Interview, Lena Gantt

March 14, 1980

Lena Gantt (1918-1982) was born in Alabama to a poor family of eight children. Her parents died when she was young and she started working at age nine. She recieved little formal education, but made an effort to educate herself. Gantt married her husband in 1938 and together they had five children. In 1952, she and her family moved to Rochester, New York, where she became active in antipoverty efforts through organizations such as Action for a Better Community and Model City. She also supported various health centers in the city and organized 21 Tot Lot centers to help keep children off the streets. Gantt passed away on September 10, 1982.

In this interview, Gantt discusses her experiences growing up black and poor in Alabama, the needs of the black community in Rochester, and her work in community activism. Gantt says that growing up, her family sometimes went hungry and did not have electricity in their home. She talks about housing needs and a lack of medical centers for blacks in Rochester. Gantt remembers when there were only two black physicians in Rochester and funding was scarce for city health centers. She says that not all black politicians and leaders help the black community and she encourages everyone to vote and become involved themselves. Gantt fondly recalls the many awards she has received for community participation from the Jordan Health Center, Action for a Better Community, Black Policemen, and Model City.

Content Tags


  • 1980s