People & Stories Oral History Project: Leola Bryant

Leola Bryant sat down with Teddy Lee and Ben Himmelfarb to record this oral history.  Bryant's memory and wit are crisp, and her stories about White Plains are highly informative. She recalls life for children in downtown White Plains and the distinct geographic and ethnic character of the neighborhoods. Bryant is especially insightful about how segregation and discrimination affected black citizens of White Plains. Although she recalls being discriminated against in her job, she feels the schools were free from the prejudice that affected so many other areas of her life. Eileen Johnson, daughter of a White Plains doctor, was hired by General Foods to “break the color line in jobs” in Bryant's words. Johnson hired Bryant to General Foods in the mid-1960s and they were among the first black women employed by the company in White Plains. After General Foods, she became a Store Detective at Alexander's. Eventually Bryant worked for IBM and her work took her to Atlanta. But she knew she wanted to return to White Plains, and she has lived here since retiring. Recently, she served as President of The Roots of White Plains, Ltd., who published On The Streets Where We Lived, a history of the African-American community in White Plains.

Categories: Local History and Oral History.