Hidden History: Billie Anderson

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In commemoration of Black History month, NewsChannel 34 is highlighting the work and accomplishments of African Americans from across our country.

A Binghamton woman known for being an organizer, community activist and freedom fighter is being recognized for helping to create opportunities for African-Americans in the Southern Tier.

When the black community needed a voice, Billie Anderson worked to ensure they were heard.

“A lot of times, people would say ‘don’t rock the boat, you’re rocking the boat’,” said Anderson.

Billie D Anderson never took no for an answer, especially when it comes to fighting for what’s right.

She moved to Binghamton with her family in 1945 in hopes of finding equality.

But, when she arrived, it was as if she had never left.

“I was born in the South and they always kidded us, saying ‘Once you go past the Mason-Dixon line, everything up North would be just wonderful.’  That was not true.  Not true at all,” said Anderson.

She faced discrimination as she approached her high school years in the Binghamton school system.

Anderson was supposed to attend North High, but when she toured the building and saw racial slurs splattered on the wall, she decided to go to Central High instead.

“I lied about my address so I could go to Central High School.  That was the beginning,” said Anderson.

It was when her own son became the target of discrimination that she decided enough was enough.

“He could never exceed in school and he told me he should join the Job Corps. He got a piece of my mind.  All of my kids graduated,” said Anderson.

She became a trailblazer working for equality in Binghamton.

She advocated to diversify the Binghamton School Board and was able to bring in African-American teachers and counselors.

Then, she was organizing bus trips to Washington and Albany speaking out against racism and inequality in employment, criminal justice, and education.

In the late ’70s, our area’s chapter of the NAACP fizzled out.

But Anderson was there to save the day once again by banding the organization back together.

“Billie, being who she is, being an activist and a freedom fighter, got in and saw the need for the community.  She saw what the organization could provide to the community and got it reactivated, got people interested in what was going on and got us back on our feet,” said Broome-Tioga NAACP President Micah Barreiro.

Brenda Brown is a community educator on African American History in Binghamton.

When she moved here as part of IBM’s recruitment of black industry workers, Anderson took her under her wing.

“Billie is a leader.  She is a community leader and organizer.  She just works, works, works.  You’re going to join her whether you like it or not,” said Brown.

Brown says Anderson has always been a source of inspiration by putting others first.

“It hasn’t been easy.  She’s taken risks. She’s had to put her family on hold at times because she was at the jailhouse, courthouse, or housing.  It takes that type of commitment from a person,” said Brown.

Anderson was recently recognized for her achievements and hard work by the NAACP.

She’s still speaking out against inequality that’s still present in our society.

While she is retired and spending winters in Florida, Anderson keeps fighting the good fight in hopes of one day seeing total equality.

Anderson continues to advocate for African-Americans who she feels are still treated unfairly.

She’s currently working to make sure black students have a voice in school districts across our area.

You can watch our entire half hour Hidden History special Saturday, January 20, at 7:30 p.m. on WBGH, NBC-5.

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