African American Studies


Mr. Cecil Paris and Mrs. Mazie Paris is an older couple whose families both emigrated from the West Indies to New York City in the earlier part of the twentieth century. Cecil’s mother began her life in America as a resident of the west side of lower Manhattan. She later moved to Harlem, where Cecil spent most of his youth. While his mother struggled to support the family by taking up domestic work, Cecil went to public schools in the area. Shortly after graduating from Textile High School, a vocational school for the textile trade, Cecil enrolled into City College. After graduation, he joined the Army.

Mazie’s mother was also from the West Indies and was a dressmaker in New York City when Mazie was a child. Once Mazie and Cecil got married, Mazie did domestic work to help with the family bills. On her free time, Mazie was committed to taking her five children, including Arthur, on trips around the city. She took them to museums, the zoos, and to many other places the city had to offer. At first, Cecil and Mazie lived in the Bronx however, soon after moved to East Harlem where they were able to secure an apartment in public housing. According to Mazie, this was a step up from what they had grown accustomed to in the Bronx. Their son, Dr. Arthur Paris, a professor at Syracuse University, remembers there being a fair mix of Black and Latino children in school and although there was still a substantial amount of Irish and Italian families just West of Third Avenue, he does not remember experiencing any outright discrimination during his youth. Cecil noted that during his time in East Harlem and the Bronx, most people, including his brothers, worked hard to secure union jobs because they provided men with stable work. However, union jobs were scarce. This scarcity and lack of stability proved to be a challenge and restraint on income levels in the community.

After some years of working and saving, Cecil and Mazie were eventually able to move out of Manhattan and into East Elmhurst, Queens and later they bought a house in Bayside, Queens.

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