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The Honorable Helen Marshall

New York City’s Queens Borough chief executive Helen Marie Marshall was born on September 30, 1929, on Manhattan Island in New York City. Marshall was a product of the New York Public School system; after earning her high school diploma, she went on to graduate with her B.A. degree in education from Queens College. Marshall later took graduate level courses in education and public administration at Bank Street College and Long Island University.

Marshall began her professional career as an early childhood educator; she decided to leave the teaching profession in 1969 to help found and become the first director of the Langston Hughes Library in New York City. Marshall held this position for five years, simultaneously acting as director of the Elmcor Testing and Placement Program. In 1974, Marshall became involved in politics when she ran for and was elected to the position of Democratic District leader in New York City. One year later, Marshall became a Democratic National Committeewoman, and in 1982, was elected to the first of five terms she would serve in the New York State Assembly. In 1991, Marshall was elected to the New York City Council, where she represented the 21st District. As a city councilwoman, Marshall served as chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee; co-chaired the Council’s Black and Latino Caucus; and was a member of the Housing and Buildings, Environmental Protection, and Women’s Issues Committees. In November of 2001, Marshall was elected the Queens Borough’s first African American president.

During Marshall’s political career, she was an advocate for quality health care, senior citizens, and the environment. Marshall worked to provide funding to upgrade every library under her jurisdiction, and helped open two new senior centers in her district. LaGuardia Community College honored Marshall with the school’s annual Crystal Globe Award for Excellence and Leadership in education.

Marshall and her husband, Donald Marshall, raised two children: Donald, Jr. and Agnes Marie.

Marshall passed away on March 4, 2017 at the age of 87.

Accession Number




Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category

Ps 42 Claremont Community School

City College of New York

First Name


Birth City, State, Country

New York



Favorite Season



New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Sag Harbor in Long Island, New York

Favorite Quote

If You See Queens, You See The World.$Put Your Eye On The Star And Keep It There And Keep On Rising.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York



Favorite Food


Death Date


Short Description

Borough president The Honorable Helen Marshall (1929 - 2017 ) was the first African American president of the borough of Queens, New York.


Langston Hughes Library

New York State Assembly

New York City Council

Queens Bourough

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of the Honorable Helen Marshall's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Helen Marshall lists her favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes her birth mother's family history, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes her birth mother's family history, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes her stepmother's upbringing, education, and career</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes her father's family history and her father's personality</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes her birth mother's passing from tuberculosis</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes how her father met her stepmother</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes the working conditions of sweatshops in the 1920s and 1930s in New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Helen Marshall details her paternal family history</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes her father's involvement with the Works Progress Administration in the 1920s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes her father's affiliation to Garveyism and her recollections of moving from Manhattan to the Bronx during the 1920s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Helen Marshall continues to describe her recollections of moving to the Bronx during the 1920s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Harlem and the Bronx, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in Harlem and the Bronx, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Helen Marshall describes her childhood personality and her stepmother's home remedies</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Helen Marshall talks about her stepmother Artemesor Hasty Sargent leaving their family</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Helen Marshall talks about her grade school years at P.S. 042 Claremont in the Bronx, New York during the 1930s, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Helen Marshall talks about her grade school years at P.S. 042 Claremont in the Bronx, New York during the 1930s, pt. 2</a>







The Honorable Helen Marshall describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Harlem and the Bronx, pt. 1
The Honorable Helen Marshall talks about her grade school years at P.S. 042 Claremont in the Bronx, New York during the 1930s, pt. 2
Now, before I get you to school, can you describe the neighborhood? We always ask this question: what was, what was some of the sights, and sounds and smells of growing up? And you can go back to Harlem [New York, New York] and then take us to the Bronx [New York].$$Okay, well in Harlem I remember my cousins lived, my Uncle Donald, my father's brother lived in, two blocks down and he had four sons and one daughter. And so that, and the daughter was the same age as my, my cousin, their daughter Juanita is the same age as my sister, so we would go there and visit Uncle Donald and so on. And I remember happiness in Harlem. I remember my mother use to walk us on Sunday morning up to Abyssinian Baptist Church. We'd walk from my house all the way--we lived on 112th Street. She would walk us all the way up to the church, which was like 137th or 38th [138th] Street. And we also used to play in Morningside Park right nearby. Friends, I remember that Mrs. Innis, Mr. Innis was, they were our neighbors on 110th Street.$$Roy Innis?$$No, no (laughter), no.$$Not that one, a different Innis.$$No, Mr. Innis was a seaman with my father [Jerald Sargent] and so the first address we lived at was on 110th Street and Mrs. Innis was white. She was British, still talked with a British accent, and her husband was black, who was a, a merchant seaman with my father. And so they became very, we always were very close to them and friends. And their oldest daughter and then their two daughters used to babysit for my sister [Joan Sargent] and I, because my mother [Artemesor Hasty Sargent], as I told you was a dressmaker. She didn't always work but she worked sometimes and then she stayed home sometimes. So they took care of us and we, we lived above them. And so it was a very convenient arrangement. And I remember many happy days playing, going to Morningside Park and playing there and so on. And on 112th Street, again, I was a New York City kid. We played out in the street in front of our houses and jumped rope and all the things that kids do. But I was seven, I was still pretty young and I couldn't go wonder far from the house at all. And my grandmother came up; my stepmother [Artemesor Hasty Sargent]'s mother came up to live with us when we had moved to 112th Street. We had a great big apartment and we were on the ground floor. And cats, we use to have cats. What happened is that one-day this cat decided to have her litter behind our kitchen door (laughter). And I remember we couldn't even hardly walk in the kitchen without her getting crazy. But we, the thrill of having the little baby kittens was really nice. I don't remember too much more about it, except I remember there was still white families in Harlem because on the corner of our block we used to see this family with the tennis outfits and their tennis rackets jumping into the car to go away for the weekend, you know, or else to go play tennis. It was a very peaceful time in New York City; it was not turmoil. And walking down the streets, I used to go to the Schom [Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, New York]...well, at the time it was just the Countee Cullen Library [New York, New York] there on 135th [sic, 136th] Street. I remember getting a library card and to walk, there was no, I mean it was so easy to do that, you know. 116th Street was like a main drag.$My color is very fair so there were times when I would overhear things that were very painful, okay. There were times when questions were asked of me. This is full acknowledgment of the fact that I'm black. But that--even the teacher when it came to writing out the information for the tags, she had me go up and write on the board, "colored." She had Harold Russell, who I still know 'till today, he went up and wrote on the board, "Negro." So we could choose whichever one we wanted to be called, you know. And colored was the general accepted term then. Many of the teachers in those days were so darn strict; they were so strict. They were even, they were strict to all the kids, and many times they didn't even have patience with the, the white kids in my group who came from immigrant parents, you know what I mean. Well, graduation time came and I'm in front of the mirror and I'm saying my, I'm singing the songs and practicing for the graduation and during that--and my mother [Artemesor Hasty Sargent] heard me singing 'Ole Black Joe', okay, without saying a word to me she went to school and she, she and a lady named Mrs. Snipe [ph.], who I later learned was my, my husband's aunt, he was staying with her, but I never knew him through all of this, but I knew of her daughter, Phyllis, was in my class and Mrs. and Harold Russell's grandmother came to school and they said, "They are not going to sing that song at graduation, in fact no child is going to sing that song at graduation, it will only humiliate these children."$$And what school was that?$$P.S. 042 in the Bronx [New York].$$Okay, alright--$$Claremont Parkway--