Saundra Graham


We are saddened by the news of Saundra’s passing on June 23, 2023. Please join us in honoring her memory as an ardent community organizer, visionary leader, proactive public servant and staunch defender of human rights.

The first Cambridge woman of color to be elected to the City Council. Saundra Graham was honored along with Rosa Parks in the naming of the Graham & Parks School.

Saundra Graham was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on September 5, 1941, one of eleven children of Roberta Betts Postell and Charles B. Postell. She attended public schools in Cambridge, the University of Massachusetts and Harvard University Extension. In 1978 she received a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard.

Saundra Graham first gained international attention in 1970 when she led a group of neighborhood residents and disrupted a Harvard University commencement. For over a year before the incident Cambridge citizens of the Riverside neighborhood had attempted to get a response from the university for its continued real estate expansion.

Because of her action, Harvard finally acknowledged publically its covert role in what was actual displacement of long-time residents from their homes. Harvard responded by constructing an elderly housing complex and ten years later, a family housing complex.

In 1968, Saundra Graham became a member of the Board of Directors of the Cambridge Community Center. In 1970, she served as president of the Riverside Planning Team and in 1971, as president of Riverside Cambridgeport Community Development Corporation (“RCCC”). As one of the co-founders of RCCC, she helped to shape it as one of the most successful community development corporations in the nation. RCCC still seeks to provide low and moderate income housing for Cambridge residents and to upgrade existing housing stock.

Saundra Graham was elected to the Cambridge City Council in 1971 and from 1972 to 1983 served as Chairwoman of its Housing and Land Use Committee. She played a key role in obtaining federal housing dollars for Cambridge. Roosevelt Towers, Jefferson Park and Washington Elms public housing complexes received comprehensive rehabilitation and modernization funds through her efforts. She was a committed leader in the struggle for rent control in the early 1970s and remains a committed leader.

In the late 1960s Saundra was divorced and continued to raise her five children as a single parent.

From 1976 to 1977 Saundra Graham served as Vice-Mayor of Cambridge. In 1977 and 1978 she served as Chairwoman of the Multicultural Arts Center Committee in Cambridge. Through her work, one historic East Cambridge courthouse was saved from demolition and became the Multicultural Arts Center.

In 1976 Saundra Graham was elected to the General Court of Massachusetts. She was the first black woman representative from Cambridge to the State House. She served as Chairwoman of the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus and was a member of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators. She played an active role in housing at the state level where she is a member of the Joint House-Senate Committee on Housing and Urban Development.

Saundra Graham was also a member of the Boston Black United Fund and serves as Secretary to the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials.

Another major concern of Saundra Graham’s has always been the need for quality childcare in the Commonwealth. She founded the Childcare Coalition which is a state-wide collective of community child advocacy groups and individuals.

Saundra Graham is a long-time advocate of nuclear disarmament and activist in the nuclear freeze movement. She also co-chaired the Massachusetts Coalition for the August 27, 1983 March on Washington.

Saundra Graham has received numerous awards some of which include the 1976 National Sojourner Truth Award from the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc.; the 1980 Recognition Award by the Central Square Cambridge Businessmen’s Association and the 1982 “Woman of the Year” in government award by the Boston Chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Saundra Graham has been dedicated to obtaining economic justice for the poor, the elderly, the unemployed, minorities and women. She is a strong advocate for affirmative action and enforcement, housing, childcare, environmental protection, tax reform and a state budget that provides for quality human services. [1983]

SOURCE: Graham and Parks School, Cambridge, Mass.