Margaret Fraser and Samantha Gibson
Oral Histories of New York City Taxi Drivers
Taxi cabs undoubtedly constitute one of the most enduring symbols of New York City and we would argue that, like the image of the yellow cab, the city’s cab drivers also represent a unique and valuable facet of the New York City experience. Over the next nine months, we will research, plan, and create a project in which we will record and preserve oral histories of New York City taxi drivers. In the course of this process, we will create a research-based funding and institutional partnership proposal and, ultimately, a website through which we will foster dynamic and accessible public engagement with our oral history collection. As such, our project will constitute a bridge between oral history, digital history, and grassroots documentation of New York City.
Through full length oral history interviews with a diverse body of taxi drivers, we hope to capture some of the ways in which race, nationality, gender, class, and religion shape the cab driver’s experience. We anticipate that our oral histories may also reflect such pressing concerns as immigration processes, labor issues, and the intricacies of the taxi industry. Thus, we are at once interested in the individual life histories of our subjects as well as in the unique perspectives that cab drivers may shed on the landscape, character and people of New York City.
As we are fully aware that an institutional affiliation would bolster the credibility and sustainability of our project, we have decided to propose our project to three different institutional partners: Brooklyn Historical Society, City Lore, and NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. We are confident that we can design our project to align with the missions and institutional values of each of these institutions without losing our focus on the lives and personal narratives of our interviewees. As we craft alternate interpretive angles for our final project, we will reach out to a range of advisers, including oral historians, labor organizers, public historians, and archivists in order to create a project that is as valuable to our audience as possible.