Interview, Jesse James
Jesse James grew up in Sanford, Florida. After graduating from high school, she moved to Rochester, New York, and worked as a maid at Rochester General Hospital. She took courses at SUNY Brockport, Yale University, and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), earning her master’s degree in education counseling from SUNY Brockport. James became a program administrator at RIT, where she ran the Rap and Produce program, which aimed to foster community unity after the 1964 race riots. As a community activist, she was involved with the Right of an Individual to Secure an Education (R.I.S.E) program, migrant healthcare issues, Headstart, the Adult Education Association, and the Housing Coalition. James received several awards and citations for her community efforts.
In this interview, James emphasizes the importance of education and economic development in helping the black community in Rochester. She says that the world needs more black professionals in every aspect of society. James recalls that when she moved from Florida to Rochester with her family, there were very few places they could stop for food or rest because most of the businesses they encountered refused to serve black patrons.