Interview, Bernadine Jones
Bernadine Jones (b. 1931) was born in Palmetto, Florida, and came to Rochester with her husband in 1956. She worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse at Strong Memorial Hospital for 10 years, but left her job to care for a sick child at home. Jones was active in education advocacy as a volunteer at her children’s school. She was a part-time employee with SPAN (School Parent Advisor to the Neighborhood), and became School #3’s first black parent president. In 1965 she became a counselor for the Rochester City School District and worked at the W.E.B. DuBois Academy. Jones also served as a member of the Urban League, Action for a Better Community, the Montgomery Neighborhood Center, and the Urban Renewal Committee. She helped develop “tot lots” for young children to play in, and she was involved in organizing the Sickle Cell Association to educate and support families struggling with the disease in Rochester.
In this interview, Jones discusses her personal experiences with housing discrimination, the importance of education in the black community, and her outlook on Rochester’s progress. Jones reports that housing was difficult to find in the 1950s, especially for black families with children. She shares a story about looking for a decent home for her family and not being able to buy one in the area where they wanted to live. Jones expresses her dedication to improving educational opportunities for blacks, believing that education is the key to social, economic, and political advancement. Looking back, Jones is pleased by the progress made by Rochester’s black community, but she sees many areas that still need improvement, like tot lot maintenance and repair, health care and housing services, and racial discrimination.