Interview, Katherine Golden Anderson

June 17, 1980

Katherine Golden Anderson (b. 1920s) is the great-great-granddaughter of the Reverend Thomas James, the founder of Rochester’s Memorial African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church. Born in Rochester, New York, around the 1920s, Anderson attended School #9 and Washington High School, and she graduated from Ben Franklin High in the 1930s. Her first job was at the information desk in the admitting office at Genesee Hospital. Anderson also worked as a bookkeeper for a tobacco company before becoming a cerk/typist for the City of Rochester, a position she had held for 18 years at the time of this interview. Anderson came from a family that valued education. Her mother was a fourth-grade teacher in Webster, New York, and her grandmother graduated from the Rochester Free Academy, attended Howard University, and went on to become an opera singer.  Anderson’s son, Todd, graduated from Rochester’s Allendale Columbia school in 1976 and went on to attend college.

In this interview, Anderson touches on her life experiences, but mostly discusses the life and significance of her relative, the Rev. Thomas James. James was born a slave, but became a self-educated free man. He helped publish the antislavery newspaper The Rights of Man and traveled throughout the country distributing the paper and supporting abolition. James came to Rochester around 1822, founded the Memorial AME Zion Church in 1829, and was instrumental in bringing Frederick Douglass to Rochester. James used his church to help escaped slaves reach Canada through the Underground Railroad.

Discussing her own experiences, Anderson says that as a child, she remembers few racial problems in school and that she “had a very good life as a young girl.” She offers hope and advice for the future, saying that young people should hold onto their heritage and values and contribute to society. She suggests that a cultural center or archive be established in Rochester to help commemorate the Underground Railroad.

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  • 1980s