Constance Sutton

Interviewed By Vivian Ducat

Constance Sutton and her husband moved to Washington Heights from Chicago in 1954. Both academics from the University of Chicago, Constance found work as a teaching assistant to Margaret Meade at Colombia University, becoming one of the first female members on staff. Disturbed by segregation in America, she talks about becoming an advocate for racial integration in her apartment building. Through her work, Constance remembers meeting many influential members of the African American community including Cicely Tyson, William Mayfield, Malcolm X and Maya Angelou who stayed at her apartment for 6 months while she wrote "When the Caged Bird Sings". Constance goes on to talk about gentrification and the measures that she faced to secure her home. (Summary written by: Nancy Broderick)

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converstation (00:01)
Stories (00:04)
Oral history project (00:07)
NYPL (00:09)
March 16, 2015 (00:11)
800 riverside drive (00:14)
157th and 158th (00:19)
1954 (00:28)
university of chicago (00:38)
160th (01:05)
Hospital (01:30)
Broadway dividing line (01:51)
blacks, chinee, italian other side (02:01)
small businesses (04:35)
shopkeepers (05:00)
minimal black more puerto rican, dominican (06:16)
anthropologist (06:52)
spinister to do fieldwork (08:32)
told cannot travel alone (08:37)
margaret mead teaching assistand (08:48)
teaching assistant at Colombia (10:02)
GWBridge dividing line for city (11:06)
city ended at riverdale (11:18)
NYU uptown (14:06)
Bronx Comm College (14:08)
1st woman to teach there (14:17)
Colombia was all male college before (14:49)
pregnant (17:16)
cannot work while pregnant (17:50)
1954 (21:02)
1956 (22:46)
brits in Africa (23:18)
columbia started Carribean Project (23:39)
Martinique (23:40)
Trinadad and Barbados (23:42)
went to Barbados (24:45)
cicely tyson (25:19)
maya angelou (25:21)
Louise Merriweather (25:24)
blacks denied apts (26:18)
legal aide (26:30)
1958, 59, 60's (26:32)
redlining (28:50)
black friends (29:34)
hailed taxi for them (29:58)
new apt. 10,000 to fix (35:41)
Alice Childers looked white (36:58)
husband (37:11)
Ruth Johnson - nurse (37:16)
head nurse - cancer hospital (37:36)
owner Jewish (38:02)
accused of likeing black people (38:11)
oppose black moving in (38:22)
William Mayfield (38:53)
Guyana (40:23)
Prime minister (40:52)
keep as an all white bldg (43:11)
upper drive (43:58)
1990's car thefts, drugs (44:47)
progressives meet on friday (48:01)
city take-over (50:42)
sold to banks (50:47)
committee negotiating (52:13)
Ivon smith (52:35)
coop (53:08)
5000$ (53:27)
city going bankrupt (54:02)
landlords could not keep up (54:25)
security problems (54:56)
Maya Angelou (57:00)
Paul Marshall's social network (57:06)
Vouse Markay - SA freedom fighter (57:28)
NY eve party with Malcom X (58:52)
Maya Angelou (01:00:05)
When the caged Bird sings (01:00:18)
cooked (01:00:23)
past stories (01:02:25)
close friends (01:03:02)
nmarriage ceremony (01:03:13)
Autobahn Balllroom Malcom X (01:05:01)
warned not to go to harlem for Malcom X funeral (01:07:29)
charged atmosphere (01:07:37)
Ossie Davis (01:07:52)
Washington Heights is a wonderful community that gives one a sense of belonging (01:09:00)
apartments are wonderful (01:09:15)
divide in building (01:09:48)
resist increasing maintenance (01:10:26)
diverse in income and background (01:10:31)
building is a little community (01:10:48)


Transcript not yet available. .

Interview Data

Date of Interview
March 16, 2015
Location of Interview
Home of Storyteller
Place of birth
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Retired; Professor of Anthropology; Teacher; Educator
Dates in Neighborhood
1963 to date of interview
Birth Year
Rights Statement
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About This Collection

Bridging Our Stories: Washington Heights and Inwood Oral History Project

This is a neighborhood oral history project that works to both preserve and document Washington Heights and Inwood history through the stories of people who have experienced it. This project will collect oral histories of people who have lived or worked in the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods. Over 90 volunteer interviewers have been trained to collect these stories. Interviews will be preserved at The Milstein Division of US History, Local History and Genealogy and available in a circulating collection. Interviews will also be accessible in full length at this website.