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Sanchez Korrol, Virginia (1936–) - Puerto Rican History

brooklyn school studies college

Virginia Sanchez Korrol was born on August 27, 1936, in New York City to Antonio Sanchez Feliciano and Elisa Santiago Rodriguez. Her mother was a full-time homemaker and her father a blue-collar worker on the Pennsylvania Railroad; both were from Puerto Rico. She attended St. Anselm’s Elementary School in the Bronx and then Walton High School in the Bronx and Bay Ridge High School in Brooklyn. Her early influences included her family, school, sports, and a love of reading, music, movies, and theater.

A leader in multicultural education, Sanchez Korrol writes that her first encounters with multicultural reality occurred when she was raised Irish Catholic. “How does a light-skinned Puerto Rican girl,” she jokes, “who could hardly distinguish the SH in shore from the CH in chicken, get raised Irish Catholic?” For Sanchez Korrol, attending an Irish Catholic school in the South Bronx as one of only a “fistful” of Puerto Ricans, the need to survive amid contradictions was paramount. She learned nothing in school about her own rich multicultural and multiracial history, but she learned to admire the tenacity of the Irish as they fought British domination. She learned to negotiate the language and other cultural differences between home and school, celebrating St. Patrick at school, enjoying her mother’s bottomless pots of rice and salsa-enhanced beans with her extended family at home. “If you wanted to survive you had to train yourself to see the forest and the trees,” she writes, “for both were equally important.”

Sanchez Korrol attended Brooklyn College as an undergraduate, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1960. Her first field was English literature and secondary education. She took graduate classes in literature and pedagogy at Chicago Teachers College and Brooklyn College before changing fields. Since history had always formed the context for her studies of literature, the progression from literature to history was a natural one. “My decision to study history,” she states, “coincided with my desire to write about Puerto Ricans in the U.S.” Sanchez Korrol then received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Latin American history from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She is professor of Puerto Rican studies at Brooklyn College.

In her tenure at Brooklyn College, Sanchez Korrol served as coordinator of Caribbean studies from 1982 to 1984 and as coordinator of studies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America from 1988 to 1990. She currently serves both as co-director for Latino studies and as chair of the department of Puerto Rican studies. Among her many contributions to the university and the community are her creation of the Hispanic Advisory Council for the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President and her enrichment and outreach programs to connect the college and the city’s Hispanic communities.

Virginia Sanchez Korrol’s publications include her book From Colonia to Community: The History of Puerto Ricans in New York City , reissued in 1994 by the University of California Press. She also has two edited collections and nearly twenty articles, including “In Search of Unconventional Women: Histories of Puerto Rican Women in Religious Vocations Before Mid-Century,” in Vicki Ruiz and Ellen DuBois’s edited collection Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women’s History (1990), and The Puerto Rican Struggle: Essays on Survival in the U.S. , edited with Clara E. Rodriguez and Jose Oscar Alers. She is co-author, with Mario Garcia, Gerald Poyo, and Zaragoza Vargas, of Latino: A Comparative History of Hispanics in the U.S. , forthcoming.

Aside from her publications, Sanchez Korrol takes pride in her curriculum work for the New York State Education Department, her efforts in establishing Puerto Rican studies as a discipline, and her founding presidency of the Puerto Rican Studies Association. She has received many awards, including a Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office Puerto Rican Higher Education Award, a Leadership Citation from the Brooklyn Borough President, and most recently, a March of Dimes Woman of Distinction Award. The March of Dimes recognized her in part for her personal conviction that “each of us is accountable to the communities we represent and shares responsibility for their advancement.”

Virginia Sanchez Korrol has also served on an external evaluation team for the Museum of the City of New York, as a consultant on the Brooklyn’s Hispanic Communities Oral History Project, and as one of three U.S. scholars on the international program committee of the Fifth International Congress on Hispanic Cultures in the United States, which was held in Madrid, Spain, in 1992.

Virginia Sanchez Korrol is married to Charles R. Korrol and has two daughters, Pamela and Lauren. Her hobbies include reading, swimming, and home decorating. She also enjoys her “professional hobby” of creating conferences and organizations where none existed before.

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