African American Studies
Chrystal Wade moved to the Bronx from Harlem when she was five years old after moving from the Harlem River Drive projects to Detroit and back to New York. Chrystal’s mother gave birth to her at age 18, but she was adopted by her grandparents at age five, as they wanted to make sure she would have a good structured family life. Upon moving into a five-story walkup at 532 East 157th Street and St. Ann’s avenue, her father and brother-in-law almost immediately had an altercation with the neighbors because her family was the second black family in the building. She says that the block was not unfriendly to her as a child, and after that incident, there were no problems. Chrystal recalls the experience fondly, remembering her Irish and Italian neighbors and playing with the children in her building. She remembers that she was socially accepted on her block and describes being able to eat foods that her mom probably didn’t prepare.
Chrystal went to P.S. 38 until the seventh grade and speaks positively of her early education experiences. She had a black teacher in the third grade who she says was instrumental in the success of her and her friend throughout elementary school. Chrystal felt in the lower grades that the education was good, and that the teachers were concerned about the students. Although the school had two black families and a few Hispanic families, she recalls her school as being predominantly white. However, her classmates did not see her as black, or different from them. After school, Chrystal would do homework and was under the supervision of an Irish woman who would watch her until her father got home at five. Eventually, more black people moved into the neighborhood, but her block suffered during the arson-fires and many people began to move away.
Chrystal’s junior high school and high school experience was not as positive as her elementary school; though she was a solid B student, she says it was only because it was expected of her. Chrystal says her skin color became an issue after she moved out of the neighborhood and came back to the Bronx and went to P.S. 80, Moshulu Junior High School. In ninth grade a teacher expressed discontent that she had a “nigger…in her class”. As a result, Chrystal became a nuisance in the class because she did not like how the teacher treated her, and she was turned off from the subject. Her poor skills in math would accumulate and she would suffer from consistently poor math skills, which would later affect her jobs.
Chrystal worked at James Ewing hospital and later at Lincoln Hospital. Although she had not yet received her GED, she was able to work under the pretense that she would receive it within two years. Her GED instructor at the Roosevelt math course where she studied told her class “All of you are going to take the GED and none of you are going to pass it.” Similarly to her previous experience with racism, she faced racism in the classroom, but opted to ignore it this time, and she eventually got her GED.
Wade, Chrystal. Date of Interview Unknown. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
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