African American Studies
Joel Turner is an IBM executive who grew up in the Patterson Houses from 1950 until 1972. During his life, he witnessed many of the major social changes in the Bronx and can also attest to having achieved success in the business world. Additionally, Turner has Jewish ancestry on his mother’s side, and spoke about his experience as an African-American Jew.
As a child, Turner attended elementary school at a Yeshiva at 170th Street and Morris Avenue. Although he said that the education he received was better than what he would have received at a public school, he said that he experienced discrimination due to anti-Semitism prevalent within the African-American community and racial differences from his classmates. While Turner said that he had not experienced much violence around the Patterson Houses during the 1950s, he claimed that the neighborhood had begun to develop a dangerous reputation by the time his family moved out in 1972. Specifically, he said that many of the residents in his building began to turn to drugs such as heroin (however, Turner also stated that his own family managed to remain sober).
Turner began working at IBM in 1970 while attending New York University. At the time, he only had an associate’s degree and was therefore only permitted to apply for a job as a computer programmer. Patterson then proceeded to work at IBM for 20 years, during which time he attained the rank of a manager within the programming department.
Turner, Joel. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
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