African American Studies
Racial dynamics of the Bronx was the central theme of this interview. There was a consensus shared amongst each interviewee that the Bronx during their childhoods was a racially heterogeneous area. The area known as Fish Avenue were Sylvia Carr grew up was primarily composed of very well off blacks. However, the blacks who lived in this area were lighter skinned as each interviewee pointed out. Each participant acknowledged a certain light skinned v. dark skinned power dynamic. Indeed, some of those interviewed were able to “pass” and were often mistaken for white. In addition to the presence of blacks on Fish Ave, many Jews, Italians and Germans also shared the area. It wasn’t until she was a grown woman that one woman realized how fortunate she was to have lived in such a racially and culturally diverse area.
While there was certain colorism, each interviewee agreed that race talk was not prominent. Throughout the 50’s and 60’s, there was not any civil rights activity within the Bronx. The influence of the communist party was discussed in length; however, the general consensus was that there was a stigma towards communists within the black community. For example, Tony recalled that his uncle was a communist and the FBI had in fact investigated his family. For whites, a big indicator of a communist sympathizer of member was if blacks would socially visit.
No interviewee recalled any major incidents of racial animus by whites; however, there were black groups that antagonized them for being friends with whites. These blacks came from broken homes and were often poorer. For the most part, they got along well with their white neighbors and students.
Education was another major theme discussed in length. Each participant had an academically diverse and prestigious background. Eddie was a doctor who studied in Europe. Each interviewee agreed that attending college was expected for them since most of their parents were college educated.
As time progressed, the area along Fish Ave became racially homogenous. Courtney told a story about her mother being followed by two black men in the early 70s. Her mother would eventually move because she felt the area had become unsafe and ridden with thug activity. The racially diverse and safe neighborhood had now transformed into an unsafe and undiverse area; a sharp contrast to what the interviewees had grown up in.
Carr, Sylvia. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Carr, Sylvia Part 1.mp3 (132379 kB)
Carr, Sylvia Part 2.mp3 (14181 kB)