Interview, Olga Edwards

April 30, 1980

Olga Edwards (1913-2014) was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her parents were from New Orleans and were both high-school educated. Growing up, Edwards received a Catholic education and attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. She later earned a master’s degree in library science from the State University of New York at Geneseo. Edwards came to Rochester in 1960, when her husband got a job at Delco. At the time of this interview, Edwards was working as the head librarian of the Extension Department in the Rochester Public Library, organizing story hours and bookmobiles to promote literacy in inner-city schools. She also worked to get books to inmates at the Monroe County Jail. Edwards passed away on November 14, 2014, at the age of 99.

In this interview, Edwards discusses housing discrimination in Rochester, employment conditions, and her advice for young African Americans. Edwards says that when she and her husband first came to Rochester in 1960, they tried to buy a house, but no one would sell to a black couple. She recalls the awful conditions at the Mohawk Hotel, where they had to live for a while. Eventually, Edwards says, they purchased a house in the city, but faced severe racial prejudice from their neighbors. She recalls that houses in the Joseph Avenue area began to be torn down and that when whites left the area, single-family homes were turned into over-crowded four-family homes for blacks. Edwards says that she feels very lucky that her job as a librarian gave her the same pay as whites, but her husband encountered racial barriers to promotions at his job. She advises young black people to get an education, join the Armed Forces or Peace Corps, and to work any job they can as long as it helps them to stay off of welfare.

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  • 1980s