Norman Davis

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.

Check out Norman’s full interview here. You can hear Norman talking about life on Rider Avenue here, and his waterfront adventures as a kid in Mott Haven here.