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Buffalo Civil Rights Era:
From the Personal Files of
Theresa J. White

During the 1960s and 1970s Theresa J. White was an active participant in many of Buffalo’s civil rights struggles.  She was involved, at the decision making level, with a number of the city’s civil rights groups and reform efforts.  She was in a unique position to collect and preserve historical papers and records that would document the efforts and intentions of a special generation.  Ms. White felt that she was on a personal mission to keep a record of what her generation was trying to do.  She kept personal files of the activities of many of Buffalo’s civil rights groups, and Buffalo’s Model Cities Program.  Her “Buffalo Model Cities Papers” are filmed under that title.  “The Buffalo Civil Rights Era Files” contains other papers from her personal files.  The papers were organized and grouped in containers by Ms. White.  They are filmed the way they were organized.  The papers were indexed and prepared for microfilming by Monroe and Freddie Mae Fordham.  They were filmed in the Buffalo State College, Monroe Fordham Regional History Center.  They were filmed by LaShawanda Ingram, Jessica Becker, and Charita Jackson, Buffalo State College students.

Theresa White

A Biographical Sketch of Theresa White

            Theresa R. White was born in Buffalo, New York.  Her parents, Miles and Gladys White, moved to Buffalo from Memphis, Tennessee.  She was a graduate of the Buffalo Public Schools.  After high school, she attended Virginia State College.  She graduated from college with a major in Business and Sociology.  She returned to Buffalo after college and was employed for 40 years by the Erie County Department of Social Services as a case worker and supervisor.  When Buffalo launched its Model Cities Program in the late 1960s, the Department of Social Services placed her on loan to work with Model Cities. During the civil rights era, Ms. White was active in numerous community organizations.  She was a volunteer with Rev. James T. Hemphill’s Walls Memorial Cultural Center.  (Containers 19-30 hold many papers and documents that Ms. White preserved from her involvement with Walls).  She was a member of the board of directors of Walls’ pre-school program.  That program became a demonstration program to justify what would become the Western New York Head Start Program.  When the U.S. Economic Opportunity Act was passed, a community action organization was set up in Buffalo.  Ms. White served on the professional advisory board.  Many of the papers in the “Buffalo Model Cities Program”, and the “Buffalo Civil Rights Era Papers” were collected and preserved by Ms. White during her involvement with those organizations.  She was a member of the Buffalo branch NAACP board of directors, she was a supervisor with the Erie County Child Welfare Services, she was a board member of the Opportunities Industrialization Center (O.I.C.) of Buffalo and Erie County, she was a board member of the St. Augustine Center, and a board member of the Lower West Side Task Force. In addition to being active in community and civil rights groups, Ms. White was also active in her church.  She served as superintendent of the Sunday school at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.  She was also a member of the women’s club.  She chaired the Board of Vestry of Ascension Episcopal Church, and was a member of St. Philip’s Board of Vestry.  Ms White was also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Ms. White is a well read and scholarly person.  Her home is literally a private library with bookshelves in every room.  She has books on topics that include anthropology, sociology, music, literature, history, and current topics.  She has a special interest in African American studies.  One of her dream projects was to write a history of African Americans in Buffalo.  Many of the papers in her “Model Cities”, and “Civil Rights Era” collections were collected with that in mind.  She also wrote poetry.  (Some of her unpublished poems are filmed in container #32).

-Monroe Fordham

Click here for an index to the microfilmed contents housed at the MFRHC.


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