Jesse Gray

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Jesse Gray (1924?-1988) was a leader of rent strikes in Harlem in the 1960s and served as a New York State Assemblyman from 1972 to 1974.


Jesse Gray was born near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He came to New York and worked as a tailor before he began organizing tenants to protest conditions in slum areas in Harlem in the 1950s.[1] He gained wide attention in November 1963 when he led a rent strike in a 15-block section in the center of Harlem. Scores of tenants took rats, alive and dead, to a hearing in Civil Court to dramatize the infestation of rodents in their apartment buildings.[2]

The 1963 strike ended in a standoff. Rioting in 1964 furthered his position.[3] From his base as head of the Community Council for Housing, Mr. Gray went on to form a broader group, the National Tenants Organization, and in 1969 he ran unsuccessfully for City Council. After failing to unseat Adam Clayton Powell Jr. as United States Representative in 1970, Mr. Gray was elected to the State Assembly as a Democrat in 1972. He was defeated in the 1974 Democratic primary.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Jesse Gray, 64, Leader Of Harlem Rent Strikes". New York Times. 1988-04-05. Retrieved 2007-11-26. 
  2. ^ "No Place Like Home". Time. 1964-07-31. Retrieved 2007-11-26. 
  3. ^ Noel, Peter (1999-09-01). "By Any Means (Unnecessary)". Village Voice. Retrieved 2007-11-26. 
New York Assembly
Preceded by
Hulan E. Jack
New York State Assembly, 70th District
Succeeded by
Marie Runyon