Alice Paden Green
Alice Paden Green grew up in the Adirondacks in the 1950s. She lived in the little town of Witherbee, the daughter of an iron miner and one of the few black children in the area. She says the African-American children in that remote community felt like “aliens---inferior breeds, forever the ‘other people’ who were ostracized from town folk in work and play.”
Though life was sometimes difficult, Alice says “the town’s location gave me a serenity and a feeling of security that helped me survive...I spent a lot of time by myself and enjoyed the feelings of peaceful contemplation that isolation sometimes brings.”
Alice felt very passionate about furthering her education. She wrote, “So disturbing did I find the widely held belief that blacks were inherently inferior intellectually, that I embarked upon a self-proclaimed mission to prove it fallacious to everyone, including myself...I sought to offer myself as evidence that this stereotype was utterly wrong.”
She earned her degree in education from State University at Albany (SUNYA) and got a teaching certificate. Alice taught high school, and earned a graduate degree in education. She became increasingly interested in her students’ home lives and problems. She decided to pursue social work and after earning a graduate degree in social work directed a family service agency. Then her interests turned to criminal justice. She went back to SUNYA again, for a master’s degree, and eventually a Ph.D., in criminal justice.
In the Capitol Region, Alice is probably best known as an outspoken advocate for civil rights and the equal treatment of people of color. In 1985, she founded The Center for Law and Justice in Albany. The Center’s motto is from Frederick Douglass:
"If there is no struggle, there is no progress"
Alice has received many awards, including the Distinguished Alumna Award from Rockefeller College, University at Albany; Woman of the Year Award from the YWCA; Shaker and Mover Award from the National Organization for Women; Black Solidarity Award from Prisoners of Auburn; and New York State Bar Association Public Service Medal.
Returning to her roots with grown-up eyes, Alice saw the Adirondacks as “beautiful.” When she came to learn about the history of blacks in the region---that colonies of blacks lived there in the 1800s---”it blew my mind,” she said.
Alice is concerned that the Adirondack region remains predominantly white. She was looking for ways to introduce African Americans to the Adirondacks and decided to turn a small cottage near Essex into a writing studio. She called it the Paden Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color. “I love writers,” says Alice, “mainly because they can open up people’s minds.”