Jean Denton-Thompson was born January 13, 1942, in Lake Providence, Louisiana and grew up there and in New Orleans. She was active in the New Orleans Congress of Racial Equity (CORE), and was one of the Freedom Riders arrested at age 19 in Jackson, Mississippi, after making the historic trip on the Trailways bus from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi.
After being released from jail in Jackson, Mississippi, Jean returned to New Orleans to train Freedom Riders about to go into Jackson. In 1962, she was on a CORE project called Freedom Highway Project, located in North Carolina. She was also involved with civil rights work elsewhere in the South, including Canton, Mississippi, after Medgar Evers was murdered.
Jean moved to New York City in the mid-'60s, where she worked with local CORE chapters. In the late '60s, she was involved in civil rights, anti-war and feminist efforts in Berkeley and San Francisco.
As the Vietnam war was escalating, Jean decided to visit friends and live in New England. She moved to Pelham in 1976, then lived in Sunderland before settling in Amherst, where she lives today.