Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Vincent Harding


Vincent Harding

108th interview
Interviewees: Clara Lee Irobunda, Vincent Harding, and Carmen Givan
Inerviewers: Dr. Mark Naison and Brian Purnell
Date of Interview March 28, 2005
Summarized by Alice Stryker

Before the interview formally begins, Clara Lee Irobunda discusses her role in the transition with Morris High School into smaller schools. The school was getting too large to efficiently teach all of the students and many were “falling between the cracks.” To fix this problem, she designed small separate “schools” within Morris High School.
The interview discusses the experiences of a variety of people who grew up on Dawson Street and lived near/went to Morris High School. Dr. Harding is a prominent historian and was a political activist with Dr. Martin Luther King. Carmen Givan is a nurse who graduated from Lincoln School for Nurses, Jean Reyes is a nurse who attended Montefiore Nursing School.
In the 1940’s, Carmen claims that Dawson street was a great place to live. Carmen’s family is from the Caribbean and she and her family lived in Harlem before coming to the Bronx. Vincent’s mother is from Barbados and his parents came to the U.S. shortly after WWI. His family also moved from Harlem to the Bronx, and still kept very close to the church they had belonged to in Harlem. His church provided outlets for people with talent and cultivated the leadership qualities of their young people. Even though both Vincent and Carmen came from working class communities, they desired higher education and both their families and their community supported them. Jean’s father is Puerto Rican and owned a restaurant and two candy stores. Jean Rayes lived in Harlem and went to the Harlem Boys Club.  Both Vincent and Carmen talk about their experiences with the Library on Southern Blvd. It was more then just a place to take out books, there were cultural activities going on there as well.
She said she felt completely safe walking from Harlem to her home in the Bronx at 2am. Vincent did not do a lot of dancing, which he claims is due to the fundamentalist attitude of his church. They preferred their young people to pay attention to and attend “High Culture” events, which excluded the blues and Etta James. He did however listen to Calypso music. 
Vincent had a number of memorable teachers at Morris High School and his experience there was very important in shaping his identity. He got to know the principal, who was committed to diversifying the school, very well because of the activities he was involved in. He was encouraged to write for the newspaper instead of playing sports. He feels that his experiences at Morris were instrumental in his participation in political activism.
Jean experienced Morris High School in a similar way to Vincent. She too saw it as a racial melting pot.
Carmen talks about the Lincoln School for Nurses and its history. It was traditionally for African Americans but began to integrate and reflect the multiracial community of the Bronx the three of them experienced. Vincent then relates some of his academic work to the lives and issues of African Americans today all over the United States.

Key Words: Morris High School, Dawson Street, Eyes on the Prize, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lincoln School for Nurses, 141st and Bruckner Blvd. Montefiore Nursing School, Barbados, 122nd street, Handmaids of Mary, PS 124, Victory Tabernacle 7th Day Church, 138th street, 7th day Christian Church, PJ Bailey, Jacobson Construction Company, Lily of the Valley Lodge, PS 124, Rockland Palace, Park House, Hunts Point Palace, The Remy, The Lodges, Junior High School 52, Birmingham Alabama, sign posts in history, There is a River,


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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