Honoring Our Own
In celebration of Black History Month, here is a partial listing of notable African American residents—past and present—of Westchester County.
Photo courtesy of AmericanExpress.
➊ Kenneth Chenault—A New Rochelle resident and president and chief operating officer of American Express.
Sylvia Woods—A Mount Vernon resident and the owner of the renowned restaurant Sylvia’s in Harlem. She has written two famous cookbooks and opened a second restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia.
➋ Ella Fitzgerald—Was a Yonkers resident and an influential jazz vocalist; often referred to as the “First Lady of Song.”
W.C. Handy—Was a Yonkers resident and a blues composer/musician; known as the “Father of the Blues.”
Vanessa L. Williams—A Chappaqua resident who became the first African American to be crowned Miss America. Today, she can be seen on TV’s “Ugly Betty.”
Biff Henderson—A Greenburgh resident who is the stage manager for The Late Show with David Letterman.
Cab Calloway—Was a Greenburgh resident and world-famous American jazz singer and bandleader.
Robin Givens—A New Rochelle resident and an actress who has performed on stage, and in film and television.
Branford Marsalis—A former New Rochelle resident and a gifted saxophonist who is a leader of the Branford Marsalis Quartet.
Phylicia Rashad—A Mount Vernon resident and Tony Award-winning actress, best known for her role as Claire Huxtable in the television series The Cosby Show.
GOVERNMENT AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
Ronald Blackwood—Was a resident of Mount Vernon and the first African American mayor of the city.
Norwood E. Jackson—Was the first African American to assume the leadership of a major criminal justice agency in the government of Westchester County.
Richard E. Jackson—A Peekskill resident and the first African American mayor in New York.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins—A Yonkers resident and the first African American woman to become County Legislator from Yonkers. Today she is a New York State Senator for the 35th district representing Yonkers.
Clinton Young—A Mount Vernon resident and the first African American to hold the position of Majority Leader of the Westchester County Board of Legislators. Today he is the Mayor of Mount Vernon.
Photo by David Shankbone
➌ Rene Syler—A Chappaqua resident and former anchor on the CBS’s The Early Show.
Hayward Burns—Was a resident of Peekskill and an outstanding Civil Rights attorney.
➍ Christopher Edley, Jr.—Was a New Rochelle resident and today is dean of UC’s Berkeley School of Law. He served as an advisor to President Clinton’s One American Initiative, and is currently on the board of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.
Photo courtesy of Berkeley Law University of California
Photo by- DePauw Indiana University Publications Office
➎ Vernon Jordon—Was a resident of Hartsdale and is a lawyer and business executive who served as a close adviser to President Bill Clinton
Gordon Parks—Lived for a period in Greenburgh and is best known for his photo essays for Life magazine and as the director of the 1971 film Shaft.
SOCIAL JUSTICE AND HUMAN SERVICES
John Edward Jacob—Was a resident of Hartsdale and the president of the National Urban League between 1982 and 1994.
Betty Shabazz—Was a resident of Mount Vernon and Yonkers. She was the wife of Malcolm X and headed the Office of Institutional Advancement and Public Relations at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn (part of the City University of New York).
Whitney Young—Was a New Rochelle resident who spent most of his career promoting strategies to end employment discrimination and fostering programs to enhance socioeconomic opportunities for the disenfranchised.
Willie Mays—A one-time resident of New Rochelle who played most of his career with the New York and San Francisco Giants and then the New York Mets.