African American Studies


Joanne Colley was born on November 18, 1954 and grew up in the Segwick House projects on 174th street and University Avenue. Her parents moved from Manhattan to the Bronx in 1952, when her older sister was born. Her mother was a stay at home mom and her father was a carpenter.

She spent most of her childhood playing games with her friends. She felt totally safe and carefree living in the projects and believes she had a wonderful childhood. When she was growing up, the population living in the Segwick projects were mostly Jewish and a “handful” of African Americans. Even though this was the case, all of the children she played with were African American. There was a very strong adult presence in the projects while she was growing up. Even the Porters also acted as surrogate parents for the kids, disciplining them if they observed children damaging the property. She attended Featherbed Lane Presbyterian Church.

She attended grade school at P.S 109. This school was predominantly Jewish, but she does not remember experiencing any prejudice. She went to middle school at Junior High School 82. All of the children from Segwick House went here. This school was more integrated than her grade school, consisting mostly of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and some whites. She does not recall there being any tension between African Americans and Puerto Ricans when she was growing up. She does mention that her experience in middle school was not as positive as her experience in grade school. One possible reason for this was the children from Featherbed Lane, a rowdy neighborhood, created a harsher environment at the middle school.

When she moved out of the projects in 1968, she did not feel that the projects were safe any more. At this time, more African Americans and Latinos were moving in while the Jewish residents were moving to Co-op City. Her family moved into a house on Pitman Avenue near Co-op City. She attended high school at Evander Childs High School. While she was in high school she had to wear a brace because she has scoliosis. This in combination with being away from her life long friends made for an unhappy high school experience.

She moved away from the Bronx to L.A in 1973, shortly after graduating high school. She notes on how she could see the Bronx was changing and becoming more violent and harsh. After she and sister moved to L.A, her parents stayed in the Bronx for several years.

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