Rochester Black Freedom Struggle -- Charles "Buddy" Granston

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Interview Subject: Charles "Buddy" Granston
Date(s) of interview(s): 7/6/2009
Interviewer: Laura Warren Hill

Mr. Charles "Buddy" Granston spent his early childhood in Watkins Glen, NY followed by 3 years in Ithaca. His family moved to Rochester in 1947, when Mr. Granston was 9 years old, so his step-father could find work in construction. They lived in the inner city--around the Joseph Avenue area--where Mr. Granston attended both East and Madison high schools. In 1962 he was drafted and served in the United States Army for two years. Upon his return to Rochester he worked for the East Rochester Car Shop. Eventually, Mr. Granston became involved with the FIGHT Organization, working as a counselor with the Youth Drug Prevention program and the Ex-Offender Program. Later, he worked as assistant director of the jobs committee. After twelve years, Mr. Granston left FIGHT and took a position with the Delco Products Division of General Motors. He retired in 1998 and continues to live in Rochester and continues to be involved in the community. Mr. Granston is still involved with Assemblyman David Gantt as a member of the 133d District Committee. In 2099 Mr. Granston was named Co-Retiree of the Year by Rochester Labor Council. For thirteen years he has served on the Clarissa Festival Reunion Entertainment Committee.

Mr. Charles "Buddy" Granston shares recollections of his life in Rochester, from his family's arrival in the city in 1947 through the end of his involvement in the FIGHT Organization in 1976. He recalls growing up, going to school, and making friends in the inner city. Mr. Granston comments on the profound impact that local settlement houses, particularly the Baden Street Settlement House, had on him and his peers by offering programs and experiences they otherwise would not have had. He shares memories of his time serving in the United States Army and the frustration he often felt serving a nation overseas which did not offer civil rights to African-Americans at home. Upon his return, Mr.Granston recalls his observations of growing racial tension in Rochester, including increased police brutality and the 1964 riot. Mt. Granston remembers key community leaders, most notably Mildred Johnson, who originally encouraged him to join the FIGHT Organization. He shares memories of his twelve-year involvement with FIGHT, specifically with several of their programs including: the FIGHT Youth Drug Prevention program, the Ex-Offender Program (which began in the aftermath of the Attica Prison riot), and the housing development, FIGHT Square. He also comments on FIGHT's relationship with other activist organizations at the time, particularly with the Urban League and Action for a Better Community. He remembers fondly the feelings of cooperation between the three organizations and comments on how well organized the African-American population of Rochester was at this time. Even after leaving FIGHT to work for the Delco division of GM, Mr. Granston attributes his most memorable experiences to the FIGHT Organization.

Transcription Policy
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has made every effort to transcribe the oral interviews as recorded. It is standard in transcriptions of oral histories to retain dialect, grammatical idiosyncrasies, and the natural rhythm of the spoken word. The transcript is meant to reflect verbal conversation as recorded rather than a polished written document. Our transcription policy adheres to this protocol. While each interviewee was asked to read and edit his/her interview transcript to ensure the proper spelling of people and places, all transcriptions retain their original wording. Any post-interview content additions or corrections are placed in footnotes. Occasional interviewee requests to remove selected passages have been honored, and the point of such removal has been designated. We believe this policy preserves the integrity and spontaneity of the original interview.
This set of oral history interviews was conducted beginning in 2008 by historian Laura Warren Hill in conjunction with her research project, "'Strike the Hammer While the Iron Is Hot': The Black Freedom Struggle in Rochester, NY, 1945-1975." Statements in these interviews are those of the interviewees alone, and in no way speak for the University of Rochester as a whole, or for individual members of the University community. The University accepts no responsibility for the content of these interviews

Transcription of Interview: 7/6/2009

Laura Hill: Today is July 6th 2009. I am Laura Warren Hill here with Mr. Buddy Granston at the University of Rochester's Rare Books and Special Collections. So to begin, tell me about your childhood. Are you from Rochester? Were you born here?

Mr. Granston[1]: Well, I was born in Watkins Glen.

Laura Hill: Ah.

Mr. Granston: A big family in Watkins Glen, New York and I moved from Watkins Glen to Ithaca. Shortly thereafter my mother and father separated. I lived in Ithaca for about three years before I came to Rochester. I came to Rochester in 1947--I'll never forget this-- at the New York Central train station, and the name of the train was the Black Diamond.

Laura Hill: On the Black Diamond.

Mr. Granston: On the Black Diamond.

Laura Hill: So were you born in Montour Falls?

Mr. Granston: I was born in Montour Falls. There's four in my family. I have a sister and two other brothers, and two of them were born at home with midwives--

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --and me and my sister, I think, were born in the hospital--Montour Falls was--which is, you know, like a little suburb.

Laura Hill: Sure, my son was born in Montour Falls at the hospital.

Mr. Granston: Oh I can't believe--we'll have to talk later.

Laura Hill: Okay. Fair enough, fair enough.


Laura Hill: Okay so you come to Rochester. How old are you when you get here?

Mr. Granston: Let me see. Well I'm seventy now. I had to be--let me see--nine. I had to be about nine.

Laura Hill: Okay. So you were a little boy.

Mr. Granston: Yeah.

Laura Hill: So where did you move? What did you find when you got here?

Mr. Granston: Well, when I--I come--Watkins Glen, Ithaca. Most of my friends and most of the people I knew were white.

Laura Hill: Of course.

Mr. Granston: They were white. Because you know--.

Laura Hill: 'Cause there aren't a lot of black folks in those areas.

Mr. Granston: Right, right, right. And so when I came to Rochester--oh, I guess it was at a time after the war.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: That's one of the reasons we came here because jobs were really scarce then. The guys were coming home from the service, so my step-pop--we moved to Rochester to find work. And when I got here, well, it was a big difference from how I lived where I was born. When I got here I lived in what they called "the bottom" over in the Joseph Avenue/Ormond Street area. We called that "the bottom." And it was the bottom because the housing was horrendous and it was rough. It was really rough. And we could call that "the bottom" and we didn't feel bad about it because when you're at the bottom you have nowhere to go but up.

Laura Hill: That's right.

Mr. Granston: And so--and then I met a lot of people. I come here and I, you know, I got--what was it--a lot of people--and I'm sorry that I'm, you know, hesitating.

Laura Hill: No, no not at all.

Mr. Granston: But I'm going back in time and thinking--.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Granston: Remember--I got here, and there were a lot of people coming up from down South then, big congregation from Sanford, Florida.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And from Virginia and all over the South.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And so we're all at the bottom and we all--I grew up with them. Most of my friends were from Florida or Georgia, you know, or Alabama and Mississippi, all over. And so that's how I grew up in Rochester--in inner city Joseph Avenue area and Clinton Avenue area.

Laura Hill: Let me ask you this: do you recall what made your stepfather think that he could find work in Rochester?

Mr. Granston: Well, he worked at the gun factory in Ithaca.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: Ithaca Gun Factory and after the war was over, you know, he didn't have a job. Some of the guys were coming back from the service who had--you know, and I guess they had top priority on the work then.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And he definitely wasn't an educated man. And so he figured he'd come here and possibly get any kind of work--construction's what he had in mind--and that's what he did when we first got here. So that was one of the reasons we moved from Ithaca to Rochester.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: Though work was scarce all over, it was a better chance here.

Laura Hill: Sure. Did your mom work?

Mr. Granston: My mom worked when she had to work. She--when we came here she used to work at the canning factory out there in Williamson, canning the different products that were picked--

Laura Hill: From area farms, where migrant workers came to work.

Mr. Granston: --yeah, from farms where migrants worked. And my mother did work there on and off. She worked there to help out the family.

Laura Hill: Okay. Okay. That's interesting.

Mr. Granston: Mm-hmm.

Laura Hill: I'm very interested of course in the Sanford, Florida connection. I'll be traveling there in August to meet with some of those people. But I'm also really intrigued with the ways in which the migrant population influenced Rochester so much, and it sounds like that was a two-way street, that folks were going out in that direction, too--Your mom working in the canning factories and what not.

Mr. Granston: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah.

Laura Hill: Okay. So where did you go to school? Tell me about some of those experiences.

Mr. Granston: Oh that was rough. You think they have it rough now, we had it--it's always been rough with school, when you--especially when you're a new kid in town. And I went to Andrews Number Nine School on Joseph Avenue, beautiful red brick building with ivy, and it was a really fine old school. And with the big bell tower. And that's--we went home for lunch then. You didn't have lunch in school, and so we went home for lunch and when you hear the first bell you had to be on your way to school; the second bell you should be at school, and if you're a good student you got to ring the bell. And I did before I left, my last year there, I did get to ring--ding, dong, ding, dong. Andrews Number Nine, I guess, was in transition from mostly white students. I can remember a lot of us homeboys from down South and we had the Italians and we--at that time Joseph Avenue, Clinton Avenue was a Jewish, a big Jewish community. They had synagogues all over.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And I lived, in fact where I lived right down the street was a synagogue, a little bit down farther, a synagogue, a populated area back in the time. 'Cause actually it was a Jewish area. They had newsstands and most of the stores. And school was kind of rough then because it was in transition so there were a lot of fights[2] and all that going on and in which me and my brother were involved in quite a few. But as--I guess you grow up and we learned. I had no problem once you learned you had to fight if you, you know, you had to fight. Or you had to prove--and you didn't have to win but you had to fight.

Laura Hill: My dad has said that several times.

Mr. Granston: You had to fight; you didn't have to win, but you had to represent and once that was established with me and my brother we became--it was just like a rough section, tough and what it was, but, you know, once you were accepted it was, you know--a lot of stress coming from out of town somewhere starting new. But once that was established we--I don't know, we had a great time. We had a great time.

Laura Hill: Okay. Okay. So your friends are--at this point they're mostly African-Americans? They're whites?

Mr. Granston: Oh yeah. 'Cause I had some white Jewish friends because some of their kids were still going to school there before they moved out. And not only Italians and the Jews, Jewish people, but there were other people, Eastern Europeans. I remember a few of them. It was a mixed bag; they were a small, you know, there weren't that many of them, but it was a mixed bag. You know, we had all kind of different people going to school there.

Laura Hill: Were there tensions that you recall between older African American families in Rochester and the newcomers?

Mr. Granston: Well in a way yeah, you could say there was a tension. Because the ones that were up North there was kind-of-thing like they were more refined and they were better off. So some of them pointed down, looked down their nose at the ones that come from the rural areas down South that come off the farms and all that. Because some of them had been here and their fathers and mothers had been here generations and had went to school and went from grammar school to high school and then--most went to high school and then some--not that many, but some--went to college. So there were some--I like to call them misled or unenlightened--people that looked their nose down on some of the homies that come up from down South. Yeah, there was some of that.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: But from where I lived it, you know, it didn't bother all that much. That was basically when I come here on the East side of town and most of the established families, at that time, most not all were on the West side of town, the Clarissa Street area.

Laura Hill: Okay. And so then was there conflict between East and West?

Mr. Granston: Uh, no, no. In sports? We, you know, in sports. And I'll put it this way: You know I went to school here from Andrews Number Nine School to high school, East High, and then Madison and they were great and--but there was never really any East and West. I'll tell you what I always tell a lot of my friends. It was the most important thing to me. My high school where I got most of my learning from was the settlement houses, Baden Street Settlement[3] was--that was like my high school and college. That really is where I learned a lot from. And on the other side of town you had Montgomery Center. And these settlement houses, like ours, originally were set up for the Jewish people, you know, at the turn of the century. And then eventually it changed to work with African Americans. But at that time they had settlement houses, and I think I like the name because it was so important growing up in that time. Baden Street on our side of town, there was a Charles Street settlement house, there was a Genesee Street settlement house, and on the other side there was Montgomery and Hubbell Hall and some others. And we held these great competitions 'cause we played baseball, football, basketball, you know inter--inner-city rivalries. It was just for, you know, just for bragging rights and for fun.

Laura Hill: Tell me about some of the ways the Baden Street Settlement were important to you.

Mr. Granston: Baden Street Settlement. God bless the Baden Street Settlement and the city fathers who helped bring these settlement houses about. Because that was a haven, after school--like I say, the housing was horrendous. We lived in--[sighs] you know, I couldn't--you couldn't understand that it was really rough then. And Hanover Houses--when they put them up it was such a great thing. But we couldn't move in. Where we lived was really bad but we couldn't move in because at that time you had to have--my mother didn't meet the criteria; she had no divorce papers and you had to have a marriage certificate so, you know. But that was a blessing--the Hanover Houses-- and Mildred Johnson, my buddy who helped influence my life a great deal. Mildred worked with Nelson Rockefeller and others to get Hanover Houses built. But anyway, the settlement houses-- after school they were everything. They were staffed with white and black staff people, college graduates and interns and we had an array of programs. We all had clubs. There was many, many clubs--little social clubs-- and we participated in sports. They made us aware of, which is a great thing, different things--like we never went to operas before or to Broadway plays, and then sports: archery, and fencing and all different things, choir, cooking classes and all that. And me and a couple of my friends--anything they had we were involved--everything they had we were involved in so and that was--. And from the college graduates that--counselors that--ran Baden Street and from the intern staff, college kids white and black it was--I learned more there, than I really believe I could have learned in high school and a good part of college.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: The city fathers of that time brought about these settlement houses. So I say I'm a product of the settlement houses, and I love it, and I'm glad that I was and Baden Street is where it was at. That was my high school and my college really.

Laura Hill: I see. Tell me about Mildred Johnson.

Mr. Granston: Mildred Johnson, black activist. Beautiful lady. Always involved and, I guess, she got her calling from her mother, Virginia Wilson.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And so she established a center over there on the East side of town[4]. And that helped people out, and she became politically involved in what happened, you know, and what was happening to black folks at that time. And like I say, most of the learned blacks and the ones that had been at college and all that were on the West side. But they did have a small amount on the east side and I guess Mildred and her mother were a part of that.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And, well, I can't say enough about Mildred because she influenced me. I remember I and my homies were working then. And I was out of the service so I figured, you know, that's good enough. And I think about it now--young kids grow up today thinking about making money and, you know, how they do that with their drugs and all that. But when I grew up and most of the kids I grew up with-- your mother or father, aunt and uncle--they worked hard however they worked. We didn't have good jobs, whatever they did they worked. So I guess subconsciously my mind, it was in my mind; well, eventually I'm gonna grow up and work like my step-pop. You know, working construction. And he spent a lot of years at Krieger's junkyard[5] baling paper and cardboard. But, eventually, you know, I was gonna grow up hopefully and get a job. And go to work wherever I could, whatever type of work I could find, you know. So that was the thing then and that's basically what I did and so--. But I remember one day I and my homies, we were sitting out on the stoop. And I had been home from work and all that and we--most of us were working then. And we're drinking--I think it was Bud or Miller's or Genesee -- not Heineken then. And there were a lot of things going on then, but we weren't involved in it. We were hardworking and, you know, and said we're working hard and we're trying to raise a family, and so we want to have a little fun. And you know we don't want to be involved in politics and all that. But I remember Mildred come by and said, "You guys, you know, come on! There's things going on, there's things to be done. You gotta do more than just--I know you work and all that, but you gotta do more than just sit around drinking beer all day and soc--and, you know, shooting the bull. I mean you gotta become involved and all that." She used to tell us that all the time and we said, yeah Mildred, you're right, you're right. But eventually it did stick on me and some of my friends. And I, my first involvement came-- there was a big vote at that time. The FIGHT organization had been started and Minister Franklin Florence was the head then. And I will say we had every block on the East side and I believe most of the West side, where we lived at--black folks lived--we had that organized into block clubs. And so there was a big election at the War Memorial[6] then, Minister Florence was the first president, but there was a--he helped bring it to existence, and then Saul Alinsky, come out of Chicago with this program, and so there was a big election and was taking place at the War Memorial and there was talk of violence. There was talk of violence. But Mildred had got us involved in it so we said--well I remember one of the guys, one of the first workers who worked with the FIGHT organization, his name was McDowell and man he said, "Well, let's, well ok, we don't want no stuff, because we seen, we knew then that you know, divide and conquer you gotta organize." So we did that. Mildred did make us aware of that, so we said, "Well we're gonna go down there and we gonna make sure ain't nothing going to go on. They're gonna vote. We're going to vote, and we're going to not let anybody break it up through violence." And so me and my buddies from the East side, there was ten, twelve of us, that was our--that was my first entry into politics. So, we went down and we sat there, and there were tense moments, very tense moments because Minister Florence who was so big--he was hands-on in everything he did, and then we had a young upstart Bernie Gifford, college educated and all that, was, you know, was fighting for the leadership of FIGHT. Bernie eventually did win, and it came close to some violence, but thank God that the gods were looking down on us and there wasn't any violence and the election went on, Bernie Gifford won the election then. And that's how I became involved in FIGHT and with Mildred Johnson. And then FIGHT headquarters at that time was on Joseph Avenue, and our election headquarters was at Cohen's Restaurant--Cohen's whose corned beef specials and pastramis I'll never forget. And so we all, you know, most of the people in the neighborhood liked it, besides Snuffy's ribs, barbecue, we liked Cohen's pastramis or salamis--

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --or corned beef specials. Anyway, the headquarters was, our headquarters was in where Cohen's was after the riots because a lot of people moved out after the riots and so we moved into Cohen's[7].

Laura Hill: So let's go back and talk about the riots. At this point you're how old? In '64.

Mr. Granston: '64. I was drafted in the service in June '62 when I was twenty-three. John F. Kennedy said your fellow men, your friends and neighbors have selected you to represent, you know,--in the army. And I was drafted in the army in 1962 with a letter from, you know, with John F. Kennedy is president then. And so--and I got married around that time too.

Laura Hill: So you must be twenty-five then.

Mr. Granston: Okay. So yeah, so I was in the service. I was drafted with two years; I was in there from twenty-three to twenty-five. I got out of the service at twenty-five and the riots--I got out in June, I remember. June the third was my out date and the riots started in July.

Laura Hill: That's right, that's right. So you have a job at this point? You're still in transition?

Mr. Granston: Oh no, I at that time--I got a job at the East Rochester Car Shop and they--you know, ex-veteran--they trained me how to weld, so I was learning. I was a welder at the East Rochester Car Shop. And I say I was married, and I was married when I was drafted and when I come home it was the same, that was before we had any kids then. And I was, you know, I was coming back from the service trying to make a living and all that. But I'd, I like to give you some information about the service at that time, when I was in--.

Laura Hill: Please.

Mr. Granston: I was drafted in the army and I ended up--I was a medic, and I got stationed overseas in Germany. Vietnam was just jumping off then, but I got stationed overseas in Germany, and I was with a combat outfit, Third Armored Cav., a regiment, headquarters located at Kaiserslautern, Germany. And, you know, we were recon. You know, Third Armored Cav., regiment of cavalry that did recon and so we played war games all over Germany. We pulled border duty with live ammo, for real 'cause, you know, the big communist threat was in the air then, politically.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Granston: And I can remember staring down the East Germans and whatever across the border at Fulda, Germany where we used to guard the border. And I can remember picking up Stars and Stripes newspaper and seeing where the church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

[Pause]. [ 22:01-22:17]

Mr. Granston: They, you know, it was four, I believe it was four--

Laura Hill: Little girls.

Mr. Granston: --young girls that got killed.

Laura Hill: Yeah.

Mr. Granston: And I'm on the border--

Mr. Granston: --being an American, guarding our country. When that happened, really, really--me and some of the other brothers in the service then were really upset about that. I said, "Damn," you know, "I should be home, fighting them," you know. And I would use the term, "fightin' them crackers," that's where--I should be home. What in the hell am I doing over here?"

Laura Hill: [Laughs]. Fightin' these crackers. That's right.

Mr. Granston: Right, right, right. And so that was on my mind. So I remember getting outta the service, when I was getting out--I had a great time and it was one of the best experiences of my life, but I had, you know, I had--I didn't realize until way after that, you know, there was a lot of anger in me because of that. But I used to tell my friends, my white friends and other homies, you know, I'm from New York--that's down South, that stuff happens down South, at least that doesn't happen in New York. You know, at least I didn't walk with people killing our young people like that. You know, and that made me feel proud, that I was from New York--they named it twice, New York, New York. And even though I'm, you know, I'm closer to Ohio or Cleveland than New York City, if, you know--most of the parts in the world you go, if you say you're born in New York they always figure New York City or a suburb. So I felt good about that. So, but I want you to understand this: I'm--so I'm coming home from the service, I'm home then, I'm twenty-five then, and the riots happened. And it wasn't too long before I got outta the service, and so I guess you gotta know how I felt. I just must have gotten outta the service in June and the riots jumped off in July.

Laura Hill: So, you come home with that anger. The same anger that's been shaping black folk in Rochester, right? All over the country. How do you, how do you integrate back into the community, right? How do you find the community? How do you find your place in it? You're not a--you're a young man, but you're not a kid anymore, you know. You have a wife, you have responsibilities. How do all of these issues of housing and discrimination and violence--in Rochester, because violence was happening in Rochester, too. How do all of those things--how do you cope with all of those things?

Mr. Granston: I see the main problem was housing and then there was another thing that's funny today. You look back at yesterday, back at that time, if something happened in our neighborhood, there wasn't a lot of violence, there wasn't a lot of shooting, there was a lot of cutting going on.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And when the police were called I can remember they--because almost like down South I guess-- I wasn't down there at the time, though--but they come into the neighborhood knocking heads and beating people and, "Who did this?" and, "Who did this?" And I remember always we had what people would call "Uncle Toms" in the neighborhood. "Oh yeah, yeah. He did it, come over here." Talk to the police, "Look at here. Yeah, that's what he did--he did." I can remember that was--wow, that was, you know, that was what a lot of people did, "Yeah, this here and that there." And now--now it's exact extremes and now we have a lot of problems and killings in the neighborhood and people don't--they say, don't squeal, don't nothing. See, people don't understand that--if they could understand that was reverse, in reverse at 180 degrees, that at one time when the police would come in the neighborhood it was, "Oh, the police," and they would come beat people in the head sometimes too, and all of that. And, "Oh, the police, the police." And, "Yes, sir." And all of that. And now it's changed, I'm not gonna say for the better, that's for sure. But now these people are not scared of the police. And, you know, it's too bad because like now they don't even want to be involved with them--won't talk--they don't have to say anything to them. A lot of people--and it is wrong--but a lot of people don't realize like--and live long, as long as I've lived to know. I can remember the reverse of that.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Granston: You know, 180 degrees--it just turned right on over to what it is today, which makes me feel bad in a way, but I--at least I understand that.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm. So, let's talk a little bit more about the police. One of the things that, again, was happening all over the country, is the use of dogs in black neighborhoods.

Mr. Granston: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Yes, yes, yes.

Laura Hill: They're not taking dogs into Brighton--it's in the black neighborhoods.

Mr. Granston: Mm-hmm. Right.

Laura Hill: Tell me about that. Did you have experiences with dogs?

Mr. Granston: Oh, yes I did. One of my buddies, in fact, I'll never forget Earl Robinson, bless his soul [laughs]. We had the Ebony Club, on Center Avenue. And Stanley Thomas, owner of the Ebony Club in the late '50s to early '60s, was one of our leaders. He was the head of the Elks Organization, and one of the first black professional persons to become involved in the city administration. At one time he was head of city personnel. But, I can remember at a night club that we used to go to, the Ebony Club, they come in there with their dogs 'cause they heard there was a fight, and there was a fight. But they come in there with the dogs jumping--and I remember my buddy Earl. Earl--I think he almost--he confronted policeman and he almost knocked out the dog. Anyway, the police and the dog had to go to the hospital and we got a big kick outta that, but Earl got beaten pretty good then. But I remember we got a kick outta that. Earl put the police and the dog in the hospital for minor scrapes and bruises. But yeah, at some of the dances and all that they would have the dogs out. I can remember going to some of the skating rinks back in the day when Ray Charles and James Brown[8] was just coming in, you know, and different acts and groups like that, where they bring out the dogs, you know. And not so much as sic 'em or let 'em loose and that, but, you know. And some of us would get bitten and every once in a while the--I guess, the police dog, he was in the line of--he was like in the army, too 'cause a lot of them got beat up, too.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: But yeah, but that--and it looked bad, you know, because you grew up like most people and in the movies they put the dog on criminals, you know. They'd break out of prison and that's when they'd use like hound dogs or like that. But they were using German Shepard police dogs and that kinda made you feel bad because it--you know--that's inhuman doing that. And so, that definitely left a bad taste in our neighborhoods, at that time.

Laura Hill: Sure, sure. I lost my train of thought listening to you. There's something I wanted to follow up with--I know. So, I--this is a little off topic, but it's something I've been curious about for a while; you mentioned the Ebony Club; you mentioned Cohen's, the place where you got ribs. Tell me about black businesses in Rochester at this time.

Mr. Granston: Well that's--wow, this goes back to FIGHT organization. That was one thing that always puzzled me and usually we were unified, you know. A lot of--when I worked with the FIGHT organization usually, you know, we were unified. And we, you know--I'm sorry I lost the train of thought, you were just mentioning that--.

Laura Hill: Black businesses.

Mr. Granston: Yeah. Well, because of segregation and all that, I guess the people down South--see I wasn't down South, but I guess most black businesses--we had our own businesses. And I guess that was brought up North when a lot of people from down South came up North. And so, back in them days we started--it was rough though because you had to become, you know, aware of it and the knowledge of how to start a business and all that, but we were into--there was a lot of businesses. Bill Lee's Hotel was a night club, black, the Ebony Club, Vallot's--that was on the East side, and Vallot's Tavern on the other side from Louisiana. Vallot's and Larue's. And so we did have black--we had black cleaners and then we only had one black, well two at the time--I think Meyer's and then Latimer's.

Laura Hill: They were, Latimer and Meyer's, were--.

Mr. Granston: Funeral, funeral. Right.

Laura Hill: Funeral homes. Do your home goin'.

Mr. Granston: Uh, yeah. And so, we were just starting. We had a lot of black businesses and started right along with a lot of the white businesses that were in the area. On the East side there were a lot of Jewish businesses. We put some black, you know, we opened up beauty salons, cleaners, dry cleaners, 'cause everybody usually took their clothes to the cleaners and then shoe shine parlors and hat-blocking places and, you know, on a smaller scale than that, but yeah, we did have a lot of black businesses going on at that time and that was starting to flourish.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm. So I know that there was a very vibrant black business community in the '20s, of course this predates both of us.

Mr. Granston: Oh yeah, but I read of the Harlem Renaissance in New York and all that and--.

Laura Hill: That's right. So, my understanding is that there's a very vibrant business in Rochester at that time. And then the Great Depression hits and that many of the businesses are sort of wiped out, particularly black businesses, and that doesn't reemerge in Rochester--a black business community--until much, much later on. Um, so I'm curious about what was there, you know, at the point of the riots. But I'm also curious about how these businesses were used, um for the community. So one of the things that you mentioned earlier was that Cohen's became kind of the meeting place. How are these spaces being used other than for business purposes?

Mr. Granston: Well you--now, or are you saying then?

Laura Hill: Then. In the '60s.

Mr. Granston: Well then, well when Cohen's had the business there, we didn't have that as far as political things like that, in FIGHT--organizations, type of political organizations. We didn't have any things like that going on that much. So, but, you know, and like I say, this is after Cohen's left, after the riots--

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --and then, so we just use that facility. It was unoccupied[9]--

Laura Hill: I see, I see.

Mr. Granston: --so then, you know. That's how--.

Laura Hill: Okay, okay. I see what you're saying, I see what you're saying. All right, I gotcha. I gotcha. Okay, so you're back in Rochester, you're twenty-five, you have a wife--the riots happen. Tell me what you remember of the riots.

Mr. Granston: Mm-hmm. Well, the day of the riots, the night of the riots--and it really blew my mind because like I said, well at least one thing, the things that happen in Birmingham, Alabama and other places don't happen in New York. But, I was at the club with a couple of my buddies--in fact, I was at the Ebony Club and then we went to Buddy's Casino, that's an Italian--my buddy, old buddy who was a good friend of mine as time went by. And I remember we, you know, like I'm older so I'm not--and I'm married so--I'm still young though. I still like to party and used to hit the clubs, that's for sure. But I hadn't been too long home and I was working. I had a job teaching me to weld at the car shop. And I can't remember what day, that was a Friday or what, but I know I had to work the next day. So I said well, and this just, just--I guess it was just about to kickoff then, and anyway by the time I got home--I lived on Shelter Street then--that was back in '64 and I remember getting' home and my wife said--the phone was ringing--and my wife said, they're tearing up across town. You know, it's a riot over there--it's wow, it's crazy over there. So I called my brother 'cause he lived on Catherine Street then, not too far--six blocks down from or something like that, from where that jumped off on Nassau Street. That's where that happened, it was a block party.

Laura Hill: Uh-huh.

Mr. Granston: And so, wow, I said, wow, they're really, really tearing up. So anyway I got home and I thought about going, you know, going back out, but, like I said--I wasn't too long home--a veteran and I had a job so I stayed in the house. If I'd have been younger I probably would've gone over there to see what was going on. So I stayed in the house and then--and I went to work that next day, but then when I came back I had to go over there, almost didn't get to see my brother. They had the streets and everything blocked off with the National Guard and the reserve and all that. And so I did get over there that next afternoon and they did let me in because, you know, I--my brother lived over there and I said, wow. You know [sighs]--I couldn't believe it. You know, the windows and everything. But I ended up, some of the black businesses--they didn't bother the black businesses at all, it was mostly the white businesses that were destroyed. And the few black ones we had there though--they didn't bother them. And so, I guess that's how it got in to be a race riot because they just-- you know, we became so upset with the way things were going on and I guess at that street festival that was closed off--. That block party was a good time and the police came and they came with their dogs and all that and all of a sudden--I had laid around and you read about people, a lot of white folks thought that it was a conspiracy and this--it wasn't a conspiracy, the people just got fed up and just, you would say an old song then, and I forget by who it was. It said, "They just blew their top--blew our top." And I said, wow, that was [sighs]. You know, and they had the police all over everywhere. I had seen my brother was all right and all that, and that next night while I was over at my buddy's house and that happened on the west side, they tore up the west side, Clarissa Street and all that and I was over at my buddy's house, but I wasn't out, I wasn't, you know. I didn't participate as far as break windows and tear down whatever--I didn't do that. But I was over there and I almost didn't get home that night because he lived right off Clarissa Street and I lived on Shelter Street and they had everything all blocked off. And I did get home, but, you know, with guns pointed at me--they had roadblocks everywhere, and wow, it's kind of rough walking when people are pointing guns right at you. You had to walk up to them and tell them what it was all about and all that, but I thought I was going to jail or maybe Hell that night, but--

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --you know, I got home. So I got through that 'cause they tore up over there. And then I guess that Sunday they had martial law--it was that Sunday--so nobody on the streets, you know. And Saturday it was hard for me to get to work because, I mean--but Sunday martial law--nobody on the streets. What was it? After dark, I think, you know, after it got dark--

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --and something like that. And anyway I was living with my landlord. I lived in an apartment and so we wanted to go over to one of our, one of his friend's house and one of my friends I grew up with, his name is Eddie Elsaw. He was a great amateur boxer in his day in Rochester.

Laura Hill: Hmm. Yeah.

Mr. Granston: And so we were going over to his house to have a couple cold ones, and I'll never forget this: the police stopped us right around the Plymouth Circle. And one thing, my landlord, buddy said, well I'm just going over to see my buddy and I'm, I'm, you know, a veteran just out of the service. You know, you're gonna tell me I can't--. I didn't go with that, so I said, yeah you want to go over, go over there. But, they stopped us. They stopped us right around the Plymouth Circle over across town by Immaculate Conception School, right around that Plymouth. And they stopped us and they said we were breaking the curfew, and so they called the wagon and they put us all in the wagon. And that's when I, you know, I think I might have lost it some. Here I'm a veteran just got home from serving my country in the war and here I am in the Black Maria[10], one of the names we used to call the wagon--you call it "paddy wagon" or whatever, we call it the Black Maria--different names, and here I am--.

Laura Hill: Black--.

Mr. Granston: The Black Maria.

Laura Hill: Black Maria. Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: Yeah, and different names that, you know, people, some people call it. It depends on your group I guess, you know, what names you call it. But anyway, here I am going to jail with a wagon full of people that they were putting in jail because we broke the curfew. And I went off and they tried to drag me out there because--I don't--there was no telling what was gonna happen to me, but they had some of the reserves and the National Guard and whatever around there and they tried to drag me out. I don't know what would have happened if they'd dragged me out there. If it wasn't for some of the homies inside the Black Maria that held me and wouldn't let 'em drag me--'cause they wanted to take me out 'cause I was going off and [sighs]. So they saved me so they didn't--so they said, "That's okay we'll take care of him when we get downtown." But, it was a mass confusion and they drove us all downtown in the Black Maria, but this time--this was Sunday--this time we had national coverage, news coverage--it was NBC, ABC down to the police headquarters and they were all around and when we got out--when we got outta the wagon it was like--I see how rock stars are--you got press all around, cameras and all of that. And it was confusion. So I'm scared, I say, "Wow, if they ever come back"--you know, they said they were gonna get me. So anyway, they--it was mass confusion down there--and they herd us onto the elevator and they're taking us up on the second floor, whatever floor it was to be booked, you know, to be fingerprinted and in the jail like a lot of my friends were the ones that broke curfew or whatever. So they got me up there and I started thinking, "Well if these guys come back--." They just hold us in there and they had us in line, up there waiting in line. I said, "If these guys back and pick me out I don't know what's gonna happen." So I tried--and I said, I gotta figure a way to get the hell outta here. And I come up--I see my brother-in-law, one of my--or I thought was my brother-in-law then, this was--before I was married, this was the brother of the girl that I would've married maybe long before that.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And anyway, Ernie--him and a couple of my other buddies, I seen them up there, so I said, "Wow." And then, "Hey man," they were in line waiting, you know. So they were way over on this side and they herded us in on this other side and it was like I say, chaos. And so, I just stepped outta line. I went up to the desk and I said, "Officer," you know, I'm really diplomatic about it I said, 'cause I gotta get outta this, 'cause I don't want them people to come back and remember me.

Laura Hill: [Laughs].

Mr. Granston: And so I said, "Well I come up here to see--to try to bail my brother-in-law out." I said, "I heard that, you know, that they had him down here." "Well, how in the hell did you get here?" I said, "Well they told me to just get on the elevator and yeah," I said, "There were other people and cops and other people then he told me to get on the elevator and come upstairs." And that's the way he looked at me. [Pause]. I said, "Yeah, what? Officer, I just, you know, I just come up here to bail my brother-in-law out. I heard that he was down in jail." So he said, "Well, okay, well you get outta here." He said, "And you go downstairs." You know, I said--and I knew that it would be rough getting back home, so I said, "Well, can I get a pass or anything, so I can get home?" And he told me to get the hell outta there and if I didn't get out real quick, I was gonna go to jail anyway. And so I left there quick and I got on the elevator and I went downstairs and I talked to the people at the desk down there and they said they couldn't do nothing for me. I said, "Well, how am I gonna get home?" They said--you know I couldn't catch a cab, they said, "Well you gonna have to make that the best way you can." And I did. Well I walked from there to Shelter Street from downtown. And I met--there were several roadblocks on that diagon--in fact, when I come up--'cause when the gun's pointed at me I just automatically threw up my hands up in the air, 'cause I didn't want to get killed. I had just come outta the service, I'm a veteran, you know. And so they did some talk nasty and stuff, but they let me go on. And so I got home that day. And then I know--I heard that they had the National Guard and the troops marching up and down Clarissa Street and, I guess what was it? Jefferson Avenue at that time and all that. But like I said, I was in the service and all that, so I actually didn'tparticipate in, but I saw some of the things that were going on and that's--.

Laura Hill: But if I understand your story right--

Mr. Granston: Mm-hmm.

Laura Hill: --you all took umbrage at this curfew.

Mr. Granston: Yeah. Yeah, I thought it was a bit much for me.

Laura Hill: We're citizens, we've served our country. If we want to go out at night, we're gonna go out at night--we're not children.

Mr. Granston: Right, right, yeah. Yes, that was exactly my outlook on that.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: So that's how I ended up going to jail. Luckily, fortunately--I feel good about it to this day--I talked my way outta that.

Laura Hill: [Laughs]. Sure, sure. Did you know any of the police officers you encountered?

Mr. Granston: No, most of them were white. There were a few black police officers on the staff then, but I didn't see any of them at that time.

Laura Hill: Okay. Well, I ask because um, I've spoken with Charlie Price--

Mr. Granston: Yeah, yeah. Charlie, I remember him way--from going to school, when I come here in '47. And he--Charlie is a good man, he's alive now. He's a good man. He used to talk to us a lot, you know, and explain--and try and explain things to the young kids in the hood. And yeah, I know Charlie, but no I didn't see him at that time, he was--him and maybe a few others, that was it as far as the police--there wasn't that many.

Laura Hill: Well, Charlie was in plain clothes that night.

Mr. Granston: Okay.

Laura Hill: And the state troopers arrested him and took him downtown.

Mr. Granston: Oh, okay. [Laughs]. Okay, you know, I really didn't know that until now. I talked to him since, but haven't really sat down and talked to him about the riots. Yeah I didn't know that. So they took Charlie down too, eh?

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm. Yeah. They took him downtown. And he shows up there and his men, "What are you doing with Captain Price? Why--?" "Well, you didn't tell us you were a captain." He said, "You never asked me what my business was. You just put me in the, in the wagon." So uh, yeah these are some of the stories that have, have emerged. So when things, um, when things start to blow over, um, you know--.

Mr. Granston: Okay. Well, um let me mention this one too.

Laura Hill: Please.

Mr. Granston: I know this had to be mentioned because it was a lady--the police chief then, I believe, was it Lombard? I think it was a Lombard.

Laura Hill: That's, that's right.

Mr. Granston: And there was a sister that probably saved his life because they turned over the car and they burned it, and I think he might have been--could have been a violent end to him. But there was a home girl sister that said, "Naw, naw. I ain't gonna let this happen."

Laura Hill: Who was it?

Mr. Granston: I can't remember her name. I can't remember right now, though I knew it--I met her before and all that, but I wasn't good friends with her. But I would say that she helped save his life. And I know that must've been mentioned in other parts of the story because I believe that was in the paper the next day or few days after that about her.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: I can't remember her name off hand.

Laura Hill: So, what happens in the immediate aftermath? You know, these two neighborhoods are a mess, people are angry.

Mr. Granston: Yeah.

Laura Hill: And so, in many cases they're angrier afterwards than they are before, because of exactly what you said, I'm a citizen. I'm not doing anything wrong. I've been arrested.

Mr. Granston: Yeah. Right, right. Well it was rough, it was, you know, I had mixed feelings then, because--. I do remember the words go around--if you're going downtown, a whole lot of people are gonna get killed if you try to destroy downtown. But it was--I had mixed emotions because we destroyed, like I say, destroyed a lot of the businesses that are like Cohen's. Wow, we loved Cohen's a lot--a lot of us, a lot of black people liked to go over to Cohen's just as much as the Jewish people.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: They loved the food and everything and a lot of the other places. And so that made me feel bad because some of them moved out. You know, they said the way we were feeling--and so they moved out, so it was--. And a lot of people said, "Well, you're destroying their own damn neighborhood." You know, what in the hell good is that? And so I had mixed emotions on that and--. Oh and let me get back to this too, I had lost the train of thought--I'm getting' older. When I said, you know, people think different ways--we had our own stores and segregation led us to do our own things.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: You know, establish our own businesses and stores--

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Granston: --and like that. And when I worked with the FIGHT education, my whole time I was there--twelve years under three or four different administrations--one of the things that puzzled me was that there were different officers and we had different programs that felt, you know, integration is the best thing, we should integrate the schools and bus the kids out to the different areas Brighton and around schools.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: But, and that was a set of people in the FIGHT organization, but then there was another set--'cause they puzzle me, 'cause usually we were together--they said, "No, the hell with sending them anywhere else. Develop schools, make--have good teachers, good schools here. We don't need to send them anywhere, keep them right here. Just make the schools better and get more money to do some of the same things that the suburban schools are doing." And so integration and segregation, and especially with education, other things might be different, but they were the main things, I know, one of the main things that FIGHT, the FIGHT organization, was fighting. And education, now how we go about that through integration or keep it segregated, you know, was the thing that divided us in a way and it kinda hurt. I kinda felt bad about that because I also looked up to pe--to the other people, the leaders like Connie Mitchell and Minister Florence and, you know, other people that were high in authority. Mildred Johnson and, you know, some of them felt that integration was the best to--to bus our kids to other schools and whatever, and some felt naw, let's stay right in the 'hood and make these schools better. And I just wanted to mention that because I didn't get a chance to say that.

Laura Hill: No it's interesting that you raise the issue because it's been um, it was clearly a topic that was very contentious at the time.

Mr. Granston: Mm-hmm.

Laura Hill: Um, that there were very charged, sort of, emotions.

Mr. Granston: Yeah, they definitely were.

Laura Hill: And it represents, really, the shift in some ways--or the two lines--of modes of thinking at the time. Um, you know, over--is integration the best way to achieve equality? You know, I think that, I think that really speaks to the heart of that, that matter. And for a lot of people it wasn't about being with white people, it was about having equality. It was about having good, good schools, good programs, and justice in their neighborhoods. And so that's um, it's important that you raise that, you raise that point. So, Saul Alinsky comes to town--.

Mr. Granston: Yeah, well that's a--I wasn't a part of the FIGHT organization at its inception, and especially when Saul Alinsky[11] came to town and met with Minister Florence. And I remember we had a big--we picketed at Kodak, that was about jobs too--education and jobs--and in New Jersey there was a contingent of us that went down. I hadn't been involved, I didn't become involved until just after that.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: But I remember Saul Alinsky with his program out in Chicago. And it's funny now that I look at that and--I just want to add this with Obama and Chicago and his involvement with the community action groups, just like I was and like we had the FIGHT organization here when Saul came here. And with Minister Florence and with other ministers in this community that felt the need for change and wanted to bring about change, and I get--I get a little emotional now and it's not because, well it's because--. I don't remember the white minister's name. I think he committed suicide at the church because people didn't understand where he was coming from as a religious person who wanted to make some changes[12].

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: I think he ended up committing suicide.

Laura Hill: That's right.

Mr. Granston: But I remember he was one of the, you know, one of the Saul Alinsky, Minister Florence and other concerned religious people in our community, white and black, helped bring about this, helped bring about FIGHT organization.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And I should be able to remember his name.

Laura Hill: It's--.

Mr. Granston: But the next time I will tell you his name because I think he was that important for people like that, you know.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: That was that important.

Laura Hill: That's right, that's right. He's been mentioned before, I can't think of his name at this, this point either. Um, so I actually I want to back up again--

Mr. Granston: Mm-hmm.

Laura Hill: --because it struck me this is an opportunity, you were here for so long before, before the uprising in '64.

Mr. Granston: Oh yeah, '47 after the war lot of people were coming up this way to--.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm. So you mentioned Buddy's Casino and I wanted to press you a little further on that.

Mr. Granston: Mm-hmm.

Laura Hill: I understand the Nation of Islam met upstairs.

Mr. Granston: Right, right.

Laura Hill: What do you, what do you recall about them?

Mr. Granston: I used to go to some of the meetings.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: And I know they had a thing over there, and there might have been some death while I was in the service then, but when they first started I used to come to some of the meetings. And I, I'd like to express this to you, too--that you probably wouldn't be calling me Buddy if certain things hadn't happened. But I remember we had one meeting there and had to close it. A meeting one of the brothers from Buffalo who I think--some of the brothers from Buffalo helped start--

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --the organization in Rochester, I could be wrong--

Laura Hill: No, no that's right.

Mr. Granston: --but I know one of the brothers from Buffalo, after the meeting was over, didn't want to pass a hat because--. They said, you know, we got to pay, we got a meeting here. We have to pay for the facility and we need the money, you know, help pay for the rental and electricity and all that. And I didn't have any money on me at that time. And--though if we're around buddies I probably would spend some of my money in the bar, which I did. But I went to the meeting and this was said, and it was said in a way that kind of turned me off. Because I remember jacking them up on the side of the building there after the meeting was over, you know, 'cause it embarrassed me and some of my friends. But, maybe we shoulda been embarrassed, maybe we shoulda saved a little money for that, but I wasn't aware of it at the time. And we did attend the meetings and what the brothers were speaking I thought was true. And probably because I had a little thing with him there, that kept me from signing my name.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: You know, and my ex-slave name you probably would have been calling me by another name now. But that kept me from doing it. That was my--I guess, I don't know how good of an excuse it is, but otherwise I probably would have joined the Nation of Islam at that time. But because of that--that kind of turned me off 'cause it reminded me of some other things--

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Granston: --that people were doing at churches about money and all that and I wasn't into that. But I guess the building had to get paid for and all of that, so you know.

Laura Hill: Sure, sure, sure, of course.

Mr. Granston: But so yeah, so I can remember I used to go over--I went to three or four meetings there. And that was coming about but, I guess I hadn't--. It wasn't too long after that when I got drafted into the service and I heard that I was in the army then.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: Because I got drafted in June of '70, er '62.

Laura Hill: That's right.

Mr. Granston: And I think there was big thing that went on. I don't know somebody was, somebody getting killed there or whatever there was.

Laura Hill: No, um nobody, nobody was killed there to my knowledge. Um--.

Mr. Granston: Okay, okay, some head beating or something going on. I think there was some violence that happened.

Laura Hill: Well you know the, the city fathers, officials, police department wasn't keen on the Nation of Islam setting up in Rochester.

Mr. Granston: Right.

Laura Hill: Um, and so they invaded the mosque and there was a huge to-do that came out of it but um--she's letting me know we just have a few minutes left here. Um, so yeah, that, that occurred and it was something that I was interested in. Were you in town when Malcolm was here at all?

Mr. Granston: Yes, and he spoke at one of the churches, though I wasn't there then. But yes I was in town when him and Stokely Carmichael--I went to a Stokely Carmichael[13]meeting we had. He was here a few times over at Immaculate Conception, I can remember one time.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: But no I was here, and I believe I was here when Malcolm was here but I didn't go to--

Laura Hill: You didn't go see him.

Mr. Granston: --yeah, I didn't go see him.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: And he also was here, I remember when I worked for the FIGHT organization he was here. The Black Students' Union in Brockport, outta Brockport, brought him in to speak in Brockport.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: And this was at a time, I believe I was working with the FIGHT organization and this was back in --.

Laura Hill: Are you sure it was Malcolm, or was it Stokely Carmichael at that point? 'Cause Malcolm is assassinated in '65.

Mr. Granston: I think--I believe it was Malcolm 'cause I was with--. I was at a couple Stokely--I believe that was Malcolm.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: Now I'm not sure what year it was, but like--but I believe that was Malcolm.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: Let me check and see here, but I believe it was Malcolm that they brought in.

Laura Hill: Okay. We're gonna pause so Phyllis can change, change the tape over.

Mr. Granston: Okay.

[Tape change]. [58:44-58:49]

Mr. Granston: Now it could have been Stokely but in my mind--.

Laura Hill: Based on the chronology that you've given me um, at this point, I'm not sure it would have been possible, if you didn't join up with FIGHT until the Gifford/Florence event.

Mr. Granston: Yeah.

Laura Hill: That is '67 or '68 and so it had to have been somebody other than Malcolm at that point. 'Cause Malcolm is long gone.

Mr. Granston: Okay, okay, well it could--maybe I wasn't with FIGHT then, but I thought it was Malcolm-- it could, maybe it could've be Stokely. It could have been.

Laura Hill: So um, Colgate Divinity brings, wants Malcolm to come to town and so they ask Minister Florence to arrange that. And so he speaks at Colgate earlier in the afternoon and then he speaks at Cornhill Methodist later in the day. Um, but that's you know, that's like um--.

Mr. Granston: Where is that over on Edinburgh Street, somewhere around there?

Laura Hill: Where is Cornhill Methodist--do you?

Recorder: It's in the--.

Laura Hill: Cornhill? [Laughs].

Mr. Granston: Yeah, well, I'm thinking Edinburgh Street because that was over in that area.

Laura Hill: Okay so that might be right. So that would have been in February '65, right before he was killed, I mean days before he was killed.

Mr. Granston: Okay, I can remember I was working with East Rochester Car Shop, I had passes and I was in New York City when he was killed. I was visiting a friend of mine, two twin brothers. And then the Ship brothers and at the Audubon Ball Room and me and my--

Laura Hill: That's right.

Mr. Granston: --buddy we had thought about going there. And I had, I was--we had passes so I had a free pass, you know, to New York and back. But we went there--they loved sports and we were sports men and so one of them invited us down. We got down there in the middle of the night, the night before Malcolm was killed, and on the subway got to his house and found that he's flirting with this girl and he was living in Detroit. But luckily we had a couple more friends that lived there.

Laura Hill: Oh geez.

Mr. Granston: So we got to call them up and the people where he was living at said he was gone--big argument and so we called up one of our other buddies that used to live in Rochester, come from New York. And so we stayed with them, and they showed us a good time while we were there. And we were gonna go to that--

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --but then we said no, because we weren't there really for politics; we were there to have a good time with some of our friends.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Granston: But I'll never forget that coming back on the train--with a brother, Freddie Thomas--and we're coming back and he was on the train there.

Laura Hill: Freddie Thomas had been at the Audubon hadn't he?

Mr. Granston: I believe so yeah, yeah.

Laura Hill: I knew it.

Mr. Granton:  Yeah. I believe so.

Laura Hill: I knew it.

Mr. Granston: I believe he had been at the Audubon and he didn't like Malcolm too much then, I know that. But I know he was Muslim at one time. I remember Freddie, brother Freddie, I remember him from in the area of going around preaching black pride.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: You know and he was an authority, I think he was a scientist at Kodak, but he was an authority on black history, and he used to come around to a lot of the clubs--Buddy's Casino, Bill Lee's a lot of the clubs--and talk with young people about this and that. And he used to have African students staying with him all the time. In fact, they used to hang with us some time.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: He would introduce them to us and we took them out and to some of our nightlife, and I can remember brother Ahmed from Sierra Leone. I can remember how we got a big kick out of him. Um--how he'd dance and he'd said oh, you know, the boys back home where he's from, Sierra Leone, you go out to party, have a lot of fun--he said a lot of the guys would dance together or walk down the street holding hands, walking. I thought, oh man, you gotta be kidding. But we used to have a lot of fun, because brother Freddie introduced us to different brothers from different parts of Africa that you know we didn't know before growing up in that city. And I was still young then and so, yeah. That was fun and I guess they were go--some of them were going to the U of R and all that. And so, Freddie used to bring them down in the community, you know, and introduce them to us. And we used to have--we would take them to parties and go do things when it was a lot of fun.

Laura Hill: I'm, curious um, about your statement that, that Freddie Thomas didn't care for Malcolm.

Mr. Granston: Yeah.

Laura Hill: What made you think that?

Mr. Granston: Why--I guess because once he joined--I guess Freddie joined--he was part of the Muslims. And I can remember going to a big meeting at the War Memorial in Rochester, and I can remember him speaking. And I think this is when I first knew that he had accepted or, you know, he'd become a Muslim because of the way he talked about you know the black legacy and divide and conquer. Malcolm was a Muslim, you know, and they had in New York, Chicago, all this friction. And I think brother Freddie didn't want to--he didn't like that it seemed like somebody was trying to split the Nation of Islam, you know. And Malcolm is one of the persons that he felt maybe was doing this. And he felt bad about that, he didn't like that. And I can remember him talking at that big thing we had at the War Memorial about black exploitation films[14] that they were putting out in the day's--Super Fly[15]and all that.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Granston: And that's when I bec--he started becoming involved in FIGHT and that and started looking at that side. And I remember I've never seen--like a whole lot of black youths that were younger than me and some my age too, they'd seen some of the movies like Super Fly and all that, but I never would. I said "Yeah, no." That's exploitation. So, I never did see any of them movies. I've seen some of them in the last few years, but I never saw them back in the day when they were out and they were big hits and all that. And Curtis Mayfield[16] had some great soundtracks from all that.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm, yeah that's right.

Mr. Granston: But I never checked out those films in those days, and I thought it was you know, it wasn't right.

Laura Hill: You know I've, I've um, I've actually had to teach a couple of them in classes. I'm terribly uncomfortable teaching them. But the students love them and they spark such great conversation about ownership, and you know who has the rights to do these things, and what does it mean for community and they rarely, they've sparked some great, great conversations.

Mr. Granston: Oh yeah, well I guess it should because there were--like some of my friends and some of the younger people, well, you know. And I like some of the songs myself.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: But I, you know--

Laura Hill: Yeah.

Mr. Granston: I wouldn't spend any money. I said, "Oh that's the exploitation of us."

Laura Hill: Yeah.

Mr. Granston: You know, and so I--but I also learned that as you grow older in life too and as my wife likes to say a lot, there's two sides of a coin, there's a positive--

Laura Hill: That's right.

Mr. Granston: --two sides of a coin: there is a positive to any situation and there's a negative. So I guess there were some positives that came outta that, but it sure wasn't enough, looking at it at that time.

Laura Hill: Wasn't aware of it at the time.

Mr. Granston: Yeah.

Laura Hill: Yeah, well I mean these are black folk producing, directing, starring; those were not jobs that they had access to in the white film industry, right?

Mr. Granston: Right. Right.

Laura Hill: So yeah, no, I hear what you're saying. Uh, okay so tell me, tell me a little bit more about FIGHT. You get involved during the election between Gifford and Florence.

Mr. Granston: Right.

Laura Hill: And so that election was very, [laughs] very charged.

Mr. Granston: Oh yeah, yeah.

Laura Hill: It's come up in a couple of our interviews.

Mr. Granston: Oh yeah, yes, yes.

Laura Hill: So tell me about your involvement in FIGHT, what you did, you know Ray Scott becomes a president down the line.

Mr. Granston: That's my buddy.

Laura Hill: Yeah. So tell me, tell me some more about FIGHT and your involvement in it.

Mr. Granston: FIGHT. F, freedom; I, is it, integrity?

Laura Hill: Integration.

Mr. Granston: Integration, right. Integrity some people would say integrity, that's what we used to say integrity.

Laura Hill: It became independence a little later, they officially switched it.

Mr. Granston: Okay, okay.

Laura Hill: In the early stages it was integration--

Mr. Granston: Okay.

Laura Hill: --and then of course a couple of years down the line they said eh, forget this integration stuff, it's independence.

Mr. Granston: And we used to say integrity, you know.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: Er, not integrity, but--no, no I'm sorry independence--no you're right, you're right.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And God, Honor, Today.

Laura Hill: That's right.

Mr. Granston: Yeah, yeah. Right. Yeah, well my involvement, like I said, was with Mildred and-- so I guess I was you know, like you say--the election, what year was that election?

Laura Hill: You know, I think it's '67 or '68, because Ray Scott is the president from '70 to '75, I think.

Mr. Granston: Well he served two terms. I was under Ray Scott[17] more than anybody else, 'cause when I come in it was Bernie that was with Florence, then it was Bernie after that, then McEwen was there for a little while.

Laura Hill: That's right.

Mr. Granston: And then Scotty and I was--I worked with FIGHT for about eleven to twelve years and most of that time under Scotty, Ray Scott. Because we won one election, then we had another. That was a big one that was close, with Connie Mitchell running on the Coalition for Change ticket. We had that at the auditorium, Masonic Temple auditorium, downtown, and that was a close one but we won. Scotty won, we worked hard, but they--that was a formidable challenge. But he served two terms, Scotty did.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: The longest of, well Florence came back later too, but Scotty served two consecutive terms.

Laura Hill: Okay, so tell me about your time there, what did you do, how do you remember it?

Mr. Granston: Okay, well. Like I told you Mildred was the one that got me involved. Then there was a guy, one of the coordinators, McDowell, and I don't know where he is now, McDowell. But anyway, I joined it and became a part of it. And then, you know, they were starting different programs and all that, and then it wasn't too long I guess, like you say, about '67--during times drugs were around. And in fact my older brother died of an overdose on his birthday.

Laura Hill: Mmmm.

Mr. Granston: On his birthday--his friends celebrating, and I guess they had a hold on him and so I'll never forget that. But anyway, I became part of--they were starting new programs, FIGHT new drug prevention program. And then I remember we had a search for a program director.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Granston: And wow, that was something else because, wow, this one that we wanted--there was some problems and he never did become the director. But anyway we started out the program. And the program was to make our community more aware of drugs, how it hurt us, and to educate us. So we went into the schools, the grammar schools, the high schools, some colleges, the military and wherever else.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: We would come in with presentations about drugs, how they affected and harmed our community. And then from that we extended into--we had a halfway house, we got the money together and we had a halfway house on Clifford Avenue for some the addicts, you know, that were rehabilitating and all that. A place for them to stay. That became a part of it. But the main part of the time when I spent with the FIGHT Youth Drug Prevention program, was three to four years or more--going into the different--we had schedules set up for all the City school districts and some with the suburban high schools, city high schools and with the military reserve units and things like that. And not only with that then 'cause it was real, it was rough. It was rough then with the introduction of the heroin, smack, the different names that they'd call it. And then through manufacturing, through the workforce--because we had programs set up with Delco Products, where later I became to work for and retired from. Rochester Products and Kodak, we would give presentations there. And we developed--like I say we had a halfway house and then we had other. But one of the main programs where we sent them for rehab would be out in Syracuse at Saint Mary's hospital, which was--we refer a lot of our clients to.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And so we had a referral thing too that we set up for the people, people that were under, you know, drug abuse, addicts or something.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Granston: We had referrals to different parts of the state, and they had a place, in--geez right outside of the city, I forgot. I can't think of the name of it. But anyway, you know, that was one of our main focuses at that time. And so that was, that took a big part of my life and that was kinda rough to me when my brother died too and some of the older guys and the younger guys I know that became-- you know drugs ruined their life. A lot of them OD'ed. There was a lot of that going on at the time, and that helped eventually bring around the strict Rockefeller laws.

Laura Hill: Right, of course.

Mr. Granston: That now they're--you know er--because they try to switch that from powder to crack and all that, but anyway that brought that about. And there were some of us that were in favor of the Rockefeller laws at the time because it was really rampant at the time then. But I was on staff then. I was, you know, I was a volunteer and I just cared what FIGHT was about in the beginning--

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --but then eventually I became a part of FIGHT organization and that's where I became on staff. I came on as a counselor with the FIGHT Youth Drug Prevention program. And since then I moved into different, other different areas. And I used to go to the prisons. We had an ex-offender program that I was a part of for years. I used to visit Attica and the other prisons and interview people and help them get jobs, set up interviews for them, and even brought a lot of them to come live where I lived. 'Cause I moved into--at that time housing was still the issue and there was FIGHT Village and FIGHT Square. And when FIGHT Square opened up I was working for FIGHT. I think I was probably the second family to move into FIGHT Square.

Laura Hill: Really?

Mr. Granston: Yeah. Yeah.

Laura Hill: Tell me more about FIGHT, well hmm I don't know which direction to move. I want to know more about FIGHT Square, but I want to know more about FIGHT's work in the prison system as well.

Mr. Granston: Well, you know, a lot of things happened with drugs and all that and I'm trying to, I'm--the timeline is kinda rough, but I can also remember in Attica--I remember the Attica rebellion. I know this is one of the reasons why this was so important too. And we used to have big meetings for them. I remember the brother named Big Black outta Buffalo who's dead now--I read an article in the paper about him not too long ago. And so Scotty, Ray Scott who is originally from Buffalo, he came down here and so that was his home turf. And so we used to have a lot of the meetings up there. And I can remember when I was working for FIGHT, I think with the FIGHT Youth Drug Prevention program, when the Attica riots jumped off. And you know, wow that was rough. Oh, I can remember a lot of things happening there. So I guess that's how our advocacy got involved with the prison systems, through Attica and how we became involved with that. And with Reverend Florence but Scotty was the president then, we used to--during the trials, the Attica trials, we used to go to Wyoming courthouse. And I know how they used to surround the courthouse with great six foot five at least, state troopers, you know. With shotguns--with their weapons drawn and they'd circle the courthouse every time we'd go over there. I guess a show of force because that was really a thorn in the side of people at Attica. And I can remember meeting with Dr. Edland[18] who--that almost destroyed his life, and God bless him. When he told the truth about that-- 'cause they were saying that they believed that most of the corrections officers were killed by the inmates, which was not true, and come to find out they were killed by bullets from the people regaining, you know, the forces regaining the prison[19]. And most I think, except maybe one were killed by bullets from the people that were gaining the prison and they had that lie spread but--and thank God for good people, honest people like Dr. Edland who told the truth about that. He almost destroyed his career. I think it did destroy his career partly in a way. And I can remember meeting him with Scotty -- Minister Scott--and FIGHT staff. I can remember Dr. Edland saying--he said, "You know, I guess, you people, I mean you gotta, you probably really hate white folks, don't ya?" And I remember Scotty saying and all of us, "No, no man." No, no, it doesn't make sense to hate anybody, you're not doing any good. I remember us telling him that, No, no, you might dislike, but as far as hate? No. And Scotty's a Christian minister and you know that wasn't his thing and I remember, you know, he looked at us and, "No man." And Scotty, "Look man, we don't hate anybody." You know, and--but anyway I guess that's how we got involved in the--with the FIGHT ex-offender program.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And from that I remember when we helped get the housing up, we got FIGHT Village and FIGHT Square. Like I lived in FIGHT Square and some of the people that I interviewed in prison we got apartments in FIGHT Square where I used to live.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: But I guess that's how we--because that was really a sticky situation with the Attica riots because I think at that time a lot of people, a lot of whites or authorities felt that we wanted to rebel against and do this and do that. Which I know as far as the FIGHT Organization, ABC, Urban League, we weren't thinking any thoughts about revolution and overthrowing the government. No we weren't thinking about anything like that. We just wanted--one of the reasons that I feel good about and--. In truth the reasons for FIGHT, ABC and the Urban League were the same reasons our forefathers broke off from England.

Laura Hill: Sure, of course.

Mr. Granston: Taxation without representation, and God knows the ones of us black folks all over the country at the time that worked hard and didn't make that much money but we paid our taxes. I bet you we were one--we mostly paid our taxes up on time and we really didn't have no representation. When--before the FIGHT Organization started I don't think we had hardly any legislators or, you know, any state representatives, we didn't have no representation.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And taxation without representation is tyranny, and it makes me think back now when they say you're damn right about that because that's exactly what it was. And that's one of the things: we had nobody that would listen to us. You know and our problems with the riots and housing and, you know, all of those bad things. We had no representation, and I think that's one of the good reasons that makes me feel good about not only the FIGHT Organization, but ABC, that's still in existence, and another program called Model Cities then and Urban League helped bring about that--so we could get representation. And we're linking I guess ABC and the Urban League and Model cities, we did link up with local government, with county government, not too much of county, but with county-- the state governments, the federal governments we did start to plug in, we did start to have some voice.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And that's one of the greatest things, I think that the organizations that come out of the '60s, were all about. You know, in '50s we're about establishing some type of representation, some type of, you know, a link between us and our government.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm. I, I couldn't agree with you more.

Mr. Granston: Yeah.

Laura Hill: I couldn't agree with you more. What else? What have I missed that's important to you? What haven't I asked you about that you thought maybe I would?

Mr. Granston: You see I can't think of that now, but I'll probably think about lotta of things later on.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm. That always happens. [Laughs].

Mr. Granston: But actually--those were some great things that, you know, that you asked so far. Let me think and take my time, you know.

Laura Hill: Sure take your time.

Mr. Granston: Yeah, yeah. In fact, get my piece, my little--I remember I used to--them old folks used to eat peppermint candy and I wonder why--but I see it's great, I see now. [laughs]

Laura Hill: [Laughs]. You know, this weekend I bought Sugar Wafers and Fig Newtons and my cousin said, "You're an old lady, you're eating old lady cookies." And then she came to my house and she said, "You have Werther's too, you are an old lady!"


Mr. Granston: That's my mother's favorite, Fig Newtons, and god, as a kid I hated them I said, but she loved her Fig Newtons [laughs].

Laura Hill: I know. You know I remember my great-grandmother, she died--she was ninety-six years old when she died, I was ten. But I can remember those were the cookies she had at her house and something about them, I just crave them, I want that--. And I hated them as a kid, they were always stale, you know just terrible.


Laura Hill: It's funny how it goes isn't it?

Mr. Granston: When you say that, it's funny 'cause them Fig Newtons, boy my mother and, like you say, when I was a kid, I know when I was kid coming up I said, "When I get older I would never buy a Fig Newton."

Laura Hill: [Laughs].

Mr. Granston: And I didn't think I'd ever buy another, some, any peanut brittle. [Laughs].

Laura Hill: Oh, peanut brittle I cannot do.

Mr. Granston: I kinda like that a little bit now but that's what my grandmother gnawed. That was a big thing for them some peanut brittle.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm, yup.

Mr. Granston: You know or, then Fig Newtons after that.

Laura Hill: Yup, that's right.

Mr. Granston: Or broccoli or spinach or any kinda greens, I think, you know, "How could people in their right mind?" [Laughs]. You know, like this type of food.

Laura Hill: I like my greens.

Mr. Granston: And broccoli is probably my favorite vegetable now.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And that would almost make me sick to look at it when I was a kid.

Laura Hill: Isn't that funny, isn't that funny. Well--

Mr. Granston: Mm-hmm.

Laura Hill: --anything else you can think of?

Mr. Granston: Give me a few minutes. Let me think about it.

Laura Hill: Sure.

[Pause]. [1:23:19-1:23:28]

Mr. Granston: Oh, I--when I worked for the FIGHT Organization, my brother worked for the Urban League.

Laura Hill: Mmm. Interesting.

Mr. Granston: And what inspired me and what kept me on the good foot, and why I was with the FIGHT Organization for so long--which was the most, the most interesting and the most, I don't know what words to describe it, God I loved it--eleven to twelve years working with the FIGHT Organization. And having black people, as you know as the president was black--and too the ex-offender program was a lady, a black lady. She was head of that and college educated and all that, you know, which went along good. And then when I worked with the FIGHT Youth Center at Coleman Terrace and Central Park--I don't know if you're aware of Rochester but that's over in a certain area.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm, sure.

Mr. Granston: And Dr. John Walker, his wife Pat, she ran that program. And so those were some of the most beautiful years of my life. You know working for black people and--you know I never became a head of a program I--you gotta have the paper, I didn't have any paper.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Granston: I guess I coulda got it but I still, you know, I enjoy working and I have my family and my friends too. But those were the most interesting years of my life. God that was good. And what made it so good though--because organizations going on then we still have. Urban League where my brother worked--I was inspired every year by the keynote speakers they would have. And they had some of the best in the world.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: They had my man Ron Dellums[20] of southern California, he was one. Flont Roy out of Washington D.C. --

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --Vernon Jordan[21]--

Laura Hill: That's right.

Mr. Granston: --was a keynote. And see we had--oh, there were dynamite speakers. And that--and so I used to go to them every year. And a lot of people at FIGHT, we were really together in unison then. The FIGHT Organization with Scotty or Florence and Bernie at that time. And then James McCuller[22]--

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --"Black Mamba" as they called him before he died, that's my man James--oh he was eloquent, aw, he was eloquent and he loved to talk and he would talk and talk.

Laura Hill: [Laughs].

Mr. Granston: But he was a beautiful brother and he was with ABC and he was--when I say no representation, taxation without representation--he is the epitome of a black man that took on the reigns and wanted to represent his people. And he loved it, he loved it. He loved going to Washington, he loved going to state, he loved mingling with other political people and all--it was all about bringing that information back to the community--

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --and making us feel part of America too, just like everybody else.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And so I'll never forget James McCuller for that. God, and he was eloquent. He was an eloquent orator, you know, and I'll never forget that. And then--and with the Urban League then, we had Lapolis[23], Lakie Ashford as we call him.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: Who used to, I know used to take my sister out way back in that day.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And then Bill Johnson[24] came in, you know. And with Model Cities we had a few people there, you know, and when we all worked together, we all worked. And when I say how we organized, we had--I don't know if we'll ever be able to organize our people like we did then. But we had ABC, FIGHT, Urban League all working together and we had just about, in the inner city every block, every street was almost organized.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: We had people we'd talk to and we even had meetings. God, when I worked with FIGHT we had Tuesday, Tuesday evening steer committee meetings. And I worked with the organization about twelve years and every Tuesday--excuse me--we'd have steering committee--boy, you talk about meetings, and not only steering committee meetings we had emergency meetings, super emergency meetings and you know.

Laura Hill: [Laughs] Right.

Mr. Granston: Some people were bothered but I loved the meetings, 'cause I used to love to see the people get together you know 'cause usually after that we'd socialize, not much but drink coffee or tea or whatever and communicate.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And boy that was--we did that, we did that big time. Big, big time back then.

Laura Hill: There was a study done about that time and one of the outcomes of the study was that Rochester was the most organized city in the country. The most organized city in the country.

Mr. Granston: Well, well I believe we were. One time, I tell you 'cause I was in help organizing too--door to door and since then, you know--when I left FIGHT I was on the jobs committee and thank God for that because when the other administration, Nixon and them come in here cutting out a lot of programs and all of that. And so there was the guy Nils Kramer[25] at Delco Products, the division of General Motors--and I was on the jobs committee. I was assistant director of the jobs committee. And my man Lou Frazier went to Washington to learn how to operate FIGHT Square and FIGHT Village.

Laura Hill: That's right.

Mr. Granston: And so he made me the head then so I met all the employment personnel from people all--Kodak and all them.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And so I always would call up and would referral, FIGHT, you know, we're doing the due, and--so that one day I called Nils up and he said, "Hey bud, how you doin'?" Come--I had lunch with him, we developed some type of rapport. He said, "How you doin'?" "Doin'great." "So, who you got for me today?" [Laughs] I said, "I got me." [Laughs].

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: What a day. I'm looking for a job now, you know--because things were--. And at that time I didn't feel too bad because a lot of our programs were being cut with the Republicans but that's okay because the two main things thriving were education and jobs, and a lotta jobs--'cause after the war I guess we were the big cat on the block as far as manufacturing. We were a giant power in manufacturing.

Laura Hill: That's right.

Mr. Granston: Drug addicts and anybody could get a job, you know, making good money through manufacturing.

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: And, you know, that was a big thing so I didn't feel too bad, you know, that we were scaling down because jobs were plentiful back in them days. We had--you could get a job anywhere so, I said hey--I'm gonna do that too. And when I got the job with the Delco division of GM in two years I was making double what I was making working for FIGHT.

Laura Hill: For FIGHT [laughs].

Mr. Granston: You know, not as rewarding because how can you fall in love with a windshield wiper motor [laughs]?

Laura Hill: Right, fair enough, fair enough.

Mr. Granston: But--so it was a win-win situation for me. I loved FIGHT and it was the most memorable experience and I thank God for Mildred Johnson, thank God for her and the other people that inspired me but--it's always time to move on too. You know, so when I went to work in the private sector--manufacturing--I had no qualms or whatever you call it. No hard feelings, 'cause shoot, I was making double the money I was making before and more if I wanted to do, awful lot of overtime so--

Laura Hill: Mm-hmm.

Mr. Granston: --that was great, that was great.

Laura Hill: No, that's a, that's a fantastic note to close on. I think that's right, I think that's right. Thank you so much for doing this, and like I said if you um, if you've got some names of people that are still in the area, still around. We would definitely, definitely take those from you.

Mr. Granston: Okay, well I'll scour around and I've also some things I know I haven't said, so hopefully we get to meet again.

Laura Hill: Absolutely, absolutely, you've got my phone number--I'll make sure you get it again.

-End of interview-


[1] Mr. Granston reviewed his interview transcript in June 2014. In accord with Mr. Granston's wishes, his corrections and additions are in the transcript itself as well as in the footnotes.

[2] Mr. Granston later added that he never recalls fights between different races or about race, only ones within racial groups.

[3] In 1901 a non-sectarian, neighborhood center was established by the women of B'rith Kodesh Temple on Gibbs Street, Rochester. The group felt a social responsibility to teach immigrant women the basic tasks and responsibilities of life in the United States. Its program grew from homemaking classes, to Sunshine Clubs to encourage social life, and intellectual stimulation programs through Shakespeare clubs, current topics courses, and German clubs. This social settlement was named Baden Street Settlement in 1922. The Settlement responded to the changing character of its neighborhood, including the influx of African Americans into the area, and over the years adjusted its programs and services accordingly.

[4] Mildred Johnson founded Negro Information Center in 1960. In 1963 she renamed it the "Virginia Wilson Interracial Helping Hands Center" in honor of her mother. Mr. Granston added that Mildred had Nelson Rockefeller's invitation to call him directly if she needed his help. She used this privilege occasionally.

[5] Krieger's Waste Paper Co, now known as Krieger Recycling.

[6] Now known as Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial.

[7] As Mr. Granston clarifies later in the interview, Cohen's left the building after the 1964 riot, leaving it available as a meeting place when FIGHT moved in.

[8] Ray Charles and James Brown were popular African-American musicians who both rose to prominence in the 1960s.

[9] In later discussion, Mr. Granston clarified that FIGHT did not use Cohen's as a headquarters until after the restaurant moved out.

[10] Black Maria is a slang term which refers to a police van, like paddy wagon.

[11] Chicago-based Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) and his Industrial Areas Foundation staff of community organizers were called to Rochester in Fall, 1964 by the Board for Urban Ministry, through the Rochester Area Ministers Conference, to help organize a strong black community organization. The FIGHT organization's first convention met in June 1965 and elected Minister Franklin Florence as its first president.

[12] Mr. Granston refers to The Reverend Lee Beynon, pastor of Rochester's First Baptist Church, who was found hanging in the cellar of the church, December 29, 1966. His wife reported that he was worn out and depressed by strong divisions of opinion among church leaders and parishioners regarding FIGHT's persistent effort to win Kodak's commitment to a cooperative program to hire and train unemployed Rochester residents. Mr. Beynon had served as president of the Rochester Council of Churches at the time of the '64 riots. He was a charter member of Friends of FIGHT and served on its executive board.

[13] Stokely Carmichael was a well-known civil rights activist in the 1960s. He began as a supporter of non-violent organizations; however, his opinion changed and he eventually joined the Black Panther Party, known for a more confrontational and violent stance. He became a main figure of the "Black Power" movement, and his growing support of separatism ultimately caused Carmichael to break away from the Black Panther Party. In 1969, he left the country for Guinea, where he advocated for Pan-Africanism.

[14] Black exploitation (sometimes called blaxploitation) is a film genre which capitalizes on (exploits) urban black culture. Most films categorized this way were made in the 1970s.

[15] Super Fly is a particularly famous black exploitation film about a drug dealer who is trying "to go straight."

[16] Curtis Mayfield is a soul singer whose music was often featured in black exploitation films, notably Super Fly. His soundtrack for that film was very successful in its own right.

[17] Raymond Scott became involved with the FIGHT organization through his friendship with Minister Florence. In 1970, he was chosen to be vice-president of the organization under Bernard Gifford. He became president in 1971 when Gifford left, and held the position until 1976. When the Attica Prison riots occurred in September 1971, Scott was one of the first five outsiders called to try and mediate the situation. Since his work with FIGHT, Scott has held numerous other positions and continues to be an activist in the community.

[18] Dr. John Edland was the Monroe County Medical Examiner at the time of the Attica Prison Riot. His autopsy report concluded that 8 of the hostages died of bullet wounds from police weapons as they tried to regain control of the prison. The ninth hostage was examined at the Genesee Memorial Hospital and was also declared dead from bullet shot wounds. Originally, state officials claimed that the hostages had died from slit throats inflicted by the inmates.

[19] The Attica Prison Riot in 1971 began in protest of prisoner treatment. Roughly half of the inmates were involved. They took control of D-Yard and Times Square, the control center. Negotiations did not go well, particularly after a guard died from injuries sustained during the uprising. National Guard, state police, and prison guards used tear-gas and force to regain control of the prison, killing 29 inmates and 10 hostages and injuring 80 others.

[20] Ron Dellums' political career spans over 40 years. He served as a member of the Berkeley City Council, on the U.S. House of Representatives for thirteen terms, and then as the mayor of Oakland. He is known for the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 which aimed to end apartheid in South Africa.

[21] Vernon Jordan (1935 - ), African-American lawyer, civil rights advocate, political adviser, and business executive. Over the years, his positions have included: director of the Georgia NAACP in the 1960s, executive director of the United Negro College Fund in 1970, andFshotF President of the National Urban League from 1971-1981.

[22] James "Mamba" McCuller joined ABC (Action for a Better Community) in 1965, and was Director from 1968 until his passing in 1992. During his time in Rochester, McCuller also acted as a group worker at the Baden Street Settlement and as Director of the Neighborhood Youth Corps.

[23] Lapolis "Lakey" (pronounced LAKE e) Ashford was actively involved in the Civil Rights movement in Rochester and spoke publicly on the many issues facing Black Rochesterians at the time. He was Rochester's Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety in 1964 and was Executive Director of the Urban League of Rochester from 1966 to 1970. He was also a founder of both the Monroe County Non-Partisan Political League and the Rochester Improvement Association.

[24] William "Bill" Johnson served as President and CEO of the Urban League of Rochester for 21 Years. In 1993, he became the first African-American to be elected as the Mayor of the City of Rochester, a position which he held for three consecutive terms. As of 2013, he teaches at the Rochester Institute of Technology as Minett Professor of Public Policy.

[25] Nelson Kramer was head of personnel at Delco Products at that time.

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