African American Studies
Interviewee: Avis Hanson 2nd Interview
Interviewer: Dr. Mark Naison, Natasha Lightfoot, Patricia Wright
Summarized by Alice Stryker
She begins by talking about her West Indian heritage. Her mother came from Antigua and her father came from Jamaica. Her mother and father met in New York City and got married shortly there after. The family moved to the Bronx, which she discussed in the first interview. When Avis was young, her mother sent for her aunt to live with them. However, they did not have good relations with the rest of her extended family. Her father’s Jamaican family did not get along will with her mother’s Antiguans family. Avis sites the fact that the Jamaican side was “Big Island” and looked down upon her “small island” mother’s side.
The conversation then shifts to a discussion of her teaching career. She graduated from Hunter College and soon after started working at a school in East Harlem. She took her class on a trip to Bear Mountain without parents or assistant teachers, something unheard of today. She thinks that she would have a hard time teaching in high schools today because of the lack of respect children have for teachers. In addition to this, she thinks children today misbehave more. She also taught at Morris High School, which had a reputation for being rough, though she says she does not know why. The students respected her and helped her when she needed it. There was also an esprit décor among the teachers. Over all, it was a great place for her to work.
The staff at Morris was very proud of how successful integration was at their school. She says that she was sheltered at Morris, and almost was unaware of the racial tensions existing outside of Morris. She had a very diverse group of students and was able to connect with all of them. She was even invited to some of their homes to meet their parents. One student that touched her life was named Clara.
There was a lot of culture in and around Morris High School. There were performing arts groups for students to get involved with and theaters near the school where local groups could perform.
After she left Morris, she went to Taft High School and was there for most of the 60’s. It was at this time where she began to see a negative transformation in the Bronx. The staff, however, was not as integrated and accepting as the staff at Morris and she was discriminated against several times. The students there were mostly from the middle class. She was also at Taft during the teacher’s strike of 1968. The main tension was between teachers part of the Teacher’s union and teachers part of the Teacher’s guild.
The first time she felt a lot of racial tension was at The High School for Fashion Industries.
She then goes into a discussion about college opportunities for students in the Bronx today, saying that the expense of college limits many students from attending college.
Hanson, Avis. Interview 2. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Hanson, Avis Interview 2.mp3 (130000 kB)