Norman Davis and Thelma Jackson Oral History Interview


Norman Davis and Thelma Jackson Oral History Interview


Thelma Jackson was born around 1920 in Pennsylvania and grew up in Harlem and Mott Haven. Her parents were both immigrants from Barbados. Her father came to New York City via Cuba and Panama, where he worked on the Panama Canal. He was a carpenter who dreamed of becoming a civil engineer but was excluded from education because of his race. He went on to become a landlord and owned many apartment buildings. Her mother was a seamstress and mother of ten who refused to become a US citizen because black people did not have rights here. Both of her parents were excluded from labor unions because of their race. They moved to 248 East 136th Street (where she met and became lifelong friends with Norman Davis) when Thelma was 9, and she attended PS 31. She attended the College of Mt. St. Vincent on a scholarship and married an American Indian. At the time of her interview, in 2007, she lived on Faile Street in the South Bronx. She passed away before we could complete this interview.

Norman Oliver Davis was born in 1925 and grew up in Harlem and Mott Haven. His family migrated to New York City from the South and came to Mott Haven by the early 1930s, working as supers for a building at 351 East 136th Street, where they lived in the basement. His family later lived on 136th Street between Third Avenue and Rider Avenue, where there were several black families in a small cluster of tenement buildings. In 1942 he was sent to Elmira Reformatory for allegedly being involved in the stabbing of a white boy during a mugging. He dropped out of high school but then got his GED at age 30. He began working for the Parks Department as an attendant in 1956, and worked there until he retired in 1988, becoming a leader in his union, DC 37, and helping to found the Parks Department’s Ebony Society. In 1981, he bought and renovated a large rowhouse at 440 East 136th Street, where he lived until his death in 2010.




Amy Starecheski


Norman Davis
Thelma Jackson



“Norman Davis and Thelma Jackson Oral History Interview,” Mott Haven Oral History Archive, accessed January 18, 2020,

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