Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Joan Tyson Fortune


Joan Tyson Fortune

Interviewee: Joan Tyson Fortune
Summarized by Christian Rivera

Joan Tyson Fortune, an English teacher and community activist, was born in Hunt’s Point in the Bronx in 1935. Her parents immigrated to the United States from the Caribbean island of Nevis in 1923. During her childhood, she sang in the Moravian church choir and the junior high school choir. While attending Morris High school in the Bronx, she participated in the student council, student representatives, service league, choir and the French club. She was influenced by her mother’s participation in the community.
Her interest in teaching started when she would play school with the dolls and give them exams. After high school, she earned her undergraduate and graduate degree from Hunter College. Additionally, she earned her 2nd masters degree from the Bank Street School of education in supervision and administration.
She started teaching in 1957. She taught intellectually gifted kids in P.S 31. While earning graduate credits, She taught student teachers at Fordham University.
Joan, like her mom, was a community activist. She lobbied to keep The Mitchell-Lama developments from being privatized. Further, she participated in the neighborhood voting registration, reading programs and workshops with young mothers.
Joan loves Doo Wop/Rhythm & Blues/ Latin Jazz. She mentions the burning 70’s and the influx of gangs and drugs in the Bronx in the 1950’s. Further, she mentions the influences of Co-op city and the Cross Bronx Expressway on ethnic communities. Finally, she discusses housing discrimination in the Bronx against educated blacks.

To the Researcher: Major influences on Jewish/ Italian/Latino and black relations within the surrounding community and school system. Joan Tyson Fortune’s interview contains a large amount of information on family activism within the Bronx community. Additionally, the interview documents housing discrimination against African Americans in the Bronx.

Keyword: English teacher, Black/Latino relations. Multiculturalism (Black/Latino/Jewish) Housing discrimination, gang activity (Majestics) Bed-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, Mitchell-Lama developments, Co-op city, Burning 70’s, Dewey’s philosophy, Garveyite, drug runners, Grand Master Flash (hip-hop), Larry Crackour (school violence) Banana Kelley Street Association, Morovian church, choir, Conference of Christian & Jews, Morris High School, Neighborhood Community League, Latin music/ Doo wop, Horn & Hardrail restaurants, immigration from Caribbean ( Nevis island to Ellis Island ), community activism, Fordham Hill houses, St. Mary’s houses, Black Middle class, Grand Concourse, Fordham University, Bank Street school of Education, importance of drums to Latino/ African Americans.


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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