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Bronx H.S. Students Make, Study History in Innovative Program


Twenty-three Bronx high school students in Fordham’s History Makers Program presented their original historical research to an enthusiastic audience of family, University faculty and staff, and friends on Thursday, August 3, at the McGinley Center on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus.

The six-week program is a collaboration between the University’s Community Service Program and African and African American Studies Department, and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), a nonprofit settlement house that runs a youth enrichment program for college-bound teenagers in the Bronx.

“The curriculum went beyond the traditional subjects that are usually covered in high school and college text books,” said Brian Purnell, Ph.D. (FCRH ’00), adjunct professor of African and African American Studies and research director of the Bronx African-American History Project, who ran the program with the help of Fordham University student mentors. “We examined history from the perspectives of ordinary people: immigrants, workers, and everyday citizens who shape our city each day in innumerable ways. Specifically we sought to unearth the histories of African Americans, Latinos, West Indians and West Africans in the Bronx, to study their communities and cultures and find out how they struggled, survived, and thrived over time.”

History Makers, which began in July, taught Bronx high school students how to perform professional-level historical research in the city’s archives, libraries and museums. The participants worked on the University campus in classrooms and the library, and spent the last week of the program living on campus in a residence hall, to familiarize them with the academic and social aspects of college life.

The students “walked, and walked, and walked and walked quickly,” according to Purnell, on the streets of Morissania, Hunts Point, the Hub and the Grand Concourse sections of the Bronx, exploring the lost history of the borough’s most vibrant African American neighborhoods. The students also visited the Bronx County and Brooklyn Historical Societies, and learned the history of the Brooklyn Bridge and how it changed New York City and immigrant life in the 1900s.

“Dr. Purnell, and the four college mentors, Danielle, Stephanie, Ryan and Laura, put together an incredible program that exposed our participants here tonight to professional-level historical research through various media, visiting museums and archives, going on 100-degree-weather walking tours, lectures, and discussions,” Sandra Lobo-Jost, MSW (FCRH ’97), director of Fordham’s Community Service Program, told the assembled students, family and faculty. “I want to say how very proud we are of Dr. Purnell, the college mentors and all of the participants of the History Makers Program.”

Some artifacts from participants’ research may go on public display at the Bronx County Historical Society or a similar venue. The History Makers program was made possible by a generous grant from the Teagle Foundation. The foundation may fund the program for at least another two years if the University and CAB agree to continue it.


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