Interview, David Anderson
David Anderson (b. 1930) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. After a brief stint in the military, he came to Rochester in 1956 to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology. He graduated in 1960 with a degree in photography and went on to earn his master’s degree from Syracuse University in 1962 and a PhD in educational administration from Union Institute, in Cincinnati, in 1975. Anderson has worked in numerous educational groups and community organizations in Rochester, such as Action for a Better Community, the Urban League of Rochester, Orientation for the Teachers of the Disadvantaged, the School Parent Advisors for the Neighborhood (SPAN) project, and the Rochester School for the Deaf. He served as chairman of the Rochester-Monroe County Freedom Trail Commission, and has taught African American Studies at Rochester-area colleges. He was also an activist for lead-poisoning awareness and treatment for sickle-cell anemia in urban communities. His parents, both from Alabama, received little formal education and influenced Anderson’s lifelong work to support equal access to education and adult continuing education. At the time of this interview, Anderson was still actively engaged in the Rochester community, especially in his role as a local storyteller known as “Sankofa.”
In his interview, Anderson discusses witnessing some of the worst urban conditions facing African Americans in Rochester in the 1950s and 1960s, having experienced firsthand what it was like to live in houses with absentee landlords and deplorable conditions. He notes that overcrowding was a common problem and that authorities often ignored reports of landlord abuses. Anderson talks about the lack of professional opportunities for blacks, as the jobs available to them were mostly low-paying service positions. He discusses being turned away from professional jobs at Kodak and other businesses even though he was qualified. Anderson sees a general sense of improvement in inner-city conditions since the 1950s, but notes that a lack of maintenance and a “hoodlum element” are challenges Rochester’s inner city still faces.