Interview, Alvin A. White
Alvin A. White (b. 1937) was born in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, a cooperative homestead founded by Eleanor Roosevelt during the Great Depression. White grew up in one of the only black families in his town. After graduating from high school, he joined the United States Air Force. His sister also joined, becoming one of the first black women to do so. White worked in electronics for 5 years at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, and then served overseas in Germany and England. After leaving the service, White came to Rochester, where he was hired as a Senior Engineering Aide for General Dynamics in 1966. He spent some time traveling to military bases to document service records during the Vietnam War, and eventually returned to Rochester and went to work as a film editor, producer, and reporter for Channel 13 News.
In this interview, White discusses his military service, contrasting the racial equality he experienced on the Keesler Air Force Base with the discrimination and segregation he encountered off-base in the city of Biloxi. He shares how his brother, who was a football star at St. Vincent College, was barred from some of the school’s social events due to his race. White feels that he became a champion of the people when got to report for Channel 13 News, noting, “A black man, on air, and the world did not come to and end!”