during his youth and the kids he teaches today.
Paris Price describes growing up in Syracuse, New York, as well as her education and career. She serves as the pastor of Auburn’s Harriet Tubman Memorial AME Zion Church, beginning in 2020. She discusses her passion for supporting equality, especially in small businesses.
Danielle Bergan describes life in Cayuga County, where she lived in Auburn in the 1950s and 1960s. She talks about her career, childhood pastimes, school, mental health, pandemic lifestyle, and gender identity. She now lives in Hawaii.
William (bill) berry describes life in Cayuga County. He discusses his childhood in the Bronx in the Paterson Projects in the 1950s, his faith, and childhood activities. He spoke about attending college and the shift in cultural norms. He talks about living in Auburn and the changes seen around his house between 1997 and 2020.
Lithgow Osborne describes life in Cayuga County, where he grew up in Auburn in the 1960s with six siblings. His parents worked for the newspaper. He described walking to Seward school and the character of the neighborhood, including the changes brought by Urban Renewal and the Arterial. He described feeling accepted as a gay man, in part because of his last name and prominent ancestors.
Lucien (Lou) Lombardo describes life in Cayuga County, where he lived in Auburn in the late 1940s into the 1970s, when he moved to Virginia. He talks about working at the Auburn State Prison, prison reform, his Catholic neighborhood full of Italians and Poles, and life during the pandemic.
Gilda Brower describes life in Cayuga County. She was raised in New York City but lived in Auburn, NY from 1980 to the present. She describes her family life as a child, civil rights, working in education, and the pandemic.
Gwendolyn (Gwen) Webber-McLeod describes her Afrocentric, “accidental feminist” childhood in a military family with three sisters. She discussed Black Greek life, family values, religion, feminism, education, her career in nonprofits, books, her family, health, and Harriet Tubman. She moved to Auburn in 1980.
Patrick Heery describes life in Cayuga County. He grew up in Cincinnati in the 90s and describes his childhood and school experiences, which included bullying for his speech impediment. He described his passion for social justice and nature, as well as his faith. He describes his family as both “progressive and religious.” He’s a pastor in Auburn in the Presbyterian Church. He discusses the Black Lives Matter movement, his growing family, and the pandemic.
Do you want to share your story with us?
We plan to continue collecting oral histories as time and funding allow so if you or someone you know would be interested in adding your voices to the ongoing narrative, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Voices of Cayuga County is a collaborative project between the Seymour Library and the Cayuga Museum of History and Art. The project was funded by a grant from South Central Regional Library Council (SCRLC). SCRLC’s Technology and Digitization Grants are funded as part of the Regional Bibliographic Data Bases and Interlibrary Resources Sharing (RBDB) Program.