African American Studies



INTERVIEWEE: Marjorie Cadogan

SUMMARY BY: Patrick O’Donnell

Marjorie Cadogan (b. 1960) is a graduate of Fordham University and Fordham University Law, and she is an Executive Deputy Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration in New York. She is the daughter of Bajan immigrants. Her father immigrated twice (in the ‘40’s and then the mid ‘50’s), and her mother came to the US in the late ‘50’s. While her mother and father knew each other in Barbados, they did not get married until 1959, when they both lived in the US. Her mother was a licensed nurse in Barbados, and she worked as a private nurse when she moved to New York. Marjorie’s father, a mechanic by trade, had a 7th grade education and worked several jobs to support his family. The couple raised Marjorie, an only child, on 218th St., between Bronxwood and Pauling Avenues. The block was very multiracial: there were a few black families and a high percentage of Latinos.

Despite the fact that Mr. Cadogan was not formally educated, he valued education a great deal, and he was a lifelong learner, jazz aficionado, and great conversationalist. Marjorie describes him as a “practical intellectual.” Marjorie recalls being steeped in Bajan music, food, and culture growing up, even while she enjoyed the cultural resources of the Bronx and the other ethnicities that inhabited it. She also learned piano as a child. Marjorie’s parents had a mixed religious background, but did not identify with one church in particular. However, because they did not want Marjorie to attend public high school (they were zoned for Evander, which had a rough reputation), they placed her in Our Lady Grace elementary. Marjorie was a good student, obedient, an early reader, and a fast learner, and she enjoyed school both at Our Lady Grace and at her High School, St. Catherine’s.

After high school, Marjorie wanted to attend either Fordham or Harvard. However, her counselor discouraged her from applying to Harvard because of her race. Nevertheless, she did not make the decision to forgo attending Harvard until she had a negative interview experience with a Harvard alumna, who, upon their meeting, expressed disappointment on learning that she was black and not Irish. Thus she attended Fordham, majoring in Spanish and English. She achieved fluency in Spanish and spent a year in Spain. In the interview, she recalls several members of the faculty who were particularly inspirational for her. Subsequently, she attended Fordham Law at Lincoln Center, where she was one of three students of color in a 300 person class. While she was a solid law student, her grades were not promising enough for her to practice at a high level. She considered a career as a criminal lawyer, but then decided that she would get stuck in the occupation. As a result, she began to focus on public service, eventually landing a job at the New York City Law Department. While she works in Manhattan, Cadogan has deep Bronx roots, and she does not see anything that Manhattan offers that the Bronx does not have. In particular, she values the sense of community and the residential neighborhoods that the Bronx offers.

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