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318 Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota, 222 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455

An Inventory of His Papers

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Creator: Alexander, Jesse N.
Title: Jesse Alexander papers.
Date: 1961-1998 (bulk 1969-1982).
Collection Number: Y.USA.6
Abstract: Papers documenting the YMCA career of Jesse N. Alexander, Jr., particularly his work in the area of race relations within the movement and his involvement with the National Conference of Black and Non-White YMCA Staff (BAN-WYS).
Quantity: 0.9 linear ft. (1 box).
Location: See Detailed Description section for box listing.


Jesse Nelson Alexander, Jr. was born 19 August 1928 in Somerset, Kentucky, the son of Reella (Lackey) Alexander (1901-1977) and Jesse Wilson Alexander (1894-1984). Alexander grew up was educated in Louisville, Kentucky, where he graduated from Central High School in 1945 at the age of 16 years. In 1950 he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Louisville Municipal College, the racially segregated college of the University of Louisville for African Americans. He went on to graduate from the Engineer Officer Candidate School of the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and subsequently served as second in command of the 73rd Engineer Combat Company during the Korean War. In 1956, with the help of the G.I. Bill, Alexander enrolled at George Williams College in Chicago and in 1958 earned a master of Science degree in group work administration. Post graduate studies included work in the Department of Human Relations at New York University in 1962, and at the Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution in New York City in 1972.

Alexander's involvement with the YMCA dates from 1946, when he was recruited as a youth leader for the Chestnut Street YMCA in Louisville. His YMCA career took him from Louisville to Chicago; Brooklyn, New York; and Washington, D.C. where he served in various roles including youth leader, young adult and adult leader, personnel officer, conference planner, trainer, consultant, and an executive at local and national YMCA headquarters. He was director of the YMCA National Youth Governors Conferences in Washington D.C., and a delegate to the 6th World Council of YMCAs in Kampala, Uganda in 1973. After retiring from the YMCA's national board in 1981, Alexander joined the national staff of the United Church of Christ in New York City, but continued to be involved in the YMCA as a volunteer.

Much of Alexander's work in the YMCA focused on the area of race relations within the movement. In 1968, Alexander helped organize the National Conference of Black and Non-white YMCA Volunteers and Staff (BAN-WYS), a group dedicated to supporting all efforts to overcome racism in the YMCA and to assuring that YMCA units continued to exist in non-white communities, and served as its executive director and advisor. He joined the staff of the national board in 1969, when he was appointed Associate Executive Director for Black and Non-White Concerns. His role in this position was to act as a kind of ombudsman to address concerns identified by BAN-WYS, as well as to provide leadership to YMCAs serving minority communities, and mediation in interracial and intraracial conflicts. In 1973, he became director of the Board's Human Rights Unit and the National YMCA's Affirmative Action Officer. He organized and directed the 1978 international observances of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the first YMCA in an African American community. As part of these observances he wrote and produced a 22-minute YMCA film, "Extending the Spirit, Helping Children Walk Tall;" and authored a book, "Selected Black Leaders of the YMCA," which was published by the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. Alexander was also active in promoting the YMCA's Black Achievers in Industry program, helping to spread the program from the Harlem YMCA in New York City to scores of cities across the country, including an extremely successful program in his hometown of Louisville. In 1996, he was inducted into the National Black Achievers Hall of Fame by the YMCA of the USA.

Jesse Alexander married Maude Anna White (b. 1929) on 19 August 1956 in Louisville. The couple had four children, two daughters and two sons, and settled in Montclair, New Jersey, where they lived until Alexander's retirement in 1988.


Papers include minutes, speeches, articles, reports, newsletters, and notes reflecting Jesse N. Alexander Jr.'s career after joining the staff of the National Board of the YMCA in 1969. The bulk of the papers concern his work with the National Task Force on the Role of the YMCA in Black Communities, the National Board's Human Rights Unit, the National Conference of Black and Non-White YMCA Staff (BAN-WYS), and other programs and issues related to race relations within the YMCA movement.

Alexander's work with BAN-WYS, which he helped to organize in 1968, is particularly well-documented, especially the activities of the northeast "cluster," or region. Records include articles of incorporation and constitutions, promotional brochures and other outreach materials, newsletters, correspondence, and conference materials. The collection also includes informal notes that Alexander jotted outlining his thoughts on issues the organization faced and similar topics.


Preferred Citation:
[Indicate the cited item and/or series here]. Jesse Alexander Papers. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. University of Minnesota.
See the Chicago Manual of Style for additional examples.
Processing Information:
Processed by: Lara D. Friedman~Shedlov, September 2003.
Catalog Record ID number: 4286822


The following section contains a detailed list of the materials in the collection. To request materials, please note the corresponding box number.

1 Autobiography, 1998.
Reports, speeches, and articles by Alexander, 1968-1980.
National board policies and procedures, 1974.
African American Retired YMCA Persons, 1992.
COBY East (Consortium of Black YMCAs), 1987.
National Task Force on the Role of the YMCA in Black Communities, 1976-1981. 2 folders.
Human Rights Unit, 1975-1980.
1 Articles of incorporation, constitutions, brochures, and other background information, 1974-1980.
BAN-WYS Newsletter/ Primer, 1970-1971, 1974.
"President's Newsletter," 1982.
"BAN-WYS Liberator," 1970-1972.
Training, 1973-1975.
National conferences, 1970-1972, 1975, 1981-1982.
Correspondence, undated and 1979-1982.
Northeast Cluster, 1981-1982.
Northeast Cluster "Evening of Appreciation," May 1981.
Notes and miscellaneous records, undated and 1969-1979.
125th Anniversary Celebration, 1978.
125th Anniversary Celebration book, "Selected Black Leaders of the YMCA," 1978.
Key Leaders Conference on Strengthening the YMCA in the Black Community, 1986.
Non-white YMCA survey, 1977.
YMCA equal opportunity employment kit, 1980.
"How to Swim with the Sharks: A Survival Skills Primer," 1979-1980.
"Black Family: What's Happening in the Family Circle," 1978-1980.
Affirmative action reports, 1978, 1980.
"Perspectives and Guidelines for Voluntarism in the YMCA," 1977.
Miscellaneous reports on race relations in the YMCA, 1968-1992.
Miscellaneous articles, 1961-1980.


The following related materials are separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives:
Interracial Programs records, 1947-1980: Records describing the YMCA's work with the African American community and its work in interracial issues after 1946.
Biographical files: The YMCA Archives' series of biographical files include biographical sketches, newspaper clippings, and small collections of the personal papers of numerous leaders and individuals involved in the black YMCA movement, including Jesse Alexander.


This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
African Americans -- Civil rights.
African Americans -- Segregation.
African Americans -- Social conditions.
Civil rights workers.
Young Men's Christian Associations.
United States -- Race relations.
National Conference of Black and Non-White YMCA Laymen and Staff.
National Board of the Young Men's Christian Associations.