African American Studies
Interviewer: Mark Naison
Interviewee: Robert Gumbs
Summarized By: Eddie Mikus
Robert Gumbs is a resident of the Bronx who grew up in the Morrisania neighborhood. During his life, he has experienced many significant social changes that have occurred in the borough.
Gumbs was born in 1941 on Union Avenue, with his parents relocating to Lyman Place after a doctor suggested that there was cleaner air there. For his schooling, Gumbs attended PS 54, PS 40 for junior high, and the School of Industrial Art for high school. In his early childhood, Gumbs said that the vast majority of his neighborhood was black, and that he only knew two white families who lived on his block. However, as he grew up, he began to notice demographic changes in the neighborhood. For example, Gumbs said he witnessed the first Puerto Rican family moving to Lyman Street and that he once organized a stickball game with a white friend of his.
Gumbs also stated that he lived through the rise of heroin on New York City streets. On his own block, Lyman Street, Gumbs recounts that the drug became prevalent around the middle 1950s, and that it was easy to tell who had fallen for the drug because users often began to neglect their appearance. Although Gumbs moved out of the borough in 1968, he also told the BAAHP that he was impacted directly by the Morrisania burnouts, as the building he grew up was one of the ones that did not survive the destruction.
Gumbs, Robert. Interview 1. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Gumbs, Robert Interview 1.mp3 (101797 kB)
date interview unknown