African American Studies
Stephanie’s family moved to the Bronx in the 1940’s. Her parents met in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. When they first got married they lived on Hewett Place. Her father was a waiter and her mother was a clerk for the state insurance fund. Henry’s family moved to the Bronx in 1944 from Harlem to Lenox Avenue. Both of his parents migrated to New York City from the South. His grandfather was a super, which is how his parents got their first house. His father was a member of the National Maritime Union.
Stephanie attended P.S 62 for grade school, though she lived in a neighborhood that was supposed to attend P.S. 39. She remembers children playing a lot of street games. Both remember growing up on very protective blocks, with adults always watching them. Stephanie did not have a good grade school experience. Henry remembers his grade school as deteriorating with all of the ethnic changes happening to the neighborhood. However, he does remember a few good teachers. Stephanie does not remember experiencing any racism from her white classmates, but rather from her Black classmates because she was so light skinned. Both grew up in house holds that valued education and culture.
The two met through a performance of The King and I St. Margaret’s Church put on through their children’s theater program. The arts were something that were very prevalent throughout the Morrisania section of the Bronx at this time. Everyone was singing, dancing, or acting. The schools were also tracked by grade and the higher track you were in, the more attention you got academically. These high tracked kids also received a lot of exposure to the arts and music.
By the time Henry and Stephanie reached junior high school, gangs were becoming an issue, particularly the Fordham Baldies. During this time, both began to listen to rock and roll and go to dances on Friday Night. There were also after school programs Stephanie went to that had a lot of activities for the kids. At the same time, Henry remembers living in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood, where many felt the police had it out for Black kids and teens.
Henry and Stephanie were both involved in different community organizations through their church and school. Henry grew up in a very political household, with his father being a communist and interested in world politics. His father was also very into jazz and passed that knowledge on to Henry. Henry’s father also played a lot of Latin music, which was very popular in their neighborhood.
Stephanie attended High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan in the acting program. Henry attended Central Commercial High School and participated in theater groups outside of the school. The two of them founded the Joseph Patterson Players in honor of a social worker by the same name who worked in the Forrest house. Most of their friends and family came to the plays as well as people from the neighborhood. The company lasted about 3 years.
The two of them got married in 1967 and they moved into the Woodstock Terrace Cooperatives. Stephanie knew that she wanted to be an educator, not an actress. Henry worked as a transit police officer for a while but knew he wanted to get into theater.
Toward the end of the 1950’s people began talking about moving because of increased gang activity and drugs. However, Stephanie and Henry did not leave the Morrisania community. They did this because their co-op was nice and allowed them to save money to send their son to private school and go on trips to Europe. Their son went to Syvesant for high school, something both parents regret very much.
Miller, Henry & Stephanie. Date of Interview Unknown. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
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