Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Joanne Colley


Joanne Colley

Interviewee: Joanne Colley
Interviewer: Brian Purnell
Date of Interview January 24, 2007
Summarized by Alice Stryker

Joanne Colley was born on November 18, 1954 and grew up in the Sedgwick House projects on 174th street and University Avenue. Her parents moved from Manhattan to the Bronx in 1952, when her older sister was born. Her mother was a stay at home mom and her father was a carpenter.
She spent most of her childhood playing games with her friends. She felt totally safe and carefree living in the projects and believes she had a wonderful childhood. When she was growing up, the population living in the Sedgwick projects were mostly Jewish and a “handful” of African Americans. Even though this was the case, all of the children she played with were African American. There was a very strong adult presence in the projects while she was growing up. Even the Porters acted as surrogate parents for the kids, disciplining them if they observed children damaging the property. She attended Featherbed Lane Presbyterian Church.
She attended grade school at P.S 109. This school was predominantly Jewish, but she does not remember experiencing any prejudice. She went to middle school at Junior High School 82, where most of the children from Sedgwick attended. This school was more integrated than her grade school, consisting mostly of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and some whites. She does not recall there being any tension between African Americans and Puerto Ricans when she was growing up. She does mention that her experience in middle school was not as positive as her experience in grade school. One possible reason for this was that the children from Featherbed Lane, a rowdy neighborhood, created a harsher environment at the middle school.
When she moved out of the projects in 1968, she did not feel that they were safe any more. At this time, more African Americans and Latinos were moving in while the Jewish residents were moving to Co-op City. Her family moved into a house on Pitman Avenue near Co-op City. She attended high school at Evander Childs. While she was in high school she had to wear a brace because she had scoliosis. This, in combination with being away from her lifelong friends, made for an unhappy experience.
She moved away from the Bronx to L.A. in 1973, shortly after graduating high school. She notes how she could see the Bronx was changing and becoming more violent and harsh. After she and her sister moved to L.A, her parents stayed in the Bronx for several more years.

Key Words: Segwick House Projects, P.S 109, P.S 104, Junior High School 82, Featherbed Lane, Co-op City, Evander Childs High School, Taft High School, Featherbed Presbyterian Church, Edenwald Projects, Highbrige Pool


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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