Sheepshead Bay

Before he was a candidate, Bernie Sanders was a Brooklyn high school track star

February 18, 2020 Noah Singer
Bernie Sanders high School newspaper
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The Brooklyn Public Library has digitized nearly 1,000 newspapers published between 1853 and 1994 by New York City high school students, including one featuring a young track star named Bernie Sanders, among other notable Brooklynites. 

The newly archived collection, comprised primarily of papers dating from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, provides an opportunity to “see the world in the eyes of students back then, because there are so many notable events,” said BPL Manager of Special Collections Natiba Guy-Clement. 

“We have a D-Day issue, there’s the assassination of John F. Kennedy. One student interviewed Martin Luther King, Jr. in Philadelphia,” she said.  

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, who graduated from Sheepshead Bay’s James Madison High School in 1959, appears numerous times in the pages of the Madison HighwayA 1959 issue of the paper features a piece about the then-Student Body President’s plan to bring back a cast of notable James Madison alumni for a fundraising basketball game to benefit children affected by the Korean War. Further editions detail his achievements as a track team star

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Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen appears in Fort Hamilton High School’s The Pilot and politician and educator Shirley Chisholm (then Shirley St. Hill), is mentioned in Girls’ High Record from Girls’ High School. 

Though the library has collected high school newspapers for some time, it was eventually forced to withhold public access to the physical documents. 

“We’ve collected high school newspapers for many, many years,” said Guy-Clement. “Because [the physical archive] had been used so much, its condition didn’t hold up.”

The records are downloadable, free to the public and accessible worldwide. They’re also keyword-searchable, meaning users can search the newspapers’ text for individual words and phrases. 

“We’ve been contacting as many of the schools that are still around as we can about the new digitization,” said Guy-Clement. “I just want people to dive in and have some fun taking a look at Brooklyn history.” 

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