Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Bernadette Jackson Ford


Bernadette Jackson Ford

Interviewee: Bernadette Jackson Ford
Interviewers: Dr. Mark Naison and Natasha Lightfoot
Date of interview July 28, 1006
Summarized by Alice Stryker

Bernadette begins the interview by talking about her parents coming to New York. Both grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and met when they were younger. Neither one of them said that they felt the sting of segregation, and were in New York when most of the civil rights activities were occurring in Birmingham. When they moved to New York, they moved to Harlem with her father’s cousins.
She is the oldest of three and was born in 1958. She grew up on Gunther Avenue, in the Valley Section of the Bronx. The neighborhood was very safe and the neighbors all knew each other. The family attended church every Sunday at the Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Harlem. However, they stopped attending that church when the area became more dangerous, when she was 13.
Her parents always told her she was going to go to college, even though she was not that good of a student and was more interested in her dance classes at Dorothy’s Dance School. She attended PS 76 for elementary school and had to be bussed there. The community was not happy about this, and after a fight with the school board, Ford and her neighbors began attending PS 97. The reason they had to go to this school was for integration purposes. The white members of the community were not happy about this. However, she still had many white friends in school.
Around 5th grade there was an influx of Caribbean peoples to her neighborhood. She did not notice a lot of tension between the African-Americans and the Caribbean people, but it was definitely present. She claims that it was because of them that marijuana started to come into the Bronx.
She went to junior high school at Michelangelo, or I.S 144. This was close enough where the children could walk to school. There was not much of a difference between her grade school experience and her junior high school experience.  This was a brand new school and so children from all over the Bronx came to the school. At this time, she got involved with cheerleading.
She went to Evander for High School, a school that had a bad reputation. The dating scene was still formal, meaning that boyfriends had to come to her house and meet her parents before they could go on a date. This was also the time of disco, so her and her friends would often go to the clubs around the Bronx and dance. She also mentions DJ’s in the parks witnessing the beginnings of Hip-hop.
She went to college at Old Westbury on Long Island, where she lived on campus. There, she met her future husband, who was from Manhattan. She was an education major and upon graduating immediately got involved with teaching. Although she did her student teaching on Long Island, she felt she wanted to teach in the Bronx.

She thinks kids now have had a much different experience then she had when she went to public school. She has taught at CS 6 for 20 years. Where she has seen shifts in drug culture, teen prostitutes, and has taught former “crack babies.”

Key Words: Valley Section, Birmingham, Alabama, Harlem, Gunther Avenue, Metropolitan United Methodist Church, Dorothy’s Dance School, PS 76, PS 97, Fish Avenue, White Castle riots, Apollo, Michelangelo (I.S 144), Rye Playland, discos, hip-hop, Old Westbury College, CS 6


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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