African American Studies


Ernest Greg’s family moved from the South, to Atlantic City, to the Bronx in the 1930’s. The family came to the Morrisania section of the Bronx because Greg’s father was a Pullman porter. The family lived in a five-story walk-up until Ernest was about 12 on 169th street. He remembers his block as being predominately black, but Park Avenue, which was close by, as being ethnically diverse. He also remembers feeling very safe in that neighborhood. All of the adults looked out for the children.

When he was 12, the family moved to the newly opened Castle Hill projects, which was seen as a step up for the family. At this time, he began attending P.S. 138. He felt inferior to the mostly white children attending this school because of the sub-par education he received at P.S. 2. Although his uncle was Dizzy Gillespie, Greg does not remember music or jazz being a big part of his childhood. The way Greg made most of his new friends at Castle Hill was through learning how to play basketball. Prior to living in the development, he had no idea how to play, but quickly picked it up in order to make friends.

He remembers being warned to stay away from certain neighborhoods because of gang activity there. Greg explains that it was not as though the gangs would stab people but rather they would beat up kids for invading the gang’s turf.

He attended Junior High in Throgsneck at P.S. 101. He remembers feeling very intimidated by some of the bigger black kids in his class as well as the grades ahead of him. He thinks that the guys would go after smaller guys just as a matter of theatrics, rather then actually trying to cause physical pain. However, Greg had a large group of friends that would always back him up if he ever got into trouble.

After P.S. 101, he attended Monroe High School. Although he was a good runner, he never pursued track. He was much more interested in the social scene of high school and frequently attended house parties. These house parties were not ethnically mixed and parents were usually in attendance.

He did not become interested in academics until his parents really began pushing him in his senior year of high school. This, in combination with family ties, led him to attend college at Clapton University. However, he could not endure the racism of the south, and returned to New York after only one year. A little while later he enrolled at Sarah Lawrence. By this time, he had become increasingly politically active. He began attending black history and advocacy lectures at different churches around the Bronx

After graduating from Sarah Lawrence, he moved to Harlem. Being surrounded by so many bright people, he began to think that the education system in New York was broken. First he went into daycare then he went into New York City Public Schools.

Gregg, Earnest.mp3 (85949 kB)

Click below to download supplemental content.

Gregg, Earnest.mp3 (85949 kB)