In the early 1940s, Herman and Sidney Blake were growing up just outside New York City.
Their mother had seven children to raise, and making ends meet wasn’t easy.
At StoryCorps, Herman talked about how poverty shaped their outlook on life.
Click here for the transcript.
My brother Henry, wanting to see us no longer dependent on welfare, decided to drop out of school, so he could help take care of Mama.
So when he got 16, he stopped going to school. And I'll never forget the day the truant officer came and Henry sat there and looked at him and said, "I am not returning to school." He was standing up in support of Mama.
But there was this woman who worked in domestic work. Her name was Lillian Tinsley. She was a member of our church. She had no family of her own, but she just loved the young people.
She liked to take the kids and feed them. And, as I remember, she couldn't cook.
Sidney Blake (SB): Oh Lord...
HB: And we used to despair about her cooking.
HB: And Mama said, "You eat what she puts in front of you."
HB: And she would get on the bus down on 5th Avenue, and go out and clean house all day. But her real interest was education.
And she came to my mother, and she said, "You send that boy back to school. And from my own limited income, I will give you what he could have made."
She sent Henry on to a junior college in Alabama. And Henry's experience there excited my next oldest brother and myself. And, of my mother's seven children, all of us completed high school. Six of us completed college degrees. And two of us got doctorates.
So I consider that the legacy of an unheralded domestic worker named Lillian Tinsley.
And I can never forget her.