Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Genevieve Smith Brown


Genevieve Smith Brown 

Interviewee: Genevieve Smith Brown
Interviewer: Dr. Brian Purnell
Date of Interview: April 19, 2008
Summarized by Alice Stryker

Ms. Brown was born in Anderson, South Carolina in 1937 and lived there until 1954, when she moved to New York City. Her parents were farmers and did not have enough money to send two children to school at the same time. She had a very good childhood growing up on her parents’ farm. They had plenty of food and clothing (her mother was an excellent seamstress so there was never a need for clothes either). Her family’s life revolved around a church her great grand father built while he was still a slave. The family was very committed to keeping it going and supporting it as best they could. She had very good role models in her family, and consequently her two sisters and her brother all went to college.
In 1954, she moved to New York City with her aunt and uncle in the Bradhurdst Avenue section of Harlem. While in New York City, she went to Combination Business School and got a job with Congo Chemicals. She worked as a secretary for the company until it was sold in 1963. Around this time, she and her aunt and uncle moved to 125th street and 8th avenue. Shortly thereafter, she wanted to live on her own and decided to move to the Bronx to 148th street between Brook and St. Anne’s. Here, she met her late husband through a neighbor. At this time, the neighborhood was mostly Hispanic. She really liked her neighbors and felt that they looked out for her.
In 1962, she married her first husband and moved to Seabury Place. The building they lived in was predominately Jewish. By around this time, however, the neighborhood began to change. The middle class was moving out and being replaced by co-ops. The neighborhood quickly became very crowded and began to decline. She gives a very good account as to what would happen when a fire would be set in the building, including why very few people ever got trapped in a fire. The fires and the overcrowding really got her upset and she and her friends decided to form an association that would allow them more power to combat this situation. The first group was called Labor and it worked on cleaning up the buildings in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the crime was so rampant that the efforts the group made were often foiled by vandals. She then started the Seabury Day Care Center, which accommodated 45 children. This is still operating today.
She also talks about how the Mid-Bronx Desperados came about. People in the community were fed up with the crime, poor housing conditions, and terrible sanitation conditions, so they formed this organization. She talks about the stigma attached to the South Bronx at this time and why and how this stigma formed.

Keywords: slavery, Lebanon Baptist Church, South Carolina, Bradhurdst Avenue section of Harlem, Shallow Baptist, Combination Business School, Congo Chemicals, 125th street and 8th avenue, 148th street between brook and St. Anne’s, Seabury Place, Bronx fires, Labor, Seabury Day Care Center, vandalism, Mid-Bronx Desperados,


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

Site  | Directories
Submit Search Request