African American Studies
Joseph Orange’s family moved to the Bronx in 1941 from Harlem, he is the youngest of 8. Orange grew up in the Morrissina section. Orange explained that the Bronx represented upward mobility to many African Americans at the time.
There were a number of musicians in his family. Orange’s uncle, J.C Higgenbotham was a popular trombone player in the 30’s and 40’s. He went on to play with Louis Armstrong and other famous jazz musicians. Orange was surrounded by music growing up. Neighbors would play music that could be heard on the street. Music stores would play music out the windows. Orange describes listening to many different types of music, including Spanish music and reggae. In all, Orange contends that his neighborhood was a music hotbed. He marvels at the vast amount of musicians who all came out of that one area in the Bronx and then became professional artists.
Orange’s first vivid memory was at the end of WWII in 1945. He remembers his neighbors parading around the neighborhood celebrating the conclusion of the war. Orange describes a very racially homogenous neighborhood with a few Puerto Ricans moving in some years later. Most of the families in his neighborhood were single-family houses headed by a matriarch. While the neighborhoods weren’t diverse, the schools were. Orange describes his high school, Moriss High, as being half black and half white. Orange cannot think of a time where racism presented a challenge to him in his school or neighborhood.
Orange talks about the deterioration of his neighbored and the process of how it gradually became more dangerous. The heroine epidemic began laying its roots in the 60s. Orange describes walking home from gigs with his trombone and being fearful. He also claims that his mother was afraid of being robbed and having the house broken into. By the late 60’s he says the neighborhood had transformed into something completely different than what he had grown up in. He says it was depressing to watch happen.
Orange, Joseph. Date of interview unknown. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
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