Saundra Graham was born in Cambridge on September 5, 1941, one of eleven children of Roberta Betts Postell and Charles B. Postell. She attended public schools in Cambridge, UMass, and Harvard University’s Extension School; and received a Loeb Fellowship from Harvard in 1978.

Saundra first gained international attention in 1970 when she organized a group of neighborhood residents to disrupt a Harvard University commencement. For more than a year beforehand, Riverside residents had attempted to get a response from the University for its ongoing real estate expansion. Because of her action, Harvard publicly acknowledged its covert role in actively displacing long-time residents from their homes and responded by building an elderly housing complex and ten years later, a family housing complex.

Saundra was elected to the Cambridge City Council in 1971 where 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 because of her efforts. She also helped lead the struggle for rent control in the early 1970s and remains a committed leader to this day.

From 1976 to 1977 Saundra served as Vice-Mayor of Cambridge, and in 1976 was elected to the General Court of Massachusetts. She was the first Black woman representative from Cambridge to the State House.