Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York


Hetty Fox

Interviewee: Hetty Fox
Interviewer: Dr. Mark Naison, Richard Richardson, Mark C. Smith
Date of Interview
Summarized by Rob Passaro

Hetty Fox was born in Harlem in 1937 and lived on 125th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenue, before her family moved to the Bronx in 1940.  One of the first black families on their block, Fox’s mother worked as a seamstress and her father was a tailor and ran a factory named Sportswear.  Fox attended P.S. 54, St. Anthony of Padua elementary school, and Cathedral High School on 151st Street in Manhattan.

Many of the stores in Fox’s community had been with in walking distance, full of hardware and clothing stores.  The neighborhood kids played games like double dutch, stickball and basketball, and the Night Centers gave kids a place to congregate later on in the evenings.  These centers were important, as gangs like the Bishops and the Cardinals began moving into the area in the late 1940s followed by drugs in the 1950s.  As a result, many of the Italian and Jewish families started to move out of the area during these years.  The area remained racially integrated between African Americans and Hispanic Families during the 1960’s. 

In 1962, Fox went to California for the free speech movement and after finding employment, stayed until 1970.  After she returned home, Fox noticed an even bigger turnover in population from the 1960s to the 1970s.  Many of the buildings had been burnt out during the sixties, and destruction had been so devastating and continuous, that it was difficult to get businesses and people to invest in the area.  The addition of the Cross Bronx Expressway further led to the erosion of the area.  There was an effort on the part of many Bronx citizens to prevent the highway’s existence, but failure to gain support from the city left the movement weak.  Ultimately many found it easier to just move out of the area then continue to fight.  Mayor Koch’s Neighborhood Preservation Office failed to add any support as the program only aided areas the administration believed “could still be saved.” His planned shrinkage did very little to help the areas that needed the most support.

Fox believes that family life and community are very important and says, “The value here in New York, the real war, is sticking together.”  Fox posted flyers with lists of existing restaurants so people would realize establishments still existed in the area. This comes with an aim at saving the city.  Fox maintained that the community and the home influence the growth of the area’s children and the variety of options they could experience. She said the community is “responsible to always bring the state of the art home life” up to date for children.  On her radio show she described how play streets for children could be created on certain streets by simply filling out an application, and she is working on creating a new education system that better reflects New York.

Keywords:  PS 54, St. Anthony of Padua, Cathedral High School, Bishops, Cardinals, Drugs, Louis Heyman Boulevard, double dutch, basketball,  stickball, Night Centers, burnt out buildings, Cross Bronx Expressway, Mayor Edward Koch, Neighborhood Preservation Office, play streets, planned shrinkage.


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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