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Cora P. Maloney: Buffalo’s First African American Female Common Council Member

Submitted by Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, PhD, Co-founder of the Uncrowned Queens Institute

Even if an individual was a well-known history maker during their lifetime, the passage of time and lack of documentation often results in that person falling through the historical cracks. That’s been especially true for Black women. Until recently, African American women’s history has been ignored, dismissed or undervalued, especially the regional history makers. There are many Black Buffalonians who remember the name; Cora P. Maloney. Yet they know little about her except that she was the first African American woman elected Masten District representative to the Buffalo Common Council. In fact there is a College at the University of Buffalo named after this pioneering Black woman. However, even the College had no comprehensive biography or photo of woman, whose name they bear until the Uncrowned Queens Institute researched and wrote a biography of the extraordinary accomplishments of Mrs. Maloney.

Cora Pleasant Maloney was born in Kansas City, Missouri, circa 1905. Her parents, Robert and Gertrude Pleasant were life-long residents of Missouri. Little is known about Maloney’s early years or family; however she was a graduate of the University of Kansas, School of Pharmacy. She worked as a pharmacist and medical technologist in Kansas City, Missouri, Detroit, Michigan and Albany, New York. Mrs. Maloney met her husband, Clarence, an assistant attorney general, while working in the Bangs Disease Laboratory in Albany, New York. They were married in 1945 and moved to Buffalo shortly afterward. She continued to work as a medical technologist, at the E.G. Meyer Memorial Hospital, after her marriage until entering politics.

Cora-P-Maloney-Buffalo-NY-1Mrs. Maloney had been active in Kansas Democratic politics before moving to Buffalo and becoming involved in the Democratic Party in this city. She was active in numerous community fund drives.   She was an active worker for the Community Chest, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the American Cancer Association and the American Heart Association. “I’d ring those doorbells and get to talking with the women about city government”, she explained. “I guess that was what made me decide to run for office.”

In 1957, she was sworn in as a committeewoman in the Sixth District of the 13th ward. She made history, when in the same year; she was elected as Buffalo’s first Councilwoman, the first Democrat ever to be elected in the Masten District, and the first African American to be elected in the district in twenty years. She did not have the party endorsement for her first election. She was re-elected in 1959. That same year she refused to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors in New Orleans. Because of segregation she could not stay in the same hotel as other delegates. She said, “I feel I would abdicate the principles of my group if I went to the conference.” As a result of her stance, Mayor Frank A. Sedita also refused to attend the conference.

Several months prior her death, Mrs. Maloney was endorsed by the Democratic Executive Committee for Councilman-at-large, making her the first African American to be endorsed by a major political party for a city-wide elective office. Mrs. Maloney expressed her political creed as follows, “I’m a feminist. Women are the watchdogs of civilization. It’s always a feminine voice which cries for better government and better social laws.”

To read more about Mrs. Maloney visit

The Friends of the Buffalo Story is involved in a yearlong project whose mission is to uncover and reveal the heritage-based stories of people who live along the Ferry Street Corridor. As part of this effort “The Friends” is working very closely with community-groups, who have been doing this work for many years. None has done this more effectively and diligently than the uncrowned queens institute for research & education on women, inc.

We are proud to be collaborating with them to bring you this ongoing feature during the month of February, which focuses on some of the “uncrowned community builders” who have done so much to strengthen the African-American community of Buffalo’s East Side as well as the region.

Additional “uncrowned community builders” are as follows:

rev. j. edward nash – a legendary buffalo pastor

eva noles – nurse, historian, pioneer

mary lee crosby chappelle – sage of the ages

john edmonston brent – master builder

hester c. jeffrey – advocate of women’s suffrage movement

thelma ayers hardiman – stalwart supporter of buffalo

willie brown seals – minister, musician, photographer

james a. ross – newspaperman, exposition promoter, businessman

amelia grace anderson: teacher and club woman

James Henry Stansil: Rescued work of Elizabeth Keckley


Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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