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Oral history interview conducted by Craig Wilder
July 30, 1993
Call number: 1994.006.20
CRAIG WILDER: Where were you born? Let's start at the beginning.
EVELYN MORRIS: I was born in Blackville, South Carolina, [date redacted forprivacy] 1935.
CRAIG WILDER: And when did you come to New York?
EVELYN MORRIS: When I was twelve.
CRAIG WILDER: Where did you go to?
EVELYN MORRIS: What street? I went to Bed-Stuy.
CRAIG WILDER: What part? Where?
EVELYN MORRIS: Macon Street between Patchen and Utica.
CRAIG WILDER: Did your whole family move up?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yeah. My mother was here already.
CRAIG WILDER: She came ahead of the family?1:00
EVELYN MORRIS: Oh yeah. And then my sister and I came, because my grandmotherwas in the south.
CRAIG WILDER: What did your mother do for a living, at that time?
EVELYN MORRIS: She was working for the hotel, the Wellington Hotel. Then sheworked for the Carlyle. She was a chambermaid at the time.
CRAIG WILDER: And did you rent an apartment?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yes, we rented an apartment.
CRAIG WILDER: Who owned the building?
EVELYN MORRIS: At that time? Gee. I can't recall his name right now, but I knowit was a White fellow.
CRAIG WILDER: Was the area predominantly White?
EVELYN MORRIS: No, it was predominantly Black at that time, at least my street was.
CRAIG WILDER: But there were streets that were?
EVELYN MORRIS: Oh yeah, there were streets that had quite a few Whites.
CRAIG WILDER: And when did you come to Crown Heights?2:00
EVELYN MORRIS: I came here in 1972.
CRAIG WILDER: Where did you go to school?
EVELYN MORRIS: PS 70, and then I went to Junior High School 35, and then I whento Franklin K. Lane. I was one of the first Blacks to go there. My graduating class was the first group to go to Franklin K. Lane.
CRAIG WILDER: Why was that?
EVELYN MORRIS: There weren't any Black there at the time.
CRAIG WILDER: Was there a special reason that they came the year you came?
EVELYN MORRIS: No, I don't think so.
CRAIG WILDER: It was just coincidence.
EVELYN MORRIS: Just a coincidence at that time. Because I think the parentswanted their kids to have a better education, so they fought to go to an all-White school, and that's where we went.
CRAIG WILDER: Did they think that to go to an all-White school, that White3:00schools had more money? Were better funded?
EVELYN MORRIS: I think they thought that they had better educators, that's whatthey thought.
CRAIG WILDER: And you moved to Crown Heights. Where did you move first, here?
EVELYN MORRIS: No, no. You mean--
CRAIG WILDER: When you came from Bed-Stuy to Crown Heights.
EVELYN MORRIS: This is the first place.
CRAIG WILDER: Carroll. So you've been here for 21 years?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yes.
CRAIG WILDER: What expectations did you have when you moved up, what was thereason for moving from Bed-Stuy to here?
EVELYN MORRIS: Really, I wanted to get out of Bed-Stuy, and out of the apartmentthat I had, because I had six kids, and my sons were growing up and I didn't want them to grow up in Bed-Stuy.
CRAIG WILDER: Why was that?
EVELYN MORRIS: They had all types of gangs and stuff there. And, when your4:00children are young, but when they start growing up, especially for boys, everything changes. So figured if I got an apartment across Eastern Parkway, that was my thinking at the time, the neighborhoods were better. A lot of times you can't run away from the neighborhood or the people, because the same type of people that were there are over here also.
CRAIG WILDER: So that wasn't exactly true?
EVELYN MORRIS: No.
CRAIG WILDER: You first moved into a house or an apartment?
EVELYN MORRIS: This house here.
CRAIG WILDER: Were you renting?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yes. Renting, I'm still renting.
CRAIG WILDER: From who?
EVELYN MORRIS: From Clinton Green.
CRAIG WILDER: That's an agency?
EVELYN MORRIS: It's an agency, but he owns the agency.
CRAIG WILDER: Is he Black or White?
EVELYN MORRIS: He's Black.5:00
CRAIG WILDER: Did you hope to buy at some point?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, we were going to buy it, at one time, but the kids wereyounger and, at that time, we weren't making the type of money that, at least we couldn't afford it, that's what I thought. Now, we definitely can't afford it.
CRAIG WILDER: How common is it for people on the block to own their homes?
EVELYN MORRIS: Very common. Mostly everybody owns, at least the private homes.
CRAIG WILDER: Were there any organizations that you used when you came to Crown Heights?
EVELYN MORRIS: No.
CRAIG WILDER: Who did you socialize with?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, I really socialized with the same friends that I've alwayssocialized with.
CRAIG WILDER: In Bed-Stuy?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yeah, Bed-Stuy, I have friends in different parts, not only inBed-Stuy; Long Island, Queens.
CRAIG WILDER: What jobs did you have?6:00
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, I worked for the Board of Ed for 25 years, I'm still there.
CRAIG WILDER: Doing what?
EVELYN MORRIS: I was a food --I worked with food with children, and now I'm afood supervisor.
CRAIG WILDER: And what did the family do, what did your family do?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, you want to go from the youngest on up? Okay, my baby worksfor transit. And my next son works for Blue Cross and Blue Shield. My other son works for, my other son was in the Navy, now he's down in North Carolina and he works for the airlines. Then I have a son that works for Bellevue, and my other daughter, I only have one daughter, she works for Bellevue but she took a 7:00two-year absence of leave to go back to school and get her Master's degree. That's it. I have an oldest. My oldest son, he's nothing to speak about.
CRAIG WILDER: Was there a significant Black population in Crown Heights when youcame here?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yes.
CRAIG WILDER: Was it mixed, or mostly black, by that time?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yeah, it was mixed at that time, but it was mostly Black, thereare more Jews live here now they did then, because the people who owned their homes, the older people who owned their homes, if they haven't deceased or given their homes to their children, Jews have come in and bought up a lot of property.
CRAIG WILDER: And this is from the older Black people who own their homes?
EVELYN MORRIS: Un-huh.
CRAIG WILDER: Is that because of people retiring and selling?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well a lot of people retired, a lot of people passed away. A lot8:00of people left their homes to their children, and then their children fell back for the money that these people came in with. Because when they come to buy your house, they come with the money, the cash. And so they buy their homes, and then you like and they're all moving in. Because we only had about three on this block when I first moved here. You could really count it. Now it's maybe 20, 25.
CRAIG WILDER: Is it more difficult now for a Black family to purchase?
EVELYN MORRIS: Oh yeah, because people don't have the money.
CRAIG WILDER: So has the increase in the Jewish population increased the valueof property?
EVELYN MORRIS: They have.
CRAIG WILDER: How do people react to that?
EVELYN MORRIS: People really don't like it, but what can they do? They have no9:00other choices, and they don't make the money. Black people don't make the money that the Jews make. And if they do, a lot of Black people don't have the education, either. So it all balances out, so that if you have to rent, that's what you have to do.
CRAIG WILDER: Are there fewer places for rent, though? If there's that much purchased?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, to me, this is how it goes here, I don't know about anyplace else. But I know, like the apartment building that they just fixed around the corner. There is no Blacks there at all. And I think that the reason that there are no Blacks there is that the Jews purchased that building, and they only have Jews in there. So if Black go to find an apartment, they can't get it because the rent is too high.
CRAIG WILDER: What reaction do you think people are going to have to that, Blackpeople in particular? 10:00
EVELYN MORRIS: Black people don't like that at all, I know I wouldn't either. IfI had to go out and find an apartment now. I wouldn't like that.
CRAIG WILDER: So it would be resentment towards…
EVELYN MORRIS: Of course, of course.
CRAIG WILDER: If I walked through Crown Heights right now, if you walked with methrough Crown Heights, what things would you point out in your neighborhood that represent you in your neighborhoods most?
EVELYN MORRIS: Things that represent me. There's really not a lot of things thatrepresents Black people in their neighborhood. Maybe the Bowling alley on Nostrand Avenue. I don't know if Blacks own that, but you see all these paintings and things of different athletes and things like that over there. And the Medgar Evers College down there on Carroll and Bedford. And let me see what else. Really, I mean, there are nice homes, big homes, like maybe on President 11:00Street, those Victorian type homes, they have those over there. But otherwise, there's really not a lot of things over here for Blacks. At least I haven't seen them.
CRAIG WILDER: Why is that? Is there any reason for that?
EVELYN MORRIS: I really don't know. Because Blacks don't own too many thingsaround here. If you come around here, say for instance now, it's near 6 o'clock, if you go on Kingston Avenue, everything is just about closed. Maybe you might find one or two stores that are open, from Empire Boulevard to Eastern Parkway, maybe. I can only think of two, to tell you the truth. The grocery store that's right here on Crown and Kingston, and the cleaners, Hank's Cleaners. That's the only one. The only thing I can think of that's open. 12:00
CRAIG WILDER: So if you had to go shopping right now, you would have to go to--
EVELYN MORRIS: I would have to go to Associated, or… that's on Empire. EitherI would have to go to Pioneer, or if I wanted to walk a while, or whatever, I'd go to Utica Avenue, where there's a lot of people of… Caribbean people, there.
CRAIG WILDER: It's obviously an inconvenience, but do people normally blame theHasidim for that?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yes. I think they do. I really do. Like I said, a lot of Blackpeople do not have the funds to open businesses and things like that. Or they don't have the education, or they don't want to open them. One of the three. 13:00
CRAIG WILDER: Have the number of Hasidim stores or Hasidic-owned stores onKingston Avenue increased over time?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yes.
CRAIG WILDER: And has that added to the sort of resentment?
EVELYN MORRIS: I guess it has, because I really don't do that much shoppingaround here. I go to the supermarkets and things like that.
CRAIG WILDER: Do you do that intentionally?
EVELYN MORRIS: No. It's just that I do that because there aren't any storeshere. Maybe you just go to the corner store around the corner there, and get something, but as far as markets and things like that, we don't have them.
CRAIG WILDER: What things, to come inside the house now, for a moment. If youpointed out things in your house that represent you and your family, what things would -- for instance, if you had to do a museum exhibit, take three things from your house to show people something about you. What would you take? 14:00
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, I would take my family, and then, I don't know, the livingroom. Things like that. My family album, stuff like that.
CRAIG WILDER: Photographs.
EVELYN MORRIS: Photographs, things like that.
CRAIG WILDER: How active are you in this community?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, since my kids have grown up, I am really not active.Because when the children were young I was active in the PTA, things like that. Go on trips, and stuff like that. After my children grew up, I haven't been doing it.
CRAIG WILDER: The schools that your children went to, were they predominantly Black?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yes.
CRAIG WILDER: Did the Hasidim, or other Jewish communities, participate in it at all?
EVELYN MORRIS: No. In the schools? No.
CRAIG WILDER: So they all went to Hebrew Schools. Okay. What then were the maingoals of the PTA here in Crown Heights? Was it to attract more students? 15:00
EVELYN MORRIS: I think so. They tried to.
CRAIG WILDER: Were they good schools?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yeah. I think the schools were pretty good that my kids went to.
CRAIG WILDER: How about the teachers?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, I'll tell you like I see it. If you have a pretty smartchild, then your children are going to be in pretty good classes. And if your children are not very bright, or if they're rather slow, then they're going to be in slow classes. Thank God that all mine were pretty smart.
CRAIG WILDER: So you were satisfied.
EVELYN MORRIS: So I was satisfied, right. And I was always at the school oractive at that time.
CRAIG WILDER: Do you attend a church or a temple or a mosque?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yeah, I attend the church.
CRAIG WILDER: Which one?
EVELYN MORRIS: I go back to Mount Lebanon.16:00
CRAIG WILDER: In Bed-Stuy. Why do you travel out there?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, there really aren't a lot of churches out here, not forBlack people. I mean, there are Seventh Day Adventist churches, and West Indian churches, but there's only one real church that I can think of offhand, and that's --it's on Union and Brooklyn. What is that church? St. Paul? You know what I'm talking about? That church. That's the only one that I can think of off-hand. That American Blacks go to.
CRAIG WILDER: That's what you were looking for? So you kept the one in Bedford-Stuy?17:00
EVELYN MORRIS: Mmm hmm.
CRAIG WILDER: What big events in Crown Heights do you remember?
EVELYN MORRIS: Really the biggest event that's over here is the Labor Day parade.
CRAIG WILDER: The Caribbean Day parade?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yes. That's really the biggest thing that's over here. And Ihaven't gone to that in the past ten years.
CRAIG WILDER: Why not?
EVELYN MORRIS: Because the people up there, the children and the young people,they carry on so bad up there, and instead of people having fun, you look around and they're having fights and things like that. I prefer not to be around.
CRAIG WILDER: How much contact do African Americans in this community, inparticular, have with Caribbeans, the different Caribbean groups? 18:00
EVELYN MORRIS: I'm sure they have quite a bit, because my children's friendshave a lot of Caribbean friends. I just have neighbors. I'm the type of person that, when I come in my house, I'm in, and when I got out, I'm out. I don't socialize with them on the block. They have a block association. If they're having something, they have a block party of something like that, I'll participate with that. But as far as visiting and going here and there, that's not me.
CRAIG WILDER: The media, in particular, especially over these last two years,has presented an image of Black people in Crown Heights as being a single group that's extremely, somehow, unified. Is that realistic?
EVELYN MORRIS: That's not really true.
CRAIG WILDER: Then who are the Black people in Crown Heights? Are there many?
EVELYN MORRIS: There are a lot, but they're a different group. American Blacks19:00stay with American Blacks, mostly. And Caribbean people stay with Caribbean, and Jews with them, with their people. And that's the way it goes over here.
CRAIG WILDER: That's much more realistic.
EVELYN MORRIS: That's more realistic than the media has focused on it.
CRAIG WILDER: If you were to teach the media how to represent you, inparticular, because you're one of the groups being represented all the time, what would you tell the media?
EVELYN MORRIS: If they came to me and asked me? What would I tell them? Well, Ireally don't know. What would I tell the media if they came and asked me about Crown Heights?
CRAIG WILDER: And about African Americans in Crown Heights.
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, they take everything out of context, that's for sure. And20:00they portray us as violent, which, a lot of Black people aren't violent. But the media portrays them like that. And lazy, which a lot of Black people aren't lazy, and that's about it. They portray us as violent and lazy, which we aren't, you know? But a lot of people do not have the education, and they don't have a push, let's say, from family members, or a family that will try to elevate them a little higher. Sometimes it comes from the home. You have to try and give young people a push. A lot of young Black people are not. They don't want that. They 21:00want to be passive, and that's it.
CRAIG WILDER: I found something interesting that you just said, just talkingabout you for a minute. You worked 25 years in the Board of Ed, and you raised six children. And you turned on the television and you see Black people portrayed as lazy. How is that, personally?
EVELYN MORRIS: Believe me, it really ticks me off. Because Black people are notlike that. Young people, maybe not very young, but in their twenties, they're not like that. If one person… They think that if one person does something, the rest of them do the same thing. And it's not like that. It's just like any family, if you have one bad child, that doesn't mean the rest are going to be like that. That's how the media take us. 22:00
CRAIG WILDER: Do you feel abused by that? This is a view that will come todefine you, eventually.
EVELYN MORRIS: Yeah, in a way. Yeah in a way I do.
CRAIG WILDER: You came in 1971 to Crown Heights.
EVELYN MORRIS: 1972.
CRAIG WILDER: '72, I'm sorry. How has Crown Heights changed since then?
EVELYN MORRIS: Basically, it really hasn't changed a lot. It just has… There'sgotten more Jews in, and there's more Black people here, and there's more friction. Because a lot of Black people think that the Jews get the preferential treatment always, from police, all up to the Mayor's office. And that's the way they feel like that. But it really hasn't changed that much, from when my 23:00children were young, up to now, it really has not changed that much.
CRAIG WILDER: I've heard before that Jews get preferential treatment in CrownHeights, or least that that's a perception here. Is it real?
EVELYN MORRIS: It's real. It's real.
CRAIG WILDER: How to Black people know that Jews get preferential treatment?When do you see it?
EVELYN MORRIS: All the time. I mean, when can a group of Jews stop a city busfrom passing their church, or whatever, their --what do you call it? Synagogue. If a bus came down our block, passing our church, it would keep on going. Am I right? Are you going to have a police stop, and -- and in maybe about another hour or so. If you go to President Street, right there, when the Jews are going 24:00to their synagogue, you will find a policeman with a car, stopping the traffic right there, until they go in, or until they pass by. You don't see that by a Black church. Never. I've never seen it, and I've been here 25 years. I haven't seen it yet. And that's why people here they very upset. And if we would congregate in from of the 71st Precinct, our young people would probably get their heads knocked up, or thrown upside a car or something, because they're making a lot of noise. But if the Jews are there, what do they do? They're standing there, and they're making a lot of noise, and the police aren't doing anything. And I have seen that, too. And I don't think that's right. But it happens, and I've definitely seen it.
CRAIG WILDER: Have most Black people in this community seen that?25:00
EVELYN MORRIS: Of, of course. Especially, I don't know about the old people,because maybe the older people don't go out, but I have seen it, and the younger people will tell you themselves, people in their twenties, maybe early thirties, they will tell you that that happens.
CRAIG WILDER: So it's the younger people who are most resentful?
EVELYN MORRIS: Oh, yes. The young people are very resentful, very much so.
CRAIG WILDER: The Hasidim must know that when people see that sort of treatmentthey're going to react negatively to it. Does that make it worse, that they know it and it still happens?
EVELYN MORRIS: Uh hmm.
CRAIG WILDER: Do people talk about that part of it, too?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yeah, they talk about that. They talk about that. See, I have nodealings with the Jews because they don't have anything that I need, because I can go to other places and get it. That's the way I've always been. I mean, they got barber shops here, my children never went to a Jewish barber shop. They have 26:00stores and restaurants here. I never go to the pizza shop, my kids never go to the pizza shop. Or they have grocery stores. I will go into a grocery store, but most stuff in the Jewish grocery store is, what you call it, when they pray over it, whatever.
CRAIG WILDER: Kosher.
EVELYN MORRIS: Everything is kosher, so I don't go in there. So I go to thesupermarkets or a small store. There's not that many around here.
CRAIG WILDER: Is the source of friction that you talked about, the difference intreatment, or are there other things too?
EVELYN MORRIS: That, and other things, too. And people really don't -- and thenanother thing, too. People don't know each other's culture, either. That's another thing, also. That has a lot to do with it, also.
CRAIG WILDER: Would it help to know why the Hasidim do what they do?27:00
EVELYN MORRIS: I really couldn't tell you, I don't know. I really don't know.
CRAIG WILDER: If you were to give some suggestions about things that could bechanged to make Crown Heights better, where would you start?
EVELYN MORRIS: I'd definitely start with young people, that's for sure. Andmaybe start with the schools. I mean, you know, when you're bringing up children, you have to instill in them some kinds of morals. And today you hear so much things about the Jews, and the Jews hear so many things about the Blacks, they have to really start to know each other. Because if you don't, this world is full of people.
CRAIG WILDER: Is there anyone attempting, or is the government at all, the city28:00government attempting to do that, to bridge the distance?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, I haven't seen anything, to tell you the truth. They mightbe doing something, but I don't know, because I'm not really involved in any of the politicking that goes on.
CRAIG WILDER: What are the good parts of having the Hasidim here? What do theybring that's actually beneficial to the area?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, to me, I think they bring a little less crime, I think.That's really about it, because they don't really, they don't sit and talk to you. They don't… if you walk down the street, and you passing them and they passing you, they never open their mouths to speak to you or anything like that.
CRAIG WILDER: Do you open your mouth to speak to them?
EVELYN MORRIS: No, because they don't speak to me. I used to do that, but theydon't speak, so I feel, why should I waste my time? That's the way I look at it. 29:00
CRAIG WILDER: Do people get a sense that Hasidim think they're better thaneverybody else?
EVELYN MORRIS: I think so. I think that's where the ball bounces.
CRAIG WILDER: What do the Caribbeans and African Americans bring to CrownHeights? What have they contributed?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, I think they want a better life when they come here. Theytry to get a lot more education, they try to educate themselves and their families. They try to get a professional-type job when they come here. And they open businesses, also. Not around here, because we don't have anything right around here, but for instance, Utica Avenue, it's like that. They have them, and Flatbush. 30:00
CRAIG WILDER: What do you like best about Crown Heights?
EVELYN MORRIS: I like the quietness. The quietness.
CRAIG WILDER: That it's residential?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yeah, it's residential, there's not a lot of carrying on. Youdon't hear a lot of people standing on the corners and yelling and screaming and carrying on like that.
CRAIG WILDER: What do you like least?
EVELYN MORRIS: Least? Well let's see. What do I like least. There are not toomany things I dislike over here. Because I don't have any dealings with people over here, so my time is very limited over here. I have other things that I do, I don't be home that often.
CRAIG WILDER: If you were to walk into a room full of people and tell them aboutCrown Heights, what would you tell them? This place that you live in. 31:00
EVELYN MORRIS: I would tell them that it's a nice neighborhood, it's quiet, it'speaceful as long as you stay to yourself. That's about it. I mean, Black people are very friendly. Jews aren't friendly. Maybe they would be friendly if other people, our people would be more friendly, but right now it's a friction and it's always been like that, ever since I've been here. If it ever changes, believe me, it will be a miracle. I'm telling you, because I've been here 21 years and I haven't seen a change.
CRAIG WILDER: So you don't see any ending of the tensions that caused the riotsin 1991?
EVELYN MORRIS: I'm telling you. The only ending they're going to have with thishere is if the younger people have more understanding with each other, because 32:00as you grow older, the older people are not having any kind of relationships with the older people, and other people, never.
CRAIG WILDER: If another incident like the one that sparked the first riotshappened, do you think there would be another riot?
EVELYN MORRIS: That's hard to say.
CRAIG WILDER: I know it's a terrible thing to have to predict, but are thosetensions still so strong that there's the possibility?
EVELYN MORRIS: There's always tension here. I don't know. I hope not believe me,I really do. Because you had to be here in order to see it. I wouldn't want to go through that again. I mean, it's the most scariest thing in the world. You see, they think everything happened on Utica up there, but it didn't. On our 33:00block, five people got their cars, they just burnt up, and people did not know if they were Black people's cars, and they didn't know if they were Jewish people's cars. All they know is that they clashed together. Blacks came from this way, Jews came from this way, and they clashed on Carroll Street. It was terrible, and I wouldn't like to see that. And then they were talking about bombing people's houses, and then everybody's outside. Jewish people were afraid to come outside. Black people came outside because they didn't want people thinking, "Hey, you're going mess my house up," you know. So that's the reason they were out, not out on the street, but on their stoops and whatnot. So I wouldn't want to see anything like that happen again.
CRAIG WILDER: Do you think that politicians generally have responded reasonableto Crown Heights? Or have they taken advantage of it?
EVELYN MORRIS: I don't know. I don't know if they have taken advantage of it or34:00what. Because what happens when a politician comes in, he'll talk to one group and then he'll talk to another, and there's never both groups together. You know what I'm saying? He's over there talking to them by themselves, and then to us. But when you put them together, then there's tension. You know? And that's the way it was. And I hope they don't come back and do that again. Because I even think last week they were out here, and they were talking, after the report came out, and they were talking about the riots and everything, that Dinkins didn't do this and he didn't do that. The police, and whatnot. So I really don't know.
CRAIG WILDER: You were here during the riots, how did you react to this report,what's your take on it?
EVELYN MORRIS: What I can see from the report, because I didn't read the report35:00or anything like that, but what I heard from the news that the police didn't, wasn't reacting to the riots like they should have. But I feel like, if somebody's going crazy, and they're going down the street acting crazy and throwing --I mean what are they going to do? Shoot everybody? They can't kill everybody out there, so I don't know if they-- they weren't prepared for riots. That's another thing too you have to look at. These policemen here were not prepared for any riot. Because the way people were coming up and down the street and the Jews were up and down the street. It was like oh it was 36:00terrible. And I was so frightened for people out there. And I couldn't understand parents letting their young people in all of this. I mean where is the authority. I mean don't they have any kind of say so over their children. If it was one of mine he would have been in the household half murdered. I would have done it myself. He wouldn't have been it there. It was awful. I don't know if the police, what I can understand was they weren't prepared for nothing like that. They didn't figure anything like that. They probably thought somebody was going to fight or something and they were going to push it back and that was going to be the end. They were going to squash it down and they would be the end of it. But the young people went absolutely crazy.
CRAIG WILDER: And were young people on I hate to put it this way --both sides?37:00
EVELYN MORRIS: Yes, yes, yes. Young and old Hasidic people, really you don'tknow who's too much old, but you can tell young and old in the Hasidic people, but there were young Black people, mostly young Black people. It was awful. I just hope nothing like that ever happens again.
CRAIG WILDER: How did the community respond?
EVELYN MORRIS: People were upset. They were outraged over things like that. Tome, this is the way I perceive it, to me it was an accident. A child got killed, sure, it was an accident that was an accident. But you don't go back and kill somebody else because of an accident. I mean, accidents happen every day. Just 38:00because this was a Jewish fellow, and maybe over there the Jewish people and the Blacks were just already at it, I don't know, because I live over here, I wasn't over there where they were at. And they, the way they were carrying on, accidents happens every day. I felt bad for both sides, I felt very bad for that Cato family, and I felt very bad for somebody who went and killed that Jewish fellow…
CRAIG WILDER: Rosenbaum.
EVELYN MORRIS: Rosenbaum. Yeah. I felt very bad for that, too. Because thatshouldn't have happened. But it did, and a lot of people have to live with that. It's awful. But I hope it never happens again.
CRAIG WILDER: To move on to something a little bit lighter, your family here inCrown Heights, what do you do for fun?
EVELYN MORRIS: I guess my children, they go do different things. They used to go39:00to Prospect Park, when they were younger, Prospect Park, but now they've got their own families. I don't have no babies now. My baby's 31, so I really don't have no babies. They go places, they travel, with their own children I guess they go to parks and places like that.
CRAIG WILDER: If I ask you, would you have wanted your children to live in Crown Heights?
EVELYN MORRIS: You mean now?
CRAIG WILDER: Yes.
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, three of my children still do live in Crown Heights, and Isuppose that they like it here. They like it here because they were brought up here. They were young when they were here, so they were brought up here, and they have plenty of friends, but it wasn't like over in Bed-Stuy. They like it 40:00over here much better than over there.
CRAIG WILDER: Do you suspect that your grandchildren will stay?
EVELYN MORRIS: Maybe, I don't know. Probably so, if the parents live hereprobably the children will also.
CRAIG WILDER: What do you want people to know about you as an African Americanwoman and a resident of Crown Heights?
EVELYN MORRIS: I'm a hard working honest person. That's about it, I'm a familyperson. My life is surrounded by my family, and that's about it. I mean, I do other things, don't get me wrong, but mostly that's what it is. 41:00
CRAIG WILDER: Do you have a strong family?
EVELYN MORRIS: Uh-huh. Oh you mean. Yeah, my mother, she was a one-parentfamily, I came from a one-parent family, just my sister and I, just the two of us.
CRAIG WILDER: But is was a very tight grouping?
EVELYN MORRIS: Oh yeah.
CRAIG WILDER: And how about your own family?
EVELYN MORRIS: My family? Oh yeah, they'll be here after a while, don't worry.
CRAIG WILDER: Has that been important to you?
EVELYN MORRIS: Oh yeah.
CRAIG WILDER: How about the other people in your neighborhood, on your block?Are there a lot of good families?
EVELYN MORRIS: There's a lot of good families on this block, a lot of goodfamilies on this block.
CRAIG WILDER: Is that one of the benefits of it?
EVELYN MORRIS: Yeah. Un-huh. Mostly everybody's a strong family on this block.
CRAIG WILDER: Where are there not strong families?
EVELYN MORRIS: In this neighborhood? I really don't know, because I don't42:00socialize with people around here, in different areas. I don't know. I used to hear about Brownsville or East New York, things like that, when I was younger, but I don't go…I don't be out there, so I don't know.
CRAIG WILDER: But for the most part, Crown Heights has--
EVELYN MORRIS: Yeah, Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy is pretty good too. I just leftthere when my children were young for a better apartment, because the apartments and stuff weren't all that good over there. But I have a lot of friends in Bed-Stuy also, a lot of friends.
CRAIG WILDER: Do you have much contact South Carolina, do you have any familyleft there?
EVELYN MORRIS: I just came from there two weeks ago.
CRAIG WILDER: How often do you go?
EVELYN MORRIS: This is the second year in row I've been. We have a close family43:00down there, also. I don't have any more aunts and uncles alive. I went down last year with my grandmother's sister, she was the last of that family, even my family, my mother and I, so she was the last of the old people. Now, the generation starts from me, we're the older, my sister and I, and then my cousins that are down there. I have two cousins that's in Jersey, my mother's brother and sister's children. That's where it starts, from there, outside.
CRAIG WILDER: Now you're not close to it yet, but when you retire, is CrownHeights where you want to stay?
EVELYN MORRIS: Oh no, I'm not going to be here, because -- my children are goingto be here, but I'm going to go back. 44:00
CRAIG WILDER: So South Carolina?
EVELYN MORRIS: Uh-huh.
CRAIG WILDER: What part is it?
EVELYN MORRIS: Blackville, South Carolina. I'm already making preparations.
CRAIG WILDER: Why back to South Carolina?
EVELYN MORRIS: Well, I have a lot of cousins there, and I have a lot of friendsthat are there, although my children are here. Don't get me wrong, I'll be back here, it's not that I'm going to go and be there always. You have to remember, I have six children, and I'll be visiting all the time, or they'll be there. I'm only really getting a place there for the benefit that everybody can come to. Like that, I've got five more years and I'll be straight.
CRAIG WILDER: Has that been a goal for a while now, to go back to South Carolinaand have a homestead?
EVELYN MORRIS: No, it's something new that happened about six years ago, when my45:00aunt, my mother's sister, the last of the children, passed away. And she was the only one, she had no children or nothing, and I felt so bad for her, and I said, if I would ever retire, I would come down and get some place, so that my children would have some place to come when they wanted to come. That's what's happening now.
CRAIG WILDER: And for that you chose South Carolina? Back home.
EVELYN MORRIS: Right.
CRAIG WILDER: Thank you very much.
Oral History Interview with Evelyn Morris
Evelyn Morris, an African American, was born in Blackville, South Carolina, in 1935. At the age of eleven, she moved to New York City, with her sister, to reunite with her mother. She spent the remainder of her childhood in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. In 1972, she moved with her six children to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. At the date of the interview in 1993, Morris was working in a school cafeteria and still resided in the same apartment. A number of her children and grandchildren live within a close proximity. She was also employed as a food supervisor for the New York City Board of Education.
Morris discusses the racial, religious and cultural tension of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. The core of the interview is a reflection on the cause of the racial tensions, between Blacks and Jews, in the neighborhood and her experience of the Crown Heights riot. Interview conducted by Craig Wilder.
This collection contains oral history recordings and transcripts, as well as exhibit materials, from Brooklyn Historical Society's Crown Heights History Project, also known as "Bridging Eastern Parkway." Crown Heights History Project oral histories include audio and transcripts created and collected within the context of an exhibition project undertaken in part by BHS in 1993 and 1994. Three interviewers recorded conversations with over forty narrators. In addition to exhibition product value, the oral histories were conducted as life history and community anthropology interviews; topics of discussion include family and heritage, immigration and relocation, cultural and racial relations, occupations and professions, education and religion, housing and gentrification, civil unrest and reconciliation, media representation and portrayal, and activism. The series of exhibition research materials document the outreach efforts for interviews and materials from the community as well as exhibit scripts and curatorial notes.
CitationMorris, Evelyn, Oral history interview conducted by Craig Wilder, July 30, 1993, Crown Heights History Project collection, 1994.006.20; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Cato, Gavin
- Morris, Evelyn
- New York (N.Y.). Police Department
- Rosenbaum, Yankel
- African American neighborhoods
- African Americans
- Ethnic neighborhoods
- Family life
- Migration, Internal
- Race identity
- Race relations
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
- South Carolina
Finding AidCrown Heights History Project collection