Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York


Ruth Stevens

Interviewee: Ruth Stevens
Interviewers: Dr. Brian Purnell and Natasha Lightfoot
Date of Interview October 8th, 2004
Summarized by Christian Rivera

Ruth Stevens was born on February 2nd 1950 on St. Vincent Island in the Caribbean.  Her Stepmother, Alexandria was a seamstress in the small village of Prospect and operated a small store. Ruth Stevens father, Walter Samuel, worked as a teacher and a civil servant. Alexandria was sponsored by her sister to enter the United States and worked as a Domestic servant. After Alexandria was settled, Ruth came to the United States in 1970. Ruth was experiencing culture shock when she first entered the United States.  She adapted to the new American environment by getting an afro wig, listening to James Brown and getting accustomed to the distinct accents of Brooklynites. Ruth Stevens emphasizes St. Augustine Episcopal Church and St. Andrews Episcopal church as agencies of assimilation for Black Americans and West Indians into American society.
When Ruth was 26 years old, she met her future husband at a house party in the north Bronx. He recently returned from serving in the Vietnam War.
Ruth Stevens with the encouragement of a high school friend from the Caribbean enrolled in The New York Business School in Manhattan. After Business school, Ruth worked as a secretary. When the company that she worked for folded, Ruth applied for a job at CBS. She was hired by CBS as a secretary. She wanted to apply for the job in the financial department, however she needed a degree. She enrolled in an Adult Education program at Fordham University at Lincoln Center and earned her undergraduate degree in 3 years while working for CBS. She graduated from Fordham in 1979. In 1978, Ruth Stevens bought a home on Castle Hill Avenue in the Bronx. Ruth worked for CBS for 13 years. She worked as a secretary, supervisor of accounting and the manager of Accounting and Finance. She left CBS in order to spend more time with her children.
One day when Ruth was listening to the Radio, she was encouraged by a horoscope to change her career. She went to 65 Court Street and was encouraged by a young lady to become a Business Education teacher. Ruth Stevens had all the teaching qualifications and became the Business Education teacher for Taft High School in 1991. She worked as the Business Education teacher for eleven years. While at Taft high school, she encouraged kids to go to college. She bought clothes for them, wrote letters of recommendation, paid for kids to go on interviews and informed them about financial aid. Ruth emphasized the importance of teachable moments in the social upbringing of her students. For example, she encourage her students to focus on buying school supplies (i.e. pens) instead of buying one hundred and fifty dollar sneakers. In addition to Taft High School, Ruth taught for 2 years at John F. Kennedy High School.

Keywords: Fordham University, St. Vincent. Caribbean. Immigration. Brooklyn.
Domestic work. CBS. New York Business School. Castle Hill Avenue. Lincoln Center. St. Augustine Episcopal Church. Taft High School. John F. Kennedy High School. Bergen Street, Brooklyn. African Americans. West Indians. James Brown. Afro-wig. Business Education teacher. Finance. Accounting.  Bronx history. Education policy. Vietnam War. Kingsbridge Avenue. Real Estate.  St. Andrews Episcopal Church. Kips Bay YMCA.  Teachable Moment


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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