African American Studies


Matthew Swain is a lifelong Bronx resident who witnessed many of the major historical events that took place in the borough over the last few decades of the twentieth century. His story, therefore, presents a firsthand insight into the dynamic aspects of the Bronx’s culture as a borough.

Both of Swain’s parents had resided in the Bronx prior to his birth. As a child, Swain resided in the Tremont neighborhood. Swain recalled that the Bronx of his youth was a safe place where adults sat in the streets looking out for children. Additionally, Swain also recalls the borough as having been an ethnically diverse locale with families of African-American, Jewish, Italian, and Puerto Rican heritage. Swain also moved into the Millbrook Houses before entering the fourth grade, and stated that the projects he encountered were mostly residences for middle class people.

During his life, Swain has witnessed many major cultural shifts in the Bronx. In particular, Swain lived through the crack epidemic and the rise of the hip-hop music genre. Swain stated that the crack epidemic began to take hold around 1986, when he was in high school. Swain also made reference in his interview to some friends of his who either died or were sent to jail as a result of the crack epidemic. Additionally, Swain also spoke about the rise of hip-hop, which he said was met with skepticism by some parents within the Bronx community (although his own parents were fairly tolerant of the genre).

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