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Robert B. Hill

Robert Bernard Hill was born on September 7, 1938 in Brooklyn, New York. His mother worked as a domestic and his father was a cook. He attended New York City public schools. In 1956, Hill earned his high school diploma from Boys High School, where he was active in student government, the school paper, and the math and history clubs.

From 1956 until 1961, Hill attended City Colleges of New York, where he earned his B.A. degree in sociology. While attending City Colleges in 1960, he reactivated the campus Youth NAACP chapter and became its president. During his tenure, he befriended and invited civil rights activist Malcolm X to speak to students. Hill went on to earn his Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University in 1969.

Hill became a social researcher for the National Urban League in 1969, and continued to work in that capacity until 1981. In 1972, he published his first book, The Strengths of Black Families to counter negative stereotypes of blacks in the 1965 report on the Negro family by Daniel Moynihan. While working for the Urban League, Hill taught sociology course at Fordham, New York University, Princeton, the University of Maryland, Howard University, and the University of Pennsylvania. From 1981 and 1986, Hill worked for the Bureau of Social Science Research. From there, he worked as a consultant at the White House for the Reagan Administration where he researched and documented self-help groups around the country. From 1989 until 1998, Hill worked as a Research Director at Morgan State University. In 1999, Hill published his latest book, The Strengths of African American Families: Twenty-Five Years Later. During that same year, Hill was offered a position with Westat, a research firm in Rockville, Maryland, where he remains today.

Accession Number

A2004.140

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/24/2004

Last Name

Hill

Maker Category
Middle Name

B.

Occupation
Schools

Boys High School

City College of New York

Columbia University

Ps 42 Benjamin Altman School

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

HIL08

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana

Favorite Quote

Achieving Against The Odds.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

9/7/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Sociologist Robert B. Hill (1938 - ) is the author of The Strength of Black Families, and has held positions with the Bureau of Sociology and Science Research and as a consultant at the White House for the Reagan Administration. Hill also served as a research director at Morgan State University, and in 1999, Hill published, The Strengths of African American Families: Twenty-Five Years Later.

Employment

National Urban League (NUL)

Fordham University

New York University

Princeton University

University of Maryland, College Park

Howard University

University of Pennsylvania

White House

Morgan State University

Westat

Favorite Color

Brown

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert B. Hill's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert B. Hill lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert B. Hill describes his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert B. Hill describes his mother's work and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert B. Hill describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert B. Hill details his African ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert B. Hill talks about his maternal ancestors

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert B. Hill talks about his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert B. Hill describes his paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert B. Hill describes his earliest memories of growing up with his siblings in New York, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Robert B. Hill describes his childhood activities

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Robert B. Hill describes his childhood neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Robert B. Hill talks about his teachers at P.S. 42 in New York, New York, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert B. Hill talks about his teachers at P.S. 42 in New York, New York, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert B. Hill describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Brooklyn, New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert B. Hill describes his experiences attending Antioch Baptist Church in New York, New York, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert B. Hill describes his experiences attending Antioch Baptist Church in New York, New York, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert B. Hill remembers encountering HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Antioch Baptist Church

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert B. Hill talks about his junior high school experiences at P.S. 9 in New York, New York, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert B. Hill talks about his junior high school experiences at P.S. 9 in New York, New York, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert B. Hill recalls when Jackie Robinson presented him with a trophy for winning a table tennis tournament at his junior high school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Robert B. Hill talks about his mentors

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Robert B. Hill talks about his friendships during his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Robert B. Hill recalls his decision to attend Boys High School in Brooklyn, New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Robert B. Hill describes his experiences at Boys High School in Brooklyn, New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert B. Hill recalls working in a hardware store during high school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert B. Hill talks about choosing to attend The City College of New York in New York, New York for his undergraduate schooling

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert B. Hill talks about switching his major from engineering to sociology at The City College of New York in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert B. Hill talks about inviting Malcolm X to speak to the NAACP Youth Chapter at The City College of New York in New York, New York, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert B. Hill talks about inviting Malcolm X to speak to the NAACP Youth Chapter at The City College of New York in New York, New York, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert B. Hill talks about completing his master's degree in sociology at Columbia University in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert B. Hill reflects upon the publication of the 1965 Moynihan Report, 'The Negro Family: The Case for National Action' by Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert B. Hill talks about how he came to work for the National Urban League in the late 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robert B. Hill talks about heading a census project for the National Urban League research department in 1970

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert B. Hill reflects upon his census research on African American families for the National Urban League

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert B. Hill talks about the national impact of the Coalition for a Black Count census project

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert B. Hill describes the genesis of his 1972 book, 'The Strengths of Black Families'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert B. Hill talks about his research on African American families and publishing his report, 'The Strengths of Black Families,' as a book in 1972

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert B. Hill describes the responses to his 1971 report, 'The Strengths of Black Families'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert B. Hill talks about his relationship with Ron Brown of the National Urban League

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert B. Hill explains his decision to leave the National Urban League

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robert B. Hill talks about his employment with the Bureau of Social Science Research

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Robert B. Hill talks about his work as a research consultant for the White House in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Robert B. Hill recalls his encounters with President Ronald Wilson Reagan

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Robert B. Hill considers the impact of welfare reform on African American families

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Robert B. Hill talks about his responsibilities as research director at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert B. Hill talks about his research responsibilities at Westat in Rockville, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert B. Hill talks about his findings in 'The Strengths of Black Families: 25 Years Later,' the sequel to his first report

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert B. Hill talks about the effects of the income gap for African American families

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert B. Hill details the sociological changes he observed among African American families from the time of his 1971 report and his more recent study

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert B. Hill reflects upon the impact of racism for African Americans

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert B. Hill talks about the role of the media in perpetuating negative myths about African Americans

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert B. Hill shares advice for African American parents

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robert B. Hill describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Robert B. Hill describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Robert B. Hill reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Robert B. Hill narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert B. Hill narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

8$4

DATitle
Robert B. Hill recalls when Jackie Robinson presented him with a trophy for winning a table tennis tournament at his junior high school
Robert B. Hill talks about his research on African American families and publishing his report, 'The Strengths of Black Families,' as a book in 1972
Transcript
Tell me a little about what type of young man you were becoming around this time. The junior high school years [at P.S. 9, Teunis G. Bergen School, New York, New York].$$Well I mean there I think I really was--I was kind of, you know--again I told you I was studious so I really--you know, my friends tended to be more studious. Like I related 'cause I'm back in my neighborhood, I still live in my neighborhood. More of my friends were not as studious although there were a few of them who were--a few of them were. So I guess I began to develop a close relationship with some of the more studious kids because you'd homework and things together so it was that. The other thing in junior high school which I can't live out is sports. In my recreation in the junior high school they had a recreation area--you could play pool or you could play table tennis well then I decided--I couldn't get to the pool table so I played table tennis and this is very interesting because--so I was a very good table tennis player. So after school I played table tennis, I would play table tennis endlessly. They had a tournament in our school, table tennis they had for boys and girls and I won the table tennis tournament for boys but they had Jackie Robinson to come to give me my trophy. So Jackie Robinson, Jackie Robinson--he gave both of us our trophies. Jackie Robinson came 'cause he lived in Brooklyn [New York, New York] in the Brooklyn Dodgers [Los Angeles Dodgers], Jackie Robinson came and my uncle they thought he was a photographer from the newspapers and he took my picture, me and Jackie Robinson and Jackie Robinson gave me this trophy. And so that is an unforgettable moment but it was interesting for them to take this picture somehow we had to stand at each other and look at each other's eye for a long time. Of course, he has such a gracious smile, but I'm saying when are they going to take this picture and he was shaking my hand, we took this picture (simultaneous)--$$Were just in awe?$$I was kind of in awe 'cause it was Jackie Robinson everybody knew Jackie Robinson that he would take his time and everybody would talk about him and this school wasn't all that far from Ebbets Field [New York, New York] either. But since he lived in Brooklyn and stuff like that, he was in Brooklyn. For him to take his time to come to a school but that also showed me later on that school had those connections because they just--and Jackie Robinson showed up. And so that was a very, very awe experiencing, you know, moment in terms of that.$What were some of the things you discovered?$$Well let me say my strengths because that's the whole--you know, the strong achievement--that blacks had a strong achievement orientation, a strong work orientation, flexible family roles, strong kinship bonds and strong religious orientation. My book ['The Strengths of Black Families,' Robert B. Hill] used data to show how these five strengths are exemplified among not only middle income blacks but around working class low income blacks. And I used a lot of government data; I used [U.S.] Census Bureau data, labor department and other researchers to say their specific strengths. These weren't the only strengths but these were the strengths that I wanted to focus on to say that if you're talking about black families there's an omission, you never talk about any of these strengths that we are an achievement oriented people, we're work oriented. And so that pretty much--but let me just say that report, that book--that came out as a report not as a book, I've got to put that in context. That was released in 1971 at a conference in Saint--in Detroit, Michigan. But what happened was, let me say how it got such publicity, the newspapers--they released--the bureau at that time--the Census Bureau was releasing a report on black families but it was in the Moynihan [Report; 'The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,' Daniel Patrick Moynihan] tradition. Each year it would release it on black--but talk about the weaknesses. And apparently some of my people told me that the bureau was trying to undercut my report so they decided to release their report the same day as mine. They thought they would get more publicity, but it backfired. What happened was the newspapers picked up both reports. So this was [The] New York Times--both reports. My report was talking about strengths; the Census Bureau was talking about weaknesses, in the Moynihan tradition. So people across the country wanted to get copies of this report, it just got all over the whole world. So the Bureau--the [National] Urban League said look the only way we can do it is to make it a book. So they made it into a book, so it's a very small tiny book because it wasn't meant to be a book initially, it was to be a report. So the Urban League, you know, made it a book, it became a book quickly and that it was disseminated across the country but as a counter valance to the--to that Moynihan tradition.