Bessye Johnson Banks Bearden

(1893–1943) Bessye was a journalist and civic leader known particularly for her work with the Democratic Party. She wrote as a correspondent for the Chicago Defender and was the first black woman elected to the New York City Board of Education, a position she served in for seventeen years.

Bessye was tapped to work for the IRS as an auditor while continuing to be an active community leader. She served on the executive boards of the Urban League, Council of Negro Women and the Harlem Community Council and was the first president of the Colored Women's Democratic League.

Bessye and her husband, Richard Bearden, opened their Harlem home to artists and intellectuals. The Jazz Cadence of American Culture described Bessye as a political force, someone you came to to cut through red tape and get action. Her son, Romare Bearden, became a famous collage artist.

On the community level, Bearden served on numerous boards, including the Citizens Welfare Council, the Harlem Community Council, the NAACP, and the Utopia Neighborhood Club. She received a number of honors for her devoted service, including medals from the Citizens' Welfare Council and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Bessye accomplished a lot in her 52 years.

Woodlawn Cemetery

4199 Webster Ave, Bronx, NY 10470

Bronx County

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