Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Jacque Smith Bonneau


Jacque Smith Bonneau

41st interview
Interviewee: Jacque Smith Bonneau
Interviewers: Dr. Mark Naison, Robert Gums, and Robin Kelly
Date of Interview February 5, 2004
Summarized by Rob Passaro

Jacque Smith Bonneau was born in 1938 and moved from Harlem to Home Street near Prospect Ave between 1943 and 1945.  Her father was born in Florida and worked as a Pullman porter and her mother was born in Sloane Hospital in New York and did domestic work.  Bonneau attended the racially mixed (6-7% Black) PS 54 on Intervale Ave. and faced little racial tension at school.  The family attended the City Tabernacle Seventh Day Adventist Church in Manhattan.  Bonneau said she grew up in a safe neighborhood, where everyone kept their doors open and could hear different music from other people’s apartments.  She attended Junior High School 40, loved music and poetry and enrolled in the Bronx House School of Music (now Pelham School of Music).  Through a partial scholarship she attended Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster Massachusetts in 1958 but returned home in 1960, got married and moved to Hopkins Ave. in Brooklyn.

While growing up Bonneau was constantly surrounded by her uncle Thelonius Monk and other famous musicians like Elmo Hope, Tina Brooks, Allen Walker, Joe Morrison, Johnny Griffin and Bud Powell.  Bonneau described her uncle’s “Round Midnight” as her biggest influence, and spent a lot of time hanging out and listening to her uncle and Hope perform in their houses.  She also described her neighborhood as completely full of music and says “its interesting that the different musical cultures didn’t always cross” despite all being within five blocks of each other.

Bonneau says she first noticed her neighborhood changing in 1953 when her neighbor died of a heroin overdose.  She says she really realized how bad drugs were though in the early 60s when her cousin died.  Drugs and robberies constricted her world, and she was no longer able to go to certain areas at certain times, including walking home alone from the subway in the dark.  Bonneau also cited a noticeable increase in the number of doors and locks put on homes.  Electrical fires increasingly put people out of their homes and many friends and family members, like her Uncle Thelonius’s family, moved in with Bonneau’s family for periods of time.

Keywords:  Home Street, Prospect Ave, Pullman Porter, PS 54, the City Tabernacle Seventh Day Adventist Church, Junior High School 40, the Bronx School of Music, Atlantic Union College, Thelonius Monk, Elmo Hope, Tina Brooks, Allen Walker, Joe Morrison, Johnny Griffin, Bud Powell, “Round Midnight,” Heroin, Robberies, Electrical Fires.


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

Site  | Directories
Submit Search Request