African American Studies


Avis Hanson is a Bronx resident who has taught in the many of the borough’s high schools. Her life tells the story of the educational experiences of the Bronx African-American community.

Hanson was born in Harlem, but her family moved to the Bronx after her mother discovered that Hanson’s teacher was often socializing with the principal during class hours. As a child, Hanson’s parents often fought with her teachers—in particular a sixth grade teachers whom Hanson feels did not respect her. Hanson attended Hunter College High School, which she identifies as one of the hardest to get into in the city. Additionally, she also attended the actual Hunter College itself. During her high school and college days, Hanson participated in a group known as Sing and in an African-American leadership group known as the Toussaint L’Ouverture society.

In order to prepare for a teaching career, Hanson majored in English at Hunter College with the intent of becoming an expert in the field. She began as teacher Junior High School 45 at a time which she remembers as being after the end of World War II. Hanson picked up her first teaching license at an elementary school for what she describes as “five miserable months.” She then served as a substitute teacher at a school near the Willis Avenue Bridge. She also said that she achieved her first permanent job in the 1950s.

Click below to download supplemental content.

Hanson, Avis Interview 1.mp3 (97058 kB)