African American Studies
Interviewee: Marie Tome
Interviewer: Dr. Mark Naison
Summarized by: Daniel Matthews
Reverend Marie Tome is the minister of Bright Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Church is located on 812 Thale Street in the Bronx. In 1932 Tome moved from South Carolina to live with her grandmother in the Bronx. She left South Carolina for fear of lynchings and segregation. Her grandmother made a living doing domestic work, often waiting on street corners for families to hire her. This practice was known as the Bronx Slave Market for the low wages and the phenomenon of black workers lined up on the street corners. The house they lived in near 170th Street and 3rd Avenue was a cold water flat with no heating.
The area was predominantly black and poor. Tome describes it as a safe area with a strong sense of community. She also found this sense of community in her life as a garment worker, where many of her coworkers were Jewish and Italian.
Tome found work in the Garment District, where she joined the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Still, she was unable to get her own apartment until she got married and moved to Harlem with her first husband. She left the Union after a mastectomy in 1953 prevented her from sewing. Afterwards, she worked at Bellevue Hospital as a water clerk for the morgues. Her first husband divorced her after her mastectomy, and she remarried soon after. Her second husband died in 1965.
Tome’s grandmother founded the Bright Temple AME Church where Tome now serves as minister. She grew up with the church and was its first female minister.
She is 89 at the time of this interview.
Tome, Marie. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Marie, Tome Pt 1.mp3 (15752 kB)
Marie, Tome Pt 2.mp3 (6579 kB)