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Fighting for Justice - New York Voices of the Civil Rights Movement

CCHR
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Esther Cooper Jackson
Clifford L. Alexander, Jr.
Elsie Richardson

Esther Cooper Jackson
(1917--) came to New York City in 1952 after graduating from Oberlin College (1938) and Fisk University with a Masters degree in sociology (1940) and 7 years as a staff member of the Voting Project for the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SYNC) in Birmingham Alabama. SNYC registered voters and fought for equal housing and employment opportunities. Jackson was Executive Secretary of SYNC from 1942-46. Later she was the cofounder (with Shirley Graham Du Bois, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Louis E. Burnham) and managing editor of Freedomways - an influential African-American political and cultural quarterly (1961-1986) that featured early literary and political writings by luminaries from W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Paul Robeson, Alice Walker, Lorraine Hansberry, and James Baldwin. Artists in the magazine with cover art by such major artists as Jacob Laurence, Romare Beardon, and Elizabeth Catlett. For the 25 years of its publication, it was an important link between the northern and southern movements for civil rights - with both a national and international readership. It is also considered a precursor to the Black Arts movement in the 1960s and 1970s. She was also the co-editor of W.E.B. Du Bois: Black Titan and Paul Robeson: The Great Forerunner. She was married to influential political and labor activist James Jackson (1914-2007).
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Clifford L. Alexander, Jr.
(1933 --), was born and raised in Harlem prior to his education at Fieldstone Ethical Culture, Harvard (1955) and Yale Law School (1958). Early influences were his mother and father. Edith served as the Deputy Director then Executive Director of the Mayor’s Committee on Unity under NYC Mayor LaGuardia. The Mayor’s Committee on Unity was the precursor to the NYC Commission on Human Rights and fought discrimination in employment practices, public accommodations, and housing. His father was one of several Harlem community leaders who founded the Carver Bank in response to discriminatory lending practices and worked to integrate the Riverton Apartments while serving as its manager. Alexander joined the National Guard after Law School and began working as an attorney in New York. He was asked to come to Washington D.C. in 1963 to join the staff of the National Security Council in the Kennedy administration. After Kennedy was assassinated, he began working on domestic issues and rose to become a critical political insider serving in a national liaison role and counsel to President Lyndon Johnson during the passage of landmark Civil Rights legislation in 1964 (Civil Rights Act) and 1965 (Voting Rights Act). He was later appointed EEOC Chairman by LBJ and served from 1967-1969. He also served under President Carter (1977-81) as the nation’s first African-American Secretary of the Army prior to leaving public service for the private practice of law.  He has been President of Alexander & Associates, a management consulting firm, since 1981. He is married to Adele Logan and they have two children.
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Elsie Richardson
(1922 --) grew up participating in the Marcus Garvey movement and was still a teenager living in Harlem when she took part in the 1941 NYC bus boycotts led by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. -- years ahead of the more famous Southern bus boycotts of the mid-1950s. After graduating from Washington Irving High School, she worked as a secretary until moving to Washington D.C. to work in government for two years before returning to NYC. After settling in Brookyn, she soon became a community organizer and activist in Bedford-Stuyvesant and was a cofounder of the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council in 1952 that grew to include 144 organizations. She worked for 12 years at the Board of Education’s District Office and juggling work, family, three children, and her community activism, returned to school at night in 1958 and completed her BA at Pratt Institute and MA at the New School for Social Research over the next 18 years. She later led Senator Robert F. Kennedy on a local tour in February of 1966. Her challenge to Kennedy during his visit -- insisting it was time for brick and mortar and “no more studies” -- contributed to the creation of the first federally supported model of community development and first nonprofit Community Development Corporation in the nation, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. The Corporation thrives to this day and this far-reaching community development project also included the founding of Medgar Evers College, part of the City University of NY (CUNY) system.
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New York City Commission on Human Rights - 40 Rector Street New York, NY 10006 - www,nyc.gov/cchr - dial 311