African American Studies


Everard Rhoden (b. 1943) is a lifelong educator who hopes to embark on a second career as an entrepreneur. Originally from Jamaica, Rhoden immigrated to the US in 1954 to join his mother, who had immigrated in 1952. His mother worked as a live-in assistant in Queens at first, and then Everard and his mother moved to the Longwood section of the Bronx. At the time, the neighborhood was quite diverse, including Jews, Hispanics, Italians, African-Americans, West Indians, and Irish. Over time, the neighborhood became more homogenously black. Growing up, Everard was involved in gangs, although their activities were fairly benign and mostly non-violent. He was an excellent student, partially owing to the fact that his schooling in Jamaica was more serious and difficult than schooling in the US. His mother, who had a second-grade education, took Everard’s education very seriously: she insisted that he keep regular hours, that he finish his school work, and that he not get involved in street culture. Today, Everard considers his mother’s strictness instrumental in making sure that he did not get off track in what could be a very tough neighborhood.

Soon, Rhoden and his mother moved farther north in the Bronx, to Washington Avenue. He attended Morris high school, where he had a very positive experience. His teachers were dedicated, the student body was socially, economically, and racially diverse, and all of the students were bonded by a feeling of pride for their school. Rhoden continued to be a good student, and also excelled in athletics, where he played basketball, handball, and ran on the track team. He subsequently attended City College, where he became interested in the Civil Rights movement, which was just beginning to garner national and international attention. Disappointed by the underrepresentation for the black student minority at CC, Rhoden formed the Onyx society, which was more or less a black student union: it counted Africans, West Indians, and African-Americans among its ranks. Despite this initial underrepresentation, Rhoden found CC students surprisingly open-minded and cosmopolitan. The white students (mostly Jewish) were interested in the Civil Rights movement, and were eager to discuss race relations and prejudices with their black classmates. Everard studied political science under an all-star political science faculty. Upon graduating, he worked briefly in banking, and then decided that he wanted to attend law school. However, first he wanted to avoid the Vietnam draft. He discovered that public school teachers were ineligible for the draft, and his initial plan was to teach junior high and high school during the day and attend law school by night, but once he secured a job as a teacher, he found that he loved being an educator. He first taught back in his old neighborhood, Longwood, at PS 124. By this time the neighborhood was much more homogenous—many of the white ethnic groups had moved out, and now Longwood was almost universally black. In addition, there was a good deal of at-risk youth. Rhoden developed a number of techniques for dealing with such school-resistant students, and his methods (described in transcript) have influenced countless young men and women over the last forty years. At the time of interview, Rhoden was considering leaving teaching to become an entrepreneur.

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