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Friday, September 22, 2017

Alice C. Hayes: A Niagara Falls, New York ‘Talented Tenth Practitioner’ with Executive Abilities Who Built Bridges and Got Things Done

By Michael Boston

In analyzing Alice C. Hayes’s leadership, we can define it as a top-down or leader-centered style of leadership.[1] Leadership operates like a corporation, with a hierarchical structure and a clear chain of command. At the top is the corporate president, who is influenced by many factors, such as stockholders. Decisions are shaped by internal corporate factors in conjunction with external issues, and usually flow from the top down. Once decisions are made, whether subordinates influenced them or not, they are expected to be adhered to. Ella Baker, a highly experienced community leader and former executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, characterized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impactful leadership as leader-centered.[2] Moreover, African-American history is replete with leaders following this model (e.g., Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Mary Church Terrell, Whitney Young, Huey P. Newton, etc.). Therefore, “leader-centered leadership” here is not a critique of leadership but simply a term to describe an approach to accomplishing goals.

Alice C. Hayes’s leadership also fits W. E. B. Du Bois’s concept of “The Talented Tenth.” Du Bois conceptualized this idea in the early 1900s, as a young scholar in search of an uplift strategy for African Americans.[3] He posited that the African-American community should identify its brightest and best, a top ten percent, and support their intellectual development with college and university training. In turn, these trained individuals had a duty to return to the African-American community and help uplift others. Du Bois required and expected this. These selected individuals, upon being educated, were expected to not only be intellectually formidable but also morally sound, exemplifying high character worthy of emulation. “The Talented Tenth of the Negro race,” Du Bois noted, “must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people.”[4] Alice Hayes, described as “an elegant lady,”[5] demonstrated this decree for almost fifty years within the City of Niagara Falls in not only helping to improve the status of Black Niagarans but Niagarans in general, bridging gaps between communities and hoping also that individuals would not only improve their status but reach back and help others.[6]

Hayes was born in New York City in 1904.[7] Even then New York was a large and ever-expanding city. In 1900, census takers recorded 3,437,200 individuals residing there, with 1.8 percent or 60,666 listed as Black.[8] By 1910 the Black population had expanded to 91,709 individuals, representing 1.9 percent of the total population.[9] Alice attended grammar school and high school in this setting. By the end of her grammar school years, she experienced aspects of the First Great Migration,[10] as a larger influx of Blacks either migrated or immigrated to New York City, increasing the Black population by 1920 to 152,407 individuals.[11]

Alice benefited from the inflow of Jamaican immigrants that arrived after 1912.[12] Marcus Garvey, who immigrated to New York City in 1916, would become one of the most famous immigrants.[13] Either in grammar or high school, Alice met a fellow student who would bond with her for a lifetime. That was Jamaican-born immigrant Charles B. Hayes. He and Alice began as childhood sweethearts and ultimately married after Alice finished high school and began college.[14] Both assuredly aspired to make something of their lives. Charles attended the City College of New York and graduated in 1927.[15] He later attended Howard University Medical School, graduating in 1931.[16] He began his medical practice in Niagara Falls in 1934, becoming Niagara Falls’s first Black medical doctor. Alice began her undergraduate education at Hunter College in 1924, majoring in Social Studies and initiating a lifelong passion for reading.[17] After her graduation, she joined the staff of the Russell Sage Foundation, performing medical work at the Harlem Hospital from 1931 to 1935, and for a while, social work at the New York State Department of Public Works.[18] “During her early years as a social worker, Alice also completed a three-year course in psychology, which was a requirement of all administrative and case workers in the public welfare department.”[19]

Alice’s experiences at Hunter College, the Russell Sage Foundation and the New York State Department of Public Works helped shape her for her life’s work as the leader she ultimately became. In an interview in 1949 with a reporter from the Niagara Falls Gazette, Alice spoke of how the field of social work had initially been perceived, what had changed that perception, and the importance of social work for humanity.[20] She remarked that many people had first viewed social work as a field for individuals who could not be successful in the competitive business world. It had been seen as meaningless, unimportant work for average people who would certainly perish in the rat race. Alice further explained that the Great Depression was undeniably the catalyst that had changed many assessments of the social work profession, and that during that era the field had grown considerably. Many people were without basic needs such as food and shelter and, of course, love and a sense of belonging, and needed the aid provided by the New Deal programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his administration.[21] Alice surmised that the field of social work performed a significant function for society, promoting care and concern for the poor and emphasizing the study of poverty to overcome its adverse effects on society, therefore improving society. In this 1949 interview, conducted 14 years after Alice joined her husband in Niagara Falls, her proclivity for social work, community volunteer service and administrative duties is evident.

Reuniting with her husband after college, Alice relocated to the City of Niagara Falls in 1935. At first she and her husband may have been taken aback by Niagara Falls, considering that they had come of age in New York City, the most cosmopolitan of all American cities. As with most new residents, the cataracts of Niagara Falls probably impressed them highly. However, Niagarans, themselves may have appeared slow and unsophisticated to them. Nonetheless, what we do know for a fact is that when Alice Hayes arrived, Niagarans were experiencing the depths of the Depression.[22]

The tourist industry greatly suffered during the Depression with fewer tourists visiting from all parts of the country and the world. In 1929, estimates indicated that 3,282,000 people visited Niagara Falls that year; by 1932 that figure had dwindled to 1,444,000.[23] The number of tourists who had lavishly spent money on high-priced items and world-class hotel accommodations had gone down significantly, as vendors were compelled to barter more with tourists over prices. Those vendors unwilling to make adjustments often did not survive. Furthermore, due to the increasing unemployment rate, the number of people receiving charity increased. In December of 1929, for example, it took $4,525 per month to operate the local Bureau of Charities; by December of 1932, that figure had grown to $66,551.[24] The city government constantly sought aid from the state and federal governments.[25] As in other locales more women sought employment outside of their households. In 1930, for instance, census enumerators recorded 6,788 employed females; by 1940 that figure had increased to 8,529, which was a more significant increase compared to the male figures of 24,231 and 25,005, respectively.[26]

Fortunately for Alice Hayes, who by then was a young woman of about 31 years of age, her educational background and training had prepared her to compete and obtain a job as a social worker for the City of Niagara Falls.[27] Her office was located in City Hall which saw a great deal of daily activity. There she had the opportunity to see and interact first hand with government officials and lower-level city employees, as well as with citizens seeking governmental services. Surely these experiences not only expanded Alice’s knowledge of city government and local power brokers, but also her budding knowledge of Niagara County, and Western New York. Alice would use this knowledge to enhance her leadership skills and activities, along with her awareness of allies and potential allies she could network with in the future.

At least 906 Blacks resided in Niagara Falls by 1930, while by 1940 at least 975 lived there, comprising 1.20% and 1.25% respectively, of the total population in those years.[28] Consequently, even by 1935 only a small number of Black Niagarans resided in the City of Niagara Falls, and the majority of them, due to their employment status, would have been classified as members of the lower-economic class.[29] This description, of course, did not fit the Hayes’s, who in an employment chart would have been counted in the professional category and in the Du Boisean framework as members of the Talented Tenth, provided they fulfilled the expected duties. Irrespective of her social status, Alice sought to interact with all Niagarans, but with Black Niagarans especially. She had heard about the Niagara Community Center, but initially had made no contact with the Center. The Niagara Community Center, organized in 1929 and stabilized by 1931, functioned as the nucleus of the Black Niagaran community, attracting people from all walks of life, all religious faiths and all racial groups, but predominately Black people.[30] By late 1936, Alice did make contact with the Center. John M. Pollard Sr., the third director of the Niagara Community Center and the person who stabilized the Center and guided it on a growth trajectory, commented on Alice’s introduction to the Center:

Mrs. Alice C. Hayes by request [at a meeting] gave brief impressions of the work at the center. Mrs. Hayes stated that since coming to make her home in Niagara Falls she had heard of the excellent work done at the center but that until asked by the director to assist him as personal secretary she had little idea of the huge scope of the work. Mrs. Hayes commented on conferences, the correspondence, the aid to those who needed it, and stated that she was happy to have assisted and hoped to do even more during the coming year.[31]

In conjunction with her job as a city social worker, Alice immersed herself even more into Niagara Community Center activities. As secretary, she worked closely with Pollard to ensure that those activities operated smoothly and effectively. Pollard, who had attended graduate school at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Work, had established a relationship with the Chicago Defender, a Black-owned and-operated newspaper published by Robert Abbott. During the 1930s, he wrote a weekly column about Niagara Community Center activities that was not only in the Niagara Falls Gazette but in the Chicago Defender as well. Alice Hayes periodically wrote the columns for Pollard, explaining in excellent prose the Center programs and activities.[32] Moreover, the environment of the Niagara Community Center encouraged Alice to flourish and demonstrate her talent. For example, she organized a Negro Spiritual singing group called the “Strings” soon after becoming an active Center member.[33] The group performed throughout Niagara County and in Canada, usually to rave reviews, as illustrated in comments given by Niagarans who heard the Strings’ broadcast over a radio program from St. Catharines, Ontario:

“We would like to have this group come again,” - Frank Barnes, Jr. “The entire program was excellent,” - Leo Turner “I enjoyed every moment of it,” - Albert Rice “The harmony was very good,” - Thomas Reed “The spirituals were fine,” - Milton Mitchell “Mrs. Walters is worthy of voice culture,” - Roosevelt Cotter ….[34]

With Alice’s continuous active involvement in Niagara Community Center activities during the 1944-1945 calendar year, center representatives acknowledged her leadership skills by electing her to serve as president of the Board of Directors. At this time, the Niagara Community Center had a new director—Aaron L. Griffin. Griffin replaced Pollard in 1943 and served in that capacity longer than any other center director, 1943-1976.[35]

Based on available evidence in newspaper accounts, a number of interviews, and the Links microfilmed records complied by Dr. Monroe Fordham, more suppositions can be made about Alice C. Hayes’s leadership philosophy and its development. Unsurprisingly, Hayes’s college years played a tremendous role in helping to develop her leadership skills; they taught her to think critically and to read consistently in order to stay abreast of issues. This primed her for her early experiences with the New York State Department of Public Works, which exposed her to the field of social work and enhanced her empathy for “the least of thee” – the poor and underprivileged. This responsiveness to the indigent coincided with her Christian principles; both Hayeses were Catholics.[36] Being employed as a social worker for the City of Niagara Falls only enhanced her skills and philosophy, and her voluntary work at the Niagara Community Center assuredly served to enrich these same thoughts and competences.

Consequently, Hayes, who possessed a dominant extroverted personality,[37] believed in a multiracial integrated society whereby every citizen would have equal access to the opportunities and privileges that American society had to offer. This not only included Blacks and Whites but all other citizens as well. For example, one of the programs Hayes founded at the Niagara Community Center was the “Intercultural Group”, which promoted the sharing of culture among different races and ethnicities.[38]

In 1950, this group was guest of the Tuscarora Indian Parent-Teacher association at the Iroquois Park House on the local Indian reservation; there they saw Native American artifacts and attended a program outlining the Native Americans’ contribution to world progress.[39] Furthermore, the fact that Hayes steadily immersed herself in Niagara Community Center programs confirms that her behavior concurred with the precepts of the Talented Tenth. However, like Du Bois,[40] Hayes seemed to have believed in offering help, but at the same time, that individuals had to demonstrate initiative and exhibit signs of “self-help”, particularly once exposed or guided toward opportunities.

Undoubtedly, most Black Niagarans, as aforementioned, could be classified as members of the working class based on their education or job status during the 1930s, 40s, 50s and beyond. Hayes strove to open up doors of opportunities for these citizens and others and pull them up to a higher class status, and even build bridges to link races and classes.

In seeking to contribute toward the advancement of the City of Niagara Falls, Hayes continually built bridges. From the time she came to Niagara Falls until her passing, she always actively participated in civic activities and groups, offering her time and giving meaningful input. In 1936, representing Niagara Falls at a meeting of the Frontier Chapter of the New York State Association for Negro Welfare at the Michigan Avenue YMCA of Buffalo, Hayes agreed to become a member of the executive committee.[41] At a 1937 meeting in St. Catharines, Ontario that showcased John M. Pollard as the principal speaker, Hayes and Beulah Waters complemented the program with a number of musical selections.[42] Hayes was featured as the guest speaker at a tea sponsored by the Missionary Society of the Second Baptist Church of Niagara Falls where organizers provided a musical program.[43] In 1944, Hayes again served as guest speaker at a women’s day program at New Hope Baptist Church,[44] and Emmanuel Baptist Church in 1952, where she gave a lecture entitled “Right Relationships.”[45] There are other examples; Hayes’s involvement in such activities was steady and regular.

In terms of the city-wide civic groups that Hayes participated in, that list was also lengthy and expansive. “[She] plunged into [city-wide] leadership at a time when few Black men and virtually no Black women were known outside the [Black] community,” taking part in two dozen or more city-wide groups.[46] For example, she was a member of the corporate board of Memorial Medical Center.[47] Her husband had served as a doctor at this hospital. She was a member of the board of trustees of the United Way of Niagara Falls, a director of Family and Children Services, a member of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, the Council of Social Agencies, and so forth.[48] Hamilton B. Mizer, a retired publisher of the Niagara Falls Gazette who was also an active member of the Council of Social Agencies, recalled “that [Alice Hayes] was well accepted by everyone and that acceptance made it possible for her to serve on many [other] agency boards that blacks did not normally belong to.”[49] He also stated that “she always made very substantial contributions, not only in her expressions of her thoughts, but financially, and through the contribution of her time.”[50] Aaron L. Griffin remembered Hayes as a person quite skillful in executive abilities who could organize people to work on projects.[51]

Most of the citywide groups that Hayes participated in (as well as those within the Niagara Community Center and throughout the Black Niagaran community) matched her social work skill set and her improvement philosophy. An examination of the purpose of the Salvation Army will back this up, considering that Hayes served on its Niagara Falls advisory board. In 1865, Catherine and William Booth established the Salvation Army in London, England.[52] It is a Christian organization whose intent was and is to bring salvation to the poor by not only meeting their physical needs but, perhaps more importantly, their spiritual needs as well.[53] The organization has expanded since 1865 and spread to numerous countries throughout the world, including the United States.[54] In towns and cities throughout America, Salvation Army clothing stores sell used clothing and other goods at reduced prices, targeted to the needy; and the Salvation Army often provides spiritual religious lessons of inspiration for concerned citizens. All of these factors overlap well with Hayes’s advancement philosophy.

The most famous promoter of the Talented Tenth concept—W. E. B. Du Bois—would have almost certainly supported a number of the practices of the Salvation Army, because it seeks to uplift marginalized individuals, open up doors of opportunity for them, and create mindsets whereby individuals will strive to keep opening those doors. Du Bois had committed his life to these doctrines for African Americans and Americans in general. As a young man, he vehemently disagreed with Booker T. Washington’s approach of gradually opening up the doors of opportunity. In struggling with his frustration, he wrote his powerful and eloquent essay, “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others,” critiquing Washington’s leadership platform.[55] In transitioning into praxis, Du Bois helped form the Niagara Movement, a forerunner of the N.A.A.C.P.[56]

When the Garvey Movement grew and gained pronounced momentum, promoting separation, self-help, and global Black unity as an approach to opening up doors of opportunity, Du Bois dissented and attacked this strategy, helping to defuse the Garvey Movement.[57] And when the Dunning School of Reconstruction[58] intensively worked to ensure that doors should not be opened or would only be opened at a snail’s pace, Du Bois challenged and refuted the legitimacy of their argument by writing Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880, explicitly addressing Chapter 17, “The Propaganda of History," to the Dunning School.[59]

Du Bois, the scholar-activist advocate for justice, equality and fair play—who eventually questioned and ultimately revised and reconsidered the Talented Tenth idea—acknowledging the importance of grassroots action[60]—died on August 27, the eve of the famous 1963 March on Washington, passing on this credo to future generations: to always safeguard equal access to opportunities.[61] Alice C. Hayes unquestionably embodied this concept before, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement.

In striving to stop discrimination and uphold equal access to opportunities, Black Niagarans formed a local branch of the N.A.A.C.P. in 1943.[62] This date coincides with the massive number of Blacks who were steadily migrating to Niagara Falls to work in industrial jobs created by World War II. Census enumerators counted close to a thousand Blacks residing in Niagara Falls in 1940; by 1950 that number had increased to 3,585.[63] The available evidence does not convey exactly what initially triggered the formation of the Niagara Falls Branch of the N.A.A.C.P.; however, it does confirm that Dr. Charles B. Hayes was a founder and the first president.[64] In all likelihood, Alice Hayes participated in its formation as well. After its founding, she was active in the N.A.A.C.P. for a number of years. In 1949, she served as vice president of the organization.[65] By 1955, she had paid dues to become a life member.[66] Furthermore, she constantly participated in N.A.A.C.P. events, from investigating complaints and raising funds to helping organizing membership drives.[67]

With the increasing number of Blacks migrating and residing in Niagara Falls, reports of racism increased.[68] At a regular meeting of the Niagara Falls branch of the N.A.A.C.P. on April 10, 1943, the executive committee reported its findings on an investigation into discrimination and segregation of Black workers in Niagara Falls plants.[69] They also discussed plans for a city-wide membership campaign.[70] These increasing complaints of discrimination may have provoked the formation of the local N.A.A.C.P. branch. Strong leadership existed nationally (e.g., A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, N.A.A.C.P., etc.) and locally (e.g., John Pollard, Local Niagara Falls N.A.A.C.P. Branch, etc.), and Alice Hayes, who presided over a Niagara Community Center event in which N.A.A.C.P. officers were introduced, definitely would have known of these incidences.[71] She simply was too proactive and abreast of citywide events not to not have known.

With the emergence of the modern Civil Rights Movement, a national campaign to abate discrimination, open up doors of opportunity and compel America to fulfill its creed, its influence impacted Black Niagarans, including Alice Hayes. Yet while the early stages of this movement were ongoing, Hayes suffered a deep loss. Dr. Charles B. Hayes, her childhood sweetheart and husband of 37 years, passed away.[72] Illness had forced him to retire in 1957. For the next two years, he and his wife had traveled.[73] Following this, and because his health had worsened, he had been hospitalized at Ransomville General and died March 13, 1961.[74]

Like his wife, Dr. Hayes had been extremely active in civic and Niagara Community Center activities. For example, he had been a member of the Niagara Falls Academy of Medicine, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of General Practice and the World Medical Association, and the regional vice president of the National Medical Association. He was active with youth throughout the Niagara Falls community: advisor to the Niagara Falls Boys Club and the Niagara Community Center and a member of the International Association of Lion Club, Electric City Lodge No. 49 and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.[75] This loss indeed hurt Alice Hayes profoundly, and may have prevented her from heading one of the local protest groups during the Civil Rights Era (1954-1975).[76] Nevertheless, she was actively involved in national and local events.

Hayes, for example, participated in a Niagara Falls rally in front of City Hall that protested the treatment of civil rights workers in Selma, Alabama. This Selma movement fought for voting rights, and would be the last movement that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) participated in that gained a major immediate victory—the Voting Rights Act of 1965. SCLC leaders organized a number of demonstrations. At one on a Sunday, six hundred civil rights demonstrators marched across the Selma Edmund Pettus Bridge. When they got to the end of the bridge, they were met by fifty state troopers wearing gas masks. Some rode horses, while others stood with billy clubs in their hands. A Major John Cloud gave the marchers two minutes to disperse. The state troopers attacked and beat the marchers because they did not move. “Television coverage of the police assault interrupted the networks’ regular programming.”[77] This historical event has been labeled “Bloody Sunday."  Citizens throughout the nation were outraged. When it was her turn to speak, Alice Hayes, who then represented the women’s social clubs and other organizations in Niagara Falls, declared: “We march because it is downright disgraceful to be identified with a nation that dares to tell Vietnam and other nations how to treat their people and yet can do nothing in Selma, Alabama.”[78]

Hayes also supported the Local Branch of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). In 1963, two years before the Selma march, Otis Cowart, head of the local CORE branch, led a protest activity that galvanized Black Niagarans.[79] The local CORE branch had grown concerned about many young Black adults leaving the area because they could not find employment. CORE picketed in front of the W.T. Grant Store to compel them to practice the creed of hiring equality. A number of Black Niagarans had attempted to gain employment there but had been continually unsuccessful. Cowart and other CORE members emphasized to W.T. Grant’s management that Black Niagarans heavily patronized their store and should be represented in visible jobs. Management did not act upon these demands, and therefore several days of picketing ensued, eventually compelling W.T. Grant’s management to hire Black Niagarans. Cowart announced to other stores through local media that if they did not start practicing hiring equality that picketing could also occur at their storefronts.

Alice Hayes supported this activity. When Black Niagaran youth rioted in June of 1967, an incident of which she did not approve, Hayes adhered to the principles of the Talented Tenth and her social work training, recommending to city officials that summer jobs be made available for youth, along with an increase in recreational facilities.[80] Mayor E. Dent Lackey concurred. In a meeting in the Black Niagaran community, Mayor Lackey promised to increase recreational facilities in the areas where the riot had occurred and place pressure on local businesses to employ black youth.[81]

The Civil Rights Movement and books such as The Other American by Michael Harrington influenced President Lyndon B. Johnson to use the power of the federal government to help abate poverty.[82] In the spirit of the New Deal programs created during the Depression, Johnson declared a war on poverty, creating programs such as Head Start, Upward Bound, Job Corps, college and university work-study programs, and Community Action Programs.[83] Responding to the federal initiatives, conscientious Niagaran citizens sought to establish a community action program in 1966, which they termed NiaCAP—Niagara Community Action Program. Yet again establishing bridges, Alice Hayes participated on the original board of directors, apparently impressing fellow board members with her knowledge and administrative skills to the extent that they unanimously selected her to serve as the first director of NiaCAP and, accorded her a $10,500 annual salary, which was slated to come from a $36,820 Community Action Project development grant.[84]

Casper L. Jordan, an N.A.A.C.P. member who was later elected to be president of the local branch, led a community group that called themselves the Citizen Committee for an Effective Community Action Program. They created a list of 16 grievances that they sent to the Board of Directors of the Community Action Program, demanding a response.[85] Some of the complaints are listed below:

(1) That Mrs. Hayes had been appointed to the directorship on January 24th, while individuals had been instructed to come to an interview on January 24th;

(2) That Mrs. Hayes, while being head of the Board of Directors, had been present while they discussed her candidacy, and once selected as director Mrs. Hayes should have resigned her post as chairperson of the Board of Directors;

(3) That the Community Action Program had not responded to three neighborhood policy proposals that had been sent several months ago;

(4) That the Board of Directors did not have the voice of the poor because no poor individuals were on it;

(5) Etc.[86]

The Citizen Committee for an Effective Community Action Program let it be known that they were not attacking Mrs. Hayes per se but the improper personnel procedures of the Community Action Program Board of Directors. When the Community Action Program issued no response, the Citizen Committee for an Effective Community Action Program dispatched telegrams to War on Poverty director R. Sargent Shriver, Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York, and Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, chairman of the Education and Labor Committee.[87] This gained them a response in which the Community Action Program board agreed to consider the grievances and invited community members to a forum to articulate their complaints.[88] One hundred and fifty persons attended the forum as speaker after speaker stood to air their grievances. Mrs. Hayes and other board members sat silently listening. Weldon R. Oliver, superintendent of public schools and new acting chairman of the Board of Directors, assured the audience that the Community Action Program wanted to work with all concerned citizens to guarantee that the aims of the federal legislation would be enacted.[89] However, he held firm to the Board of Directors’ decision to maintain Mrs. Hayes in her new post. When a Niagara Falls Gazette news reporter questioned Mayor Lackey concerning the Citizen Committee for an Effective Community Action Program’s complaint, he did comment, uttering that “Mrs. Hayes is a great asset to this community. She has worked very diligently in getting this Community Action Program on the road.”[90]

The Citizen Committee for an Effective Community Action Program’s true grievance, as noted above, was not against Alice Hayes but against the way in which the Board of Directors of the Community Action Program had conducted their hiring process. Casper L. Jordan, Otis Cowart and others on the Committee for an Effective Community Action Program knew Alice Hayes, had worked with her, and had great respect for her. The fact that they made clear their criticism was not of Mrs. Hayes is verification of this. Even so, Hayes maintained her post as director of NiaCAP for two years and seven months, with available evidence indicating that she operated effectively, managing resources to assist the needy and expose them to uplifting opportunities.[91] In June of 1967, for example, Hayes helped to acquire a $91,163 grant from the Office of Economic Opportunity for a day-center program for the City of Niagara Falls.[92] The following month, facilitated by Senator Jacob Javits and Representative Henry P. Smith III, she acquired a $12,749 grant to establish a legal services program.[93] In August, she obtained a $15,158 grant to create a Head Start program in Niagara Falls.[94] As time progressed and rumors abounded that federal funding would be curtailed, Hayes vowed to continue to make NiaCAP effective for needy Niagarans.[95] She worked progressively toward this goal. However, her duties as director of NiaCAP ended abruptly in August of 1968 when Hayes resigned her post due to an unresolvable dispute with the new Community Action Program Board of Directors.[96]

One of Hayes’s lasting legacies that operated to pull people up to a higher class status and still has a progressive impact even today was her organizing of the Niagara Falls-Buffalo Chapter of The Links, Inc.; the 20th chapter installed into “Linksdom.”[97] Alice Hayes organized this unit in 1950.[98] The Links, Inc. was and is a wholly female advancement organization in the tradition of the 19th and 20th centuries Black women’s club movement that underscored such feminists as Mary Church Terrell, Margaret Murry Washington, Fannie Barrier Williams, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Talbert, Charlotte Dett, Mary McLeod Bethune, and so many more women who strove to “lift their racial group”—particularly women—“as they climbed.”

“The Links, Inc. [functioned as] a voluntary service organization of concerned, committed and talented women who, linked in friendship, enhanced the quality of life in communities throughout the world, with a mission and vision of contributing to the formation of a positive, productive and culturally diverse society.”[99] Reflecting the vision and historical contributions of Alice Hayes, the Links, Inc. focused strongly on education, cultural enrichment, health, wellness and civic involvement.[100]

Examining the original by-laws of the Links, Inc. shows that they convey not only the abovementioned purpose of The Links, Inc. but also rules of operations, such as for finance, discipline, governance, and new members.[101] New members, for example, had to be voted in with not less than a 2/3rds vote of approval by present and participating members; additionally, they had to have had “identifiable abilities and interest in educational, civic, and intercultural activities.”[102] Some informed persons might interpret this as exclusionary and perhaps even elitist. However, an argument can be made that these by-laws enforced and reinforced uplift behaviors and mindsets, which was a leadership platform of Alice Hayes, a woman who came of age during the Progressive and Depression eras of American history, and of the original founders of Linksdom: Margaret R. Hawkins and Sarah S. Scott.[103]

In fulfilling its mission, The Links, Inc. provided a number of uplifting services during Alice Hayes’s presidency. From October 14-17, 1975, they sponsored a number of youth to attend a conference on delinquency prevention.[104] After the conference, attendees were invited to a meeting to share some of the lessons they had learnt. During the early 1950s, in collaboration with the Reverend Millard Fillmore Clay, who was minister of Niagara Falls’s Emmanuel Baptist Church, The Links, Inc. sponsored a Christmas party for community youth.[105] After the death of Dr. Charles B. Hayes, The Links, Inc. established a scholarship in his honor for deserving young people.[106] In promoting leadership, the organization sponsored a leadership conference in 1981, featuring then Links national president, Julia B. Purnell, who titled her address “Leadership Charge”[107], and in 1987, after the presidency of Alice Hayes, The Links, Inc. sponsored a Leadership and Youth Development forum in which New York State Assemblyman Arthur O. Eve served as the keynote speaker and emphasized to his audience to return to the old values of helping the least fortunate.[108]

With her numerous ongoing activities, particularly with The Links, Inc., Alice Hayes continued contributing to the Niagaran community on a constant and consistent basis. Beginning in 1960, she served as director of Niagara County Census for about two years.[109] A little over three months after her husband passed away, Hayes opened up a dress shop on 2521 Highland Avenue specializing in women’s clothing, with some men’s ware offered.[110] Her daughter E. Marie Davis assisted her in this venture. In 1972, bringing together issues and concerns emanating from the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, Radio Station WHLD began a series of new programs entitled BLACK POTENTIALS.[111] Edward F. Joseph, general manager of the radio station, pondered deeply who could host the program. Somehow Alice Hayes’s name was suggested. She agreed to be host.[112] In uplifting her listeners, she offered them the opportunity to speak of their vocations and avocations, their professional pursuits and their hobbies, and she shared her maxims for success that she had learned over the years. Years later, Joseph still spoke glowingly of the professionalism she brought to her role.[113]

Alice Hayes became ill beginning in about 1979, and remained in poor health for about three years.[114] She died on September 1, 1981. Individuals in Niagara Falls and throughout Western New York were greatly saddened by this loss of a longtime community leader and reformer. In synopsizing Hayes, we can say she was a strong-willed individual with excellent executive abilities who built bridges between communities and groups. The field of social work inspired her and served as a means through which she demonstrated her leadership. Her leadership also seemed to embody Du Bois’s Talented Tented concept. She obtained a high-quality education and used it in meaningful ways to help elevate Black Niagarans and others, although with a leader-centered approach. Some Niagarans may have viewed this as elitism. However, Hayes must have believed that she possessed an approach that was good for the elevation of her people. After her passing, numerous people gave testimonies to her impactful contributions to Niagara Falls and Niagara County. Edward F. Joseph perhaps eulogized her best:

I believe her mission in life was to touch people. Alice made tracks in this world. The city is better for Alice having lived in it.[115]

About the author: Michael Boston is an African and African American Studies faculty at The College at Brockport.


[1] Interview with Theodore Williamson, January 22, 2010. (Interview in possession of author.)
[2] Aprele Elliott, “Ella Baker: Free Agent in the Civil Rights Movement,” Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 26, No. 5 (May 1996): 593-603.
[3] Virginia Hamilton, ed., The Writings of W. E. B. Du Bois (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1975), 50-55.
[4] Ibid., 55.
[5] “Alice C. Hayes dies; area civic, NiaCAP Leader,” Niagara Falls Gazette, September 2, 1982, 1.
[6] W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Bantam Books, 1989), 1-9.
[7] “Mrs. Hayes Prominent In Social, Civic Work,” Niagara Falls Gazette, June 4, 1949, 18.
[8] Seth M. Scheiner, Negro Mecca: A History of The Negro in New York City, 1865-1920 (New York: New York University Press, 1965), 221-222.
[9] Ibid.
[10] The first Great Migration refers to that period in United States history when hundreds of thousands of African Americans migrated out of the South during the First World War.  The dates for the First Great Migration are from 1914 to 1918, the beginnings of World War I to its end.  Cities, such as New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland, gained significant increases in their African-American population.
[11]Seth M. Scheiner, Negro Mecca: A History of The Negro in New York City, 1865-1920, 221.
[12] Irma Watkins-Owen, “Caribbean Connections,” in Thomas C. Holt and Elsa Barkley Brown, ed., Major Problems in African-American History: Volume II: From Freedom to “Freedom Now,” 1865-1990s (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000), 144-154.
[13] E. David Cronon, Black Moses: The Story of Marcus Garvey (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987), 19-20.
[14] “Mrs. Hayes Prominent In Social, Civic Work,” 18.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid.
[21] William E. Leuchtenburg, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963).
[22] Michael Boston, Blacks in Niagara Falls, 1849 to 1985: A Study of Leadership’s Impact on Community Development(Unpublished manuscript of author), 108-110.
[23] “Crowds Go To Niagara,” New York Times, August 18, 1935, XX12.
[24] Mizer, Hamilton B., A City Is Born: Niagara Falls A City Matures 1892 A Topical History 1932 (Niagara Falls, New York: Human-Wahl Printing Inc., 1981), 113.
[25] “Lehman Proposes Slump Remedies,” New York Times, October 17, 1930, 11; “Printing Council Asks Extra Session on Idle: Hoover Is Urged at Niagara Falls State Convention to Start Relief Move,” New York Times, July 30, 1931, 2; “Road Work Distributed Throughout N. Y. State,” New York Times, January 6, 1935, A4; “Niagara Plan Presented,” New York Times, February 27, 1935, 16; “Allots $13,555,644 For Public Works,” New York Times, November 24, 1936, 20
[26] Fifteenth Census of the United States: 1930 Population Volume IV Occupations, By States, 1119; Sixteenth Census of the United States: 1940 Population Volume II Characteristics of the Population, 133.
[27] “Civic group valued Alice Hayes’ participation,” Niagara Falls Gazette, February 12, 1987, 1A: 2.
[28] Michael B. Boston, “Blacks in Niagara Falls, New York: 1865 to 1965,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 28 (July 2004), 9.
[29] Michael Boston, Blacks in Niagara Falls, 1849 to 1985: A Study of Leadership’s Impact on Community Development, 111.
[30] Ibid., 98-99.
[31] “Community Center News.” Niagara Falls Gazette, March 6, 1937, 5.
[32] “Alice C. Hayes, “Niagara Falls,” Chicago Defender, March 27, 1937; “Alice C. Hayes, “Niagara Falls,” Chicago Defender, April 10, 1937.
[33] “Community Center News,” Niagara Falls Gazette, November 19, 1937, 13.
[34] “Community Center News,” Niagara Falls Gazette, April 22, 1938, 4.
[35] Michael Boston, Blacks in Niagara Falls, 1849 to 1985: A Study of Leadership’s Impact on Community Development, 165.
[36] “Alice C. Hayes dies; area civic, NiaCAP Leader,” Niagara Falls Gazette, September 2, 1982, 1; “Dr. Hayes, 62, Dies; In Practice 25 Years,” Niagara Falls Gazette, March 14, 1961, 11.
[37] Interview with Theodore Williamson, January 22, 2010. (Interview in possession of author.); Interview with Barbara Smith, May 18, 2010. (Interview in possession of author).
[38] “Intercultural Group to Meet,” Niagara Falls Gazette, October 24, 1950, 20.
[39] Ibid.
[40] W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 43-52.
[41] “Niagara Falls,” Chicago Defender, December 12, 1936, 23.
[42] “Niagara Falls,” Chicago Defender, April 24, 1937, 11.
[43] “Niagara Falls,” Chicago Defender, February 26, 1938, 11.
[44] “Center Plans Many Activities,” Niagara Falls Gazette, June 3, 1944, 9.
[45] “In the Churches,” Niagara Falls Gazette, March 29, 1952, 4.
[46] “Alice C. Hayes dies; area civic, NiaCAP Leader,” Niagara Falls Gazette, September 2, 1982, 1; “Civic group valued Alice Hayes’ participation,” Niagara Falls Gazette, February 12, 1987, 1A: 2.
[47] “Alice C. Hayes dies; area civic, NiaCAP Leader,” 1
[48] Ibid.
[49] “Civic group valued Alice Hayes’ participation,” 1A: 2.
[50] “Alice C. Hayes dies; area civic, NiaCAP Leader,” 1.
[51] “Civic group valued Alice Hayes’ participation,” 1A: 2.
[52] Brandi Schorey and Christopher Bradley, “Dismantling the Battle Plan: an Exploratory Study of the Practices of the Salvation Army,” Michigan Sociological Review, Vol. 19 (Fall 2005), 64-65.
[53] Ibid.
[54] Ibid.; Diane Winston, Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army (Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard University Press, 2000).
[55] W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 30-42.
[56] W. E. B. Du Bois, 1868-1919, W.E. B. Du Bois: Biography of A Race (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1993), 297-342.
[57] David Levering Lewis, ed., W. E. B. Du Bois: A Reader (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), 340-345.
[58] The Dunning School was essentially a graduate history program at Columbia University.  William Archibald Dunning and John W. Burgess were influential professors at this school.  They trained many southern students that wrote their dissertations on the Reconstruction era.  Their theses all basically emphasized that (1) The South leaving the Union was wrong, (2) that after the Civil War the South was ready to come back into the Union, and (3) that the punishment for leaving the Union was too great.  The punishment, according to the Dunning school, was having African Americans, an inferior race, rule the South.  This historical interpretation was dominant from 1895 to 1963, influencing the production of such films as Birth of a Nation.
[59] W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880 (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1969), 711-729.
[60] W. E. B. DuBois, in reflecting back on his life in 1940, said that he thought his idea of the Talented Tenth was elitist.  See pages 216-217 of Du Bois's autobiography, Dusk of Dawn: An Essay Toward an Autobiography of a Race Concept (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1992) and another autobiography, The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century (New York: International Publishers Company, Inc., 1968), pp. 370-371.
[61]Elliott M. Rudwick, W. E. B. Du Bois: Propagandist of the Negro Protest (New York: Atheneum, 1968), 120-183.
[62] “Mrs. Hays Says NAACP Started Here 25 Years Ago,” Niagara Falls Gazette, April 3, 1968, 8; “Physician’s dedication earned admiration,” Niagara Falls Gazette, February 18, 1987, 1A: 2.
[63] Michael B. Boston, “Blacks in Niagara Falls, New York: 1865 to 1965,” 9.
[64] “Mrs. Hayes Says NAACP Started Here 25 Years Ago,” 8; “Physician’s dedication earned admiration,” 1A: 2.
[65] “Mrs. Hayes Prominent In Social, Civic Work,” 18.
[66] “New Staff Is Elected,” Niagara Falls Gazette, December 8, 1955, 9.
[67] Interview with Barbara Williams, March 14, 2010 (Interview in possession of author).  Mrs. Williams was the secretary of the Niagara Falls Branch of the NAACP under the presidency of both Harwood and Blonvea Bond.
[68] “Negro’s Cause Discussed Here,” Niagara Falls Gazette, April 10, 1943, 2.
[69] Ibid.
[70] Ibid.
[71] Ibid.
[72] “Dr. Hayes, 62, Dies; In Practice 25 Years,” 11.
[73] Ibid.
[74] Ibid.
[75] Ibid; Interview with Eddie Palmore, March 29, 2010. (Interview in possession of author.)
[76]  The Niagara Falls N.A.A.C.P. Local Branch or the Local Branch of the Congress of Racial Equality.
[77] Juan Williams, Eyes on the Prize(New York: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1987), 273.
[78] “400 Stage Civil Rights March in Falls,” Niagara Falls Gazette, March 15, 1965, 11.
[79] “CORE Sets Picketing Plans,” Niagara Falls Gazette, August 27, 1963, 11; Interview with Arthur B.  Ray, May 24, 2002. (Interview in possession of author.)
[80] “Negro Leaders Respond To Disturbance In Falls,” Race Relations Folder, Local History Department, Niagara Falls Public Library, 1 & 2.
[81] “Mayor’s Plan Covers Jobs, Recreation,” Race Relations Folder, Local History Department, Niagara Falls Public Library, 1.
[82] Michael Harrington, The Other America: Poverty in the United States (New York: Macmillan Press, 1962).
[83] John A. Andrew, Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society (Chicago: I. R. Dee Press, 1998).
[84] “2 Rights Units Oppose Mrs. Hayes,” Niagara Falls Gazette, January 25, 1966, 1; “Community Action Board Under Fire,” Niagara Falls Gazette, January 26, 1966, 1.
[85] “Poverty Board Eyes Grievances,” Niagara Falls Gazette, February 7, 1966, 2.
[86] Ibid.
[87] “Poverty Board Critics Appeal to Shriver, RFK,” Niagara Falls Gazette, February 9, 1966, 43.
[88] “Local Solution Is Likely In Poverty Unit Dispute,” Niagara Falls Gazette, February 11, 1966, 6; “Antipoverty Board Hears Complaints,” Niagara Falls Gazette, February 24, 1966, 15.
[89] Ibid.
[90] “2 Rights Units Oppose Mrs. Hayes,” 1
[91] “NiaCAP Makes Major Changes In Its Set-Up,” Niagara Falls Gazette, August 10, 1968, 11.
[92] “Day Care Center Granted $91,163,” Union-Sun Journal, June 8, 1967, 13.
[93] “Grant for Legal Program Awarded,” Buffalo Courier Express, July 18, 1967, 13; “legal Aid Unit Opens Offices,” Niagara Falls Gazette, April 20, 1968, 13.
[94] “Supplementary Grant Earmarked for Falls,” Buffalo Courier Express, August 10. 1967, 32.
[95] “Cut in NiaCAP Budget Won’t Curtail Programs,” Niagara Falls Gazette, April 11, 1968, 18.
[96] “NiaCAP Makes Major Changes In Its Set-Up,” 11.
[97] “The Niagara Falls Chapter of The Links, Incorporated 60th Anniversary Souvenir Journal 2010,” Local History Department, Niagara Falls Public Library, 1.
[98] Ibid.
[99] Ibid.
[100] Ibid.
[101] “By-Laws,” Links of Niagara Falls, NY Papers (Butler Library, SUNY  Buffalo State), microfilm reel.
[102] Ibid.
[103] “The Niagara Falls Chapter of The Links, Incorporated 60th Anniversary Souvenir Journal 2010,” 1
[104] “Mrs. Rosemary S. Soffin and Mrs. Alice C. Hayes to Miss Sandra Blaine Ellis,” November 20, 1975, Links of Niagara Falls, NY Papers (Butler Library, SUNY  Buffalo State), microfilm reel.
[105] “Newspaper Clippings,” Links of Niagara Falls, NY Papers (Butler Library, SUNY  Buffalo State), microfilm reel.
[106] “Dr. Hayes, 62, Dies; In Practice 25 Years,” 11.
[107] “Printed Programs,” Links of Niagara Falls, NY Papers (Butler Library, SUNY  Buffalo State), microfilm reel.
[108] “Newspaper Clippings,” Links of Niagara Falls, NY Papers (Butler Library, SUNY  Buffalo State), microfilm reel
[109] “Alice C. Hayes dies; area civic, NiaCAP Leader,” 1.
[110] “Advertisement for Dress Shop,: Niagara Falls Gazette, June 27, 1961, 7.
[111] “Black Potential, new series aired by W.H.L.D.,” Niagara Falls Gazette, August 21, 1972, 7.
[112] Ibid.
[113] “Alice C. Hayes dies; area civic, NiaCAP Leader,” 1.
[114] Ibid.
[115] Ibid.