Celebrating the Legacy of Jessie Smallwood: A Beacon of Community Activism and Equality

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Jericho Road is thrilled to shine a spotlight on the remarkable life and contributions of Jessie Smallwood. Smallwood, a beacon of community activism and a staunch advocate for equality, left an indelible mark as the Executive Director of the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO).

During her tenure, Smallwood led HANO with unwavering dedication, steering the agency from a deficit to an impressive reserve of nearly 3 million dollars. But her impact extended far beyond HANO’s walls. Throughout her illustrious career, she held pivotal roles across New Orleans and Louisiana, from Assistant Superintendent at the LA Department of Education to Executive Director at the Health Systems Agency. Her leadership as Deputy Director of the Office of Recovery Management, Director of Project Development at the National Center for Community Health and Research (NCCHR), and Executive Director of the Orleans Recovery Foundation (ORF) underscored her commitment to public housing and health initiatives, enriching countless lives in our community.

Smallwood’s journey was marked by academic excellence, earning her B.S. in Medical Technology from Xavier University in 1955, followed by master’s degrees in public health and city Planning from the esteemed University of California at Berkeley. Her educational foundation, coupled with her experiences at the historic Black Gilbert Academy and Gaudet High School, fortified her resolve to effect positive change.

As we honor Jessie Smallwood this Women’s History Month, we pay tribute to her enduring legacy and the profound impact she had on our beloved city and beyond. Let us carry forward her torch of empowerment and justice, ensuring that her vision of a more equitable society continues to inspire generations to come.