African American Studies
Candace Smith was born and raised in the Bronx. From what she recalls her family lived on the top story of a two family home in the Tremont neighborhood until moving to the Patterson Houses in 1957 when she was around age 8. The home in Tremont was in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood and she does not recall there being any other black families in the neighborhood. On the other hand, when they moved to the Patterson Houses, she does not recall any white families in the neighborhood there. Both of her parents had also grown up in the Bronx, though her mother was born in Mobile, Alabama and her father’s family was from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. They were both graduates of Morris High School in the Bronx. Her parents divorced when she was around the age of 5 and she continued to live with her mother, so she was raised more of a southern upbringing. Both of her parents remarried and it was when her mother and stepfather had another daughter that they moved to the Patterson Housing Project.
This move was considered a step up from where they lived previously because in the home on Tremont was like a boarding house and they shared a kitchen with a family that lived down the hall. The apartments at Patterson allowed them to have more space and their own kitchen. They moved when the projects were just beginning to grow, so everything was still new and relatively safe. Candace was not allowed out after dark though and academics were greatly emphasized. Because she was not allowed out after dark, most of her friends in the neighborhood she knew from attending St. Anthony of Padua, and later St. Pius High School. At St. Pius she was the only black student in her class but had little difficulty adapting from life in an all-black housing project, to an all -white Catholic school environment. She says being able to adapt well in this way at an early age has helped her be able to do the same throughout her life.
In 1967 Candace began attending Lehman College in the Bronx and was able to experience her first taste of freedom. She joined the Black Students Union, even though the black population was not that great at Hunter-Lehman, but still more than in Catholic school. Through studies at Lehman she decided to become a teacher, but the February before she was to graduate the New York City school system began laying off teachers so she began working at Fulton Daycare Center until 1974. She now resides in Los Angeles California where she works as a District Attorney. In 1978 when she came back to the Patterson Houses to visit a friend she really became aware of the changes that had occurred in the 7 years since she had left. While living there she noticed some changes that came with drugs but described the neighborhood as looking like a war- torn battle field when she went back to visit. She saw a woman she used to play with as a child sitting on a drain who clearly had begun using drugs. She feels that kids that were not given the same structure and focus as she was were more likely to catch up in trouble. She was the only one of her group of friends to go to college in the first place.
Smith, Candace. Date of Interview Unknown. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
Click below to download supplemental content.Smith, Candace.mp3 (74160 kB)