African American Studies
Mrs. Gloria Smalls Mills is a lifelong resident of the Bronx, first living in Morrisiania. Her grandparents were immigrants from Antigua and moved to Dawson Street in the Bronx. Her mother graduated High School in the 1930’s from James Monroe High School and never worked before she got married and had children. Her father is from Charleston, South Carolina.
A few years later, her family moved to Kelly Street. There were many Italians and Jewish people living in her building. However, once more African-Americans began moving into the neighborhood, they whites began leaving. Also, there was an unspoken segregation among the children. In spite this she felt that Kelly was safe to grow up in.
When she was 5, her mother became ill. Mrs. Mills does not know exactly what illness her mother had, but believes it is related to having a bad heart and was hospitalized for a year at Montefiore. After she returned from the hospital, she became more religious and started attending Apostrophe’s Church of Christ on 7th Avenue close to 167th street. This was a predominately African-American church. The church strongly discouraged dancing and going to the movies, although Mrs. Mills did go to the movies with her friends.
She thinks that her success is attributed to her parent’s strong beliefs in education. In addition to this, her neighbors would keep and eye on all the children and let the parents know if their children were misbehaving. She attended PS 99 and had a good experience, overall. She remembers some of the older teachers being a little racist, but nothing too extreme. When she was in junior high and high school, her main extracurricular was student government.
Her experience at Morris High School was good and she received a well-rounded education. After high school she attended CCNY for college. The year before she graduated high school, her family moved from Kelly Street to the Forest Houses, which was a low-income housing project. While she was at CCNY, her parents purchased a house in the Wakefield section of the Bronx on Eastchester road between Bert and Given. There were many family homes on this block. This area became a place where many people from the Caribbean immigrated. Mrs. Mills found that the new immigrants did not interact with African Americans.
She attended college full time for a few years, until she met her first husband. At that point she dropped out, they got married and had a child. However, a few years into the marriage she re-enrolled and began taking night classes. It was at this point when she began to notice active participation by African-Americans in education.
She worked for IBM for a number of years. She had a difficult time landing that job because of segregation and racism. She had to take a number of tests, and got the job because of how well she did on those tests. She worked there for 10 years and was able to move up in position. While she was working at IBM, her son went to public school and childcare programs. At this time, she also moved into the Jamie Towers in Castle Hill. From there, she moved to New Jersey and got involved with education. Although she lived in New Jersey, her first teaching job was at PS 146. She had a rough group of students, but was able to keep them in check. She thinks that the roughness is due to the lack of parental involvement in the lives of children. She worked in grade schools, junior highs, and high schools. She later became a guidance counselor in the late 70’s and 80’s. She began to notice many teen pregnancies and drug use. She talks about some of the young girls who succeeded in spite having children at young ages, and those who do not succeed.
Mills, Gloria Smalls. 4 October 2015. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham.
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