Resident Spotlight: Ethel Howard If somebody puts a block in your way, step over it and Keep Movin!
Ms. Ethel Howard was born on March 31st, 1922 in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of 6 children, she was raised with her mother and father on the south end of Canal Street. While Ethel enjoyed her family and built many lasting memories, she found herself uneasy with the city in which she lived. As a 10 year old, she was tasked to running errands uptown. The streetcars took one up Canal Street and the posted rules drove home the discrimination of the city. Screens were pulled across at the moment a white person boarded the street cars to separate them from the blacks. “I would board the street car and go straight to the back. Even if the car was empty, I would sit on the back row to avoid the possibility that the ‘screen’ was pulled separating her row. I couldn’t stand the idea of a screen being pulled in front of my face.” The ways of New Orleans and the discriminatory policies burned inside Ethel. As her husband went off to the war in 1942, Ethel went with a new friend to live in New York.
“It was wonderful,” she remarks. She worked in a factory that made gloves for the soldiers. Her husband would return home from the war and they found their own apartment in Yonkers and began their family raising three boys. Ethel returned to the textile factory for a few years before starting her long career with Family Services of Yonkers. As a nurse, she cared for patients in different environments for 22 years. At age 62, she retired in 1984.
After moving to Atlanta in the late 80s, she described the City of Atlanta saying, “There’s a little snag here and there, but you forget about it and keep 'movin’.” She became an active member of St. Phillips AME Methodist Church. She was part of the choir and food bank among other things. All gave her work and a sense of purpose. She comments, “There is nothing wrong with working. If you want to, and can work until you die- Why not? There is so much to do.”
She has continued to visit New Orleans for many years during Mardi Gras, but has missed the last couple years with the pandemic. She reflects on family in her birth city and says she sometimes considers it is time to go back. Then, upon further consideration, she says there is no block in the way, so she will stick with what’s working and enjoy family and friends here in Atlanta living at Decatur Christian Towers.