Jesse Gray

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Jesse Gray
Member of the New York State Assembly from the 70th district
In office
Preceded byHulan Jack
Succeeded byMarie M. Runyon

Jesse Gray (May 14, 1923 – January 2, 1988) was an American civil rights leader and politician from New York.


Jesse Gray was born on May 14, 1923,[1] near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He came to New York City and was a tailor and a member of the National Maritime Union in the 1940s.[2]

He organized protests of tenants against conditions in Harlem's slum areas in the 1950s. In November 1963, he led a widespread rent strike. To emphasize bad conditions and infestation with vermin, the tenants caught rats in their tenements and showed them to the judge of the New York City Civil Court.[3] No measures were taken to better the conditions, and the protesters rioted the next year.[4]

He became head of the Community Council for Housing, and organized the National Tenants Organization. He also entered politics as a Democrat. In 1969, he ran unsuccessfully for the New York City Council. In 1970, he challenged Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., but was defeated. Gray was elected to the New York State Assembly (70th D.) in November 1972, and was a member in 1973 and 1974. In 1974, he ran for re-nomination, but was defeated in the Democratic primary.

He died on January 2, 1988, at the Beth Abraham Home in the Bronx, after lying in a coma for several years.[5]


  1. ^ GRAY, JESSE W." at Social Security Info
  2. ^ "Red Seas - Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica - Books - NYU Press - NYU Press".
  3. ^ "No Place Like Home". Time. 1964-07-31. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  4. ^ Noel, Peter (1999-09-01). "By Any Means (Unnecessary)". Village Voice. Archived from the original on 2006-11-08. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  5. ^ Jesse Gray, 64, Leader Of Harlem Rent Strikes in the New York Times on April 5, 1988
New York State Assembly
Preceded by New York State Assembly
70th District

Succeeded by