Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Rosemary Brown


Rosemary Brown

Interviewee: Rosemary Brown
Interviewers: Dr. Mark Naison and Dr. Brian Purnell
Date of Interview: April 21, 2005
Summarized by Stephanie Crane
Rosemary Brown is a civil rights activist and long-time Bronx resident. Rosemary Brown and her large family of eight first moved from Harlem to 1319 Prospect Ave. at the corner of 168th Street in 1940, when the Bronx was an especially good place for African American families, because it offered schools, better apartments, safer conditions, and a community where everyone looked out for each other. Prospect Ave. was a tree-lined block where children could play outside, and had residents of various races. The integrated community began to change approximately a year after the Brown family moved there. Rosemary’s father worked as a chef at Grand Central station and her mother worked at home.
Rosemary attended PS 40, a predominantly Jewish junior high school where she was one of the few African American students. During that time she attended St. Augustine’s Church led by Rev. Hawkins, who created a tight community and a church that offered services. After PS 40, Rosemary attended Walton High School which proved to be a negative experience because she was one of the twelve African American students, who were constantly discriminated against, by both students and faculty.
In 1954, a time of stability and safety in the Bronx, Rosemary moved into Soundview public housing.  Soundview housing was difficult to get into, well-integrated, and offered a unique, warm community in which everyone watched out for everyone else.  She also joined Soundview Presbyterian Church.  This church was run by Bob Davidson, a white minister, and was very political and active in the civil rights movement.  Davidson was especially interested in encouraging and providing an integrated community so he got to know the Soundview area by knocking on the doors of the housing projects and inviting all to his church community. 
During the 1960s, Rosemary first got involved in political activism through her work with the CORE group of the Bronx that boycotted White Castle’s racist employment procedures.    Though the CORE organization was national, Rosemary found the Bronx chapter to be more active than the rest. CORE was open to all, and even had the participation of two white men Dave Singleton and Bruce Caulkins, who were violently targeted by the counter-demonstrators.  While Rosemary Brown remembers the intensity of the protests, she cannot recall a significant police presence at any of them.
Shortly after these demonstrations, Rosemary attended the 1963 march on Washington where she continued her political activism.  This form of activism caused a divide within the four hundred to five hundred member church population because there was a question as to how political the church as an institution and community should be.  As the 1960s continued on, the Bronx became more troubled as drugs entered the scene and the housing projects began to deteriorate.

Key Words: St Augustine’s Church, Garvyite, JC and Irene Higgenbothen, Good Morning Heartache, Edgar Hawkins, SP, PS 40, Barbara Shirley, St. Nicholas Ave., Prospect Ave., Harlem, Social Circle, SC, Southern Blvd, Intervale Ave., Bathgate Ave., Kingsbridge, Jan’s Ice Cream Parlor, Pelham Bay, Hunts Pt., Crotona Park, VJ day, Walton HS, Mimon Place, Bond’s Clothing Store, Soundview Presbyterian Church, Soundview, Bob Davidson, Dave Singleton, White Castle, Plaza Pt Houses, Herb Calendar, CORE, James Farmer, Chef Henderson, Heroin


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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