Rochester Black Freedom Struggle -- Pauline Price

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Interview Subject: Pauline Price
Date(s) of interview(s): 8/6/2008
Interviewer: Laura Warren Hill

Mr. Charles Price was hired in 1947 as Rochester’s first black police officer. He rose in the ranks from beat cop along Joseph Avenue, Main and State Streets, to plain clothes detective and intelligence work, retiring in 1985 as a police captain. During World War II Mr. Price trained as a Tuskegee Airman and served in intelligence with the 332nd Fighter Group in Italy. He graduated from Monroe Community College and later took specialized course work at numerous northeast and midwest universities. Over the years he has participated in a number of professional and social organizations including: Rochester chapter of American Association for Professional Administrators, president; National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; Greater Rochester International Panel of National Association of Public Administrators; Rochester Rosewood Club (command officers club), president; Rochester/Monroe County YMCA, advisory board member; Rochester Pathway Houses, president; New York State District Kiwanis International, governor. Mr. Price is widely recognized for his lifetime of capable and sensitive work in behalf of justice for all. He is especially respected for his ability to work effectively amidst a broad diversity of people and situations. He is known for his habit of learning the facts before taking a position and for his belief that change is best brought about from the inside. 

Mrs. Pauline Price was born in Philadelphia. After her family moved to Rochester, Mrs. Price attended schools number three, nineteen, thirty-nine, and West High School. She graduated from West High in Philadelphia, but returned to Rochester where she worked as a secretary and beautician, as well as homemaker. She has been active in the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church for many years. Also, she is a member of Jack and Jill of America and the Red Hat Society. She and Mr. Price have two daughters and four grandchildren.

In the interview Mr. Price describes his Rochester upbringing and his “first taste of segregation” in the army. He describes routine acts of discrimination encountered over the years. He comments on events and perceptions associated with the 1964 Rochester Race Riots, including charges of police brutality, the idea of a police review board, and views that police used dogs and fire hoses during the riots. He also recounts his official responsibilities to provide security for both Malcolm X and Bobby Kennedy during their visits to the city of Rochester.

Mrs. Price comments on her life as wife of a police officer. She shares her experiences of racial discrimination over the years, her sense of puzzlement and her hope for continued gradual improvements in race relations.

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: 8/6/2008;

Laura Hill: I’m Laura Hill. Today is August 6th. I’m at the University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections, with Mr. and Mrs. Charles and Pauline Price. So, we were just discussing where you both were born and raised.

Mr. Price:[1] I was born and raised in the city of Rochester.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: My mother was born and raised in the city of Rochester. She was born 1892, in Rochester. She attended Number Three School and West High.

Laura Hill: Okay. And where did her people come from?

Mr. Price: Her father came here from Virginia. But he came here in 1860.

Laura Hill: Okay. And Mrs. Price?

Mrs. Price: Well, I was born in Philadelphia, but I came here and started school in Rochester, from kindergarten to the tenth grade. And then, my father decided he wanted to go back to Virginia, where he was from, and made arrangements for me to go and live with an aunt in Philadelphia.

I finished the last two years of high school there, graduated from West Philadelphia High School. In Rochester, I went to Number Three School [2]and West High.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mrs. Price: But, my parents came back to Rochester, and after I graduated, I came back to Rochester and I’ve been here ever since.

Laura Hill: What brought you back to Rochester?

Mrs. Price: Well, the fact that my parents came back.

Laura Hill: I see, I see. It wasn’t this man here.

Mr. Price: No.

Mrs. Price: No, I didn’t know him.

Laura Hill: Really. You both went to Number Three and you both went to West High?[3]

Mr. Price: Yeah, but I went a number of years ahead of her.

Laura Hill: Ah, I see.

Mrs. Price: He went to Madison.

Mr. Price: I went to Madison High School. I graduated from Madison, 1942.

Laura Hill: Oh, I see. Okay, fantastic.

Mrs. Price: He was out of school before I was, so I didn’t know him.

Laura Hill: So tell me, tell me a little about—in this period, in the 40’s, in the 50’s, gosh, earlier back if you want to—what were race relations like in Rochester? What was going on here?

Mr. Price: You say, “What’s going on?” what d’you mean?

Laura Hill: Well, how would you characterize the relationship between the black communities and the white communities in Rochester?

Mr. Price: At that time, your neighborhoods—you were living in neighborhoods and your neighbor next door was very, very close to you.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: I mean, I lived on Adams Street at the time, and people up the street—I’d go to their house and have dinner and everything else. The kids that I played with, come down to my house, have dinner, call up and say, “I’m staying at such-and-such a house tonight,” and that would be it so long as you let your mother and father know where the devil you were gonna be.”

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. And Mrs. Price, did you find the same thing?

Mrs. Price: No, mine was a little bit different. I think when I was young I—the neighborhood didn’t have that many kids, period. And I—actually, I played with his cousins that lived across the street from me. And then I had some friends down the street, so I never went out of the block. I just stayed there.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mrs. Price: But everything—but then when I went into high school, we moved up on Columbia Avenue, and there weren’t too many of my classmates, and actually, there weren’t too many young people on the street, so I had friends, but not on the street. [4]

Laura Hill: Right. Were your—was your block an integrated block?

Mrs. Price: Yes, yes. Not that many, but there were blacks on just one side, maybe ‘bout seven families on one side of the street, and that basically was it.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. Okay.

Mrs. Price: Because we moved up near Jefferson Avenue.

Laura Hill: Okay. And your neighborhood?

Mr. Price: Integrated.

Laura Hill: Integrated.

Mr. Price: Italians and, uh, Germans.

Laura Hill: Okay. This is a very, very different story, of course, than what we have heard from some of the other people we’ve interviewed, who come to Rochester much later.

Mr. Price: Oh yes.

Laura Hill: Tell me about the changes that took place.

Mr. Price: I’m tryin’ to think, when you mean changes, whether you mean, you know—.

Laura Hill: Well, I mean if you came to Rochester in the late 1950s or the late 1960s—or, I’m sorry, the early 1960s, the city seemed to be much more segregated racially. Tell me about the changes that caused that. It’s very different than the integrated experiences you’re both describing from your childhoods.

Mr. Price: Well, I think that was right after the war and a lot of people had come here to git jobs.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: And then the farm—farming was a big industry at that time in this area, and a lot of the farmers had made arrangements, I should say, possibly, with these different companies to bring the migrants, as they were called at that time, from the South up here. So that was a big change at that time, ‘cause, as I say, farming was a big industry at that time.

Laura Hill: Right. How do those migrants change Rochester? What kinds of changes do you see with their entrance?

Mrs. Price: Well, I think just the fact that, you know, there were more and more black people coming into Rochester and the neighborhoods—you saw more in the neighborhoods.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mrs. Price: And then they started branching out into other areas that, um, people years ago wouldn’t have been allowed to live, but they were. But then also, I can’t really remember, but there was—teachers started coming here also.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mrs. Price: And that was a help too.

Laura Hill: Black teachers?

Mrs. Price: Black teachers.

Laura Hill: From the South as well?

Mrs. Price: Mmm-hmm, yeah.

Laura Hill: Okay, okay. Changes you saw? How did the migrants shape the city? How do they change the city?

Mr. Price: Well, I would say that biggest change they made was just the influx of ‘em coming in at the time, ‘cause they would bring ‘em in busloads and drop them off at certain corners. And say, “We’re gonna pick ya up at such-and-such a time and take ya back to the farm.”

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. So they actually lived in the city and went out to work on the—.

Mr. Price: No, they lived on the farms out—they were bused into the city on the weekends.

Laura Hill: I see. For entertainment, for—?

Mr. Price: That’s it. Entertainment, buy their clothing, and substantial foods, probably, that they couldn’t get out there on the farm.

Laura Hill: I see.

Mrs. Price: And then gradually they started, you know, getting homes in the city and getting jobs in the city. And then, of course, if they had family, then sometimes their family would—well, that was with almost everybody.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mrs. Price: You know, once one person was here, then the family came.

Laura Hill: Absolutely, sure. So, in this period, in this post-war period, what are you both doing in terms of your work life, your social life?

Mr. Price: Y’mean back in the 40’s you’re talking about now?

Laura Hill: Sure, in this period of the migration, after the war.

Mr. Price: Well, we still had our little clubs, shall we say. We had the girl’s Y, which was on Clarissa Street, or Caldonia Avenue, and we used to meet at the different Y—it was a boys’ Y and a girls’ Y. Boys’ Y was on Adams Street, up at Hubbard Hall, Hubert Hall—

Mrs. Price: Hubert.

Mr. Price: Hubert Hall. And we used to meet there and have little meetings, and if you got together too many of ‘em, I guess you’d call us anti-social now, or—but we used to have our little meetings on the weekends and we’d have our parties and all.

Laura Hill: Okay, so these were events or functions put on the by the YMCA and the YWCA?

Mrs. Price: Mmm-hmm.

Laura Hill: Okay, did you all belong to a church?

Mrs. Price: Yes.

Mr. Price: Both of us did. She belonged to the Mount Olivet Baptist, and I belonged to the Trinity Emmanuel—well, at that time, it was just the Trinity Presbyterian Church.

Laura Hill: Okay. And I assume these were your family’s churches and—.

Mrs. Price: Pardon?

Laura Hill: These were your families’ churches I assume?

Mrs. Price: Yes.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. And so you graduated, you said, in 1942?

Mr. Price: Two, mmm-hmm.

Laura Hill: And then what do you do?

Mr. Price: Uncle Sam called me. [Chuckles]

Laura Hill: Okay, tell me about that.

Mr. Price: Well, I graduated from Madison in 1942 and my classmates, we all thought we were the smartest boys in the world, you know. Couldn’t tell us anything. And the idea was to join the Air Force.

Laura Hill: Okay. [Laughs]

Mr. Price: ‘Cause they wouldn’t call you, because there’d be a list a mile long ahead of you, and we thought if we joined, enlisted, we wouldn’t be called. For maybe two or three—maybe a year, anyhow.

Laura Hill: I see.

Mr. Price: So I graduated in June. In January, I got that little paper says, “I need you. I want you.” So, I went into service in the Army Air Corps then.

Laura Hill: Okay, and where were you stationed?

Mr. Price: I was stationed at Biloxi, Mississippi. They sent me from here to Biloxi, Mississippi for pre-flight training.

Laura Hill: What was that like?

Mr. Price: Like a new world. [Laughs]

Laura Hill: I mean, you’re a northern boy, born and raised, and you’re sent to Mississippi. Tell me about that experience.

Mr. Price: Well, it was a funny experience. We went to Fort Niagara first, and that’s where I actually got my first good taste of segregation in the army because most of my classmates were white.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: And my buddies, we were all Alpha Hi Y’s, or fraternity brothers, and all. We joined the air force and we got up to Niagara Falls and the little sergeant says, “You go this way and you go that way.” We said, “Wait a minute, we’re all together!” He says, “No, you go that way. They go this way.” That was the first part of the segregation, shall I say, that I really got slapped in the face with.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: And uh, we stayed there and took our tests and got all our shots and everything. And then we was put on a train, with a little brown envelope with a red stripe around it, and we got to Cincinnati and we opened it up. They said we could open it up in Cincinnati. We opened it up in Cincinnati, and all these are northern boys now. These are kids from Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Elmira, Corning—they’d come here and went to Niagara Falls. And here we are, we get to Cincinnati, we open our letters and it says we gotta to go to Biloxi, Mississippi. We darn near lost all of us. We were, “Whoa, what’re you talkin’ about?” But, we all went down there because we had enlisted. And that’s when we first went down in Kessler Field, Mississippi for pre-flight training.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: And from there, I went to Tuskegee. And when I was at Tuskegee, I was taking flying lessons and all, but I found out that one eye was stronger than the other.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: So I flunked. I couldn’t fly combat, but I could fly. And they sent me to intelligence school, from there. Well, it’s really, it was Signal Corps School, because they didn’t have such things as separated schools that you could classify as they have them nowadays. It was just, the army was the Army Air Corps, there was no Army Air Force, or United States Air Force, that we have today, like the army, the marines, and the air force.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: It was just army. You know, it was the Army Air Corps that we’d belong to, so they just had Signal Corps School, which you started out soldering wires together and all.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: But that was a lot of stuff I had, right here at Madison High School, so I went through that with flying colors and went on up to be getting into crypto. And then after crypto, they just kept sendin’ me to schools.

Laura Hill: And did you end up overseas?

Mr. Price: I ended up in Italy. Started in North Africa, and then went to Italy.

Laura Hill: Tell me about that.

Mr. Price: What do you mean, tell you about—it’s not a—I was, I graduated from the schools, and then they sent me to Selfridge which is up near Detroit and from Detroit—I was home on Christmas weekend for my first furlough I’d ever had while I was in the service. And I came home and while I’m home, I get another telegram, saying, “Report immediately to Norfolk, Virginia, Hampton Roads. You’re being shipped out.” So, I went down to Hampton Roads and got on one of the liberty ships. Took thirty-three days to cross the Atlantic. I was sick every one of the days. [Laughs]

Laura Hill: Motion sickness?

Mr. Price: Motion sickness. But here, I’d been raised right here in Rochester, been out on Lake Ontario, there was nothing to it, but you got on the lake and every morning you look out and don’t see anything but water, it’s kinda rough.

Laura Hill: Right, sure.

Mr. Price: And we were supposed to go into Casablanca at the time, but at that time the Free French were still fighting. So, we couldn’t get into Casablanca, so we backout into the Atlantic and we went to the Straits of Gibraltar, and from there went into Oran.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: And when we got to Oran, the Americans and their allies had blown up everything in the harbor, so we had to walk on planks. I would say, maybe ten to twelve inches wide, maybe two, three inches thick, with full field pack from ship to ship. That’s the only way you could get into Oran, and if your buddy in front of you with full field pack fell overboard, bye-bye.

Laura Hill: Wow.

Mr. Price: ‘Cause that was him. You’re not goin’ after him; you’ve got a full field pack on your back. That’s two hundred pounds and you’re goin’ after somebody else at two hundred pounds, you’re goin’ to ‘da bottom.

Laura Hill: Sure. Right.

Mr. Price: So if he fell overboard, that was him. He was gone. And we went to North Africa, and we stayed in North Africa for a while.

Laura Hill: Where in North Africa?

Mr. Price: Oran.

Laura Hill: Oh, Oran, okay.

Mr. Price: Yes, I went to the Casbah. [Laughs]

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: And from there, we got our orders to go to Sicily, ‘cause we were gonna—we was meeting up with the 99th Pursuit Squadron, and we got to Sicily—went right through Sicily. We landed at Sicily that morning, and that night, we were on our way to Italy.

Laura Hill: And so all this while, are you still—are you still working in these segregated units?

Mr. Price: Oh yeah, oh yeah, segregated. At that time, it was the beginning of the 332ndFighter Group. The 99th had already been over there. The first group of pilots that came out of Tuskegee had already been in Italy—or been in the Mediterranean. And we were supposed to meet up with ‘em. And we met up with ‘em in Sicily, but we still hadn’t combined, until we got there to Africa, or to the North, to Italy. We landed in Salerno and then Salerno up to Naples. And Naples is where we got together and they shipped us over to Rimini Airfield, which is on the Adriatic side of Italy.

Laura Hill: So are you a Tuskegee Airman? Is that what you’re telling me?

Mr. Price: That’s what they’re saying, yes. [Laughs]

Laura Hill: That’s very, very interesting.

Mr. Price: But I didn’t fly combat. I keep tellin’ everybody, I couldn’t fly combat because of my eyes.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. So, I mean, one of the things that comes out of World War II—I’m a history professor, of course, so you’ll have to bear with me—is the “double V for victory”—victory abroad and victory at home. Was that something that mattered to you? Was that part of your consciousness about serving your country and then the desire to have that same kind of freedom or liberty for black people in America?

Mr. Price: I never, just never ran across that.

Laura Hill: Never heard that?

Mr. Price: Mmm-mmm.

Laura Hill: Okay. Okay, that’s interesting. Um, so then, you do your time. You come back to the states. You come back to Rochester?

Mr. Price: Came back to Rochester. When we left Italy, we was on our way to Japan, but when we got to the Straits of Gibraltar is when they dropped the first atom bomb.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: Well, just before we left Italy, they dropped the atom bomb, and we went through the Straits, they dropped the second bomb. And they detoured us from Japan to send us right to Boston. So we came into Boston and that’s where I got down on my hands and knees and kissed old mother earth, glad to be back home.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: But we came back in August or the first of September and then they shipped us from Camp Miles Standish in Massachusetts to Fort Dix. And that was right there at September sixth, fifth or sixth, and we were ready to go home; we wanted to go home. They said you can’t go home because it was V-J Day and no trains were runnin’ or nothin’. We said, “Just let us out, we’ll get home, don’t worry.”

Laura Hill: Sure. We’ll walk. Sure.

Mr. Price: But they kept us there and I was able to get back here to Rochester on about the seventh or eighth.

Laura Hill: Okay. And you meet your bride—?

Mr. Price: No, no, no, no, no, no. I came back, as I came back—and the funny part at that time, my father had died on August the—well, the middle of August anyhow. Just before I left Italy, and they had told my mother—Red Cross had told my mother that they had notified me. I didn’t know nothin’ about it. I came back and I got off the train at the New York Central Station and I went right to where my father was working. He was working for the courthouse at that time, which is now the county office building. And I walked in there will full pack and all these cigarettes I was gonna give my father and all—walk in there and the lady there, Mrs. Wall, who I knew before I left, and she says, “Don’t you know?” And I said, “What are you talkin’ ‘bout?” “Your father passed.” Well, I didn’t even know that.

Laura Hill: Devastating.

Mr. Price: That was devastating. So, I left from there and went home, met my mother, and talked to her, and that was it when I came home. But then, I went to work back at Kodak, because I had—when I left, I had worked at Kodak.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: So I went back to work at Kodak.

Laura Hill: What did you do at Kodak?

Mr. Price: Well, I started out as, just as everybody else back in those days—blacks, colored, Negro, whatever area, age, you were in. The only jobs you could get is either running the elevator, moppin’ floors, or “trucking,” as they called it—taking material from one machine to another. Even though they had a gentleman there who didn’t go to the service, went to RIT, got the management degrees and his salesman’s and everything else there that they would teach him. When he came back to Kodak, there was no job for him.

Laura Hill: Right. [Sneezes]

Mr. Price: So, I went back to Kodak and I had played basketball—I was kind of an athlete, shall I say, at Madison—so I was on the basketball team there. And I said, “Hey, you want me to play for you, you’ve gotta give me a better job than pickin’ up papers off the floor and all.”

Laura Hill: So Kodak had a basketball team?

Mr. Price: Oh, all of your companies, at that time had—

Laura Hill: I’ve never heard of that.

Mr. Price: —had basketball teams. They were intramural company teams. It was Kodak, Hawkeye, Gleason’s—all the different companies here had teams and we’d play each other.

Laura Hill: Okay, I’ve never heard that. That’s fascinating.

Mr. Price: So, me playin’ a little basketball, could put that little ball through the hoop a little bit—they said, “Hey, we need you on the team.” So, I was on their team and I told them, “Well if you want me to play on your team, you know, give me a little better job than pickin’ up papers or moppin’ floors.”

Laura Hill: And what did they do?

Mr. Price: They gave me a job in an experimental lab.

Laura Hill: Experimental lab.

Mr. Price: Mmm-hmm.

Laura Hill: What does that mean?

Mr. Price: Well, we’d go around and—the painting that they used to put on the covers of the front of the cameras—what d’you call it—emulsion paint—used to put on used to peel, and our job was to find out what caused it to peel.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: So we were experimenting with different types of paint and lacquers and all to put on it so that it would adhere and also hold up, too.

Laura Hill: Did you figure it out?

Mr. Price: They did, yeah. We figured it out. We got it down—Brownie camera, the old Brownie camera.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: We got ‘dat down, but then, uh, one night, we—as I told you, we used to meet at these different—the YW- or the YMCA and we were just havin’ our little meeting there, boys and girls. We were sittin’ there getting ready for a dance and all, and a gentleman by the name of Howard Coles, which I knew from way back—my mother used to talk about she remembered when he came to Rochester and all. So I knew Howard from way back.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: And he came in and said that the Rochester Police Department wouldn’t take coloreds on the police department. Well, most of us who were living, were there at that meeting, were kids who had went to school here in Rochester. And, “You’re crazy—sure they would.”

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm, what year is this?

Mr. Price: This is 1941.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: No, no, I’ll take that back. It was nineteen forty—it would be 1947.

Laura Hill: Because it’s once you come back from—?

Mr. Price: Yeah, I’d been back from service. Yeah.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: And were sittin’ around. And he says they wouldn’t take us. And we said, “Oh, you’re full of—crazy. This is Rochester, this is our hometown; we know what they can do.” So, there was about four of us there, we all went down and took the exam. And stupid me, I had to be the one to pass it.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: There was another gentleman named Lloyd Walker passed it too, but Lloyd went on and worked for C.P. Ward. But, I said, “Okay, I’ll take the exam.” So I took it, and passed it. And then, they called me and says, “Hey”—it was December of ‘47, no, December ‘48, I think it was. They called, said that, “You’re appointed.” “I’m appointed?” okay. So, I went down to city hall and—funny thing again, you know. You figure you’re gonna be appointed with the rest of the group? You’re by yourself.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: One man, one guy, we swear you in.

Laura Hill: Why?

Mr. Price: You’ve got to ask the city fathers that.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: So, I went over and went over to the police station. They gave me my gun, club, and handcuffs, and said, “You’re a policeman.”

Laura Hill: That was it—no training.

Mr. Price: That was it, that was it. Nothin’ in those days.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mrs. Price: It was ‘47 not ‘48.

Mr. Price: Was it ‘47? Yeah, 1947. And I—they told me there’s two detectives who’ll meet you in the New York Central Station. “Be in the New York Central Station seven o’clock on such and such a night. Be there and they’ll pick you up and they’ll tell you what to do.” Said, “Dress casual.” Or incognito, they always say.

Laura Hill: [Laughs]

Mr. Price: I just put on an old shirt and I went down the New York Central Station. I’m sittin’ there and I see these two guys walkin’ up and down. I said, well, I know they’re detectives. I know that, but they don’t know who I am.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: And I’m just sittin’ there waitin’ for them. And after about a half hour or so of them walkin’ around, I said, “Are you guys lookin’ for me?” “You Charlie Price?” I says, “Yep.” And the funny part—it was about, at least a month ahead of time, there was a shooting at the old Palace Century Theatre, and who got shot but the last name was Price. So everybody thought it was me. [Laughs]

Laura Hill: Thought it was you. That’s fantastic.

Mr. Price: Well, anyhow, these detectives told me I was supposed to walk down on Joseph Avenue and try to find the after-hour joints and all. Well, heck, I was born and raised here. I knew everybody and everybody knew me. You know, I mean—.

Laura Hill: Yeah, there was no incognito.

Mr. Price: No. You walk in—“Hi, Charlie.”

Laura Hill: Sure, sure. So, I mean, I guess I’m very curious then, how were you received—?

Mr. Price: In the police department?

Laura Hill: In the police department.

Mr. Price: The younger fellas who I came on with, the fellas, who came on in ‘47, ‘48, there, ‘49, were great, because most of us had been, were servicemen.

Laura Hill: I see.

Mr. Price: And we had had the experience of depending on each other. The older fellas, yes, there was that feeling, “Who’s these young whippersnappers?” even to the young white fellas. But here’s this one colored fella, and that was—I was the only one of ‘em, so there was that feeling, because they had—years ago, there’s the old way of the police department, as you should know—they did what they wanted to do.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: So there was a little feeling there.

Laura Hill: How was that feeling expressed to you? Were there particular incidents that you remember?

Mr. Price: Well, they would use the n-word and think nothing of it, talk about the women and think nothing of it.

Laura Hill: Mmm. Yeah.

Mr. Price: Because that was their way of life at that time.

Laura Hill: Right. Now, when do you all get married?

Mr. Price: 1952.

Laura Hill: 1952. Okay, so he was a police officer?

Mr. Price: I was a policeman for about four years when I met her. Well, I met her before—.

Mrs. Price: Well I met him in the year—in ‘48.

Laura Hill: How did you meet him?

Mrs. Price: Well, I came back from Philadelphia and where I was staying, he had a mutual friend that was there, and so that’s how it happened.

Mr. Price: One of my buddies lived at the same house.

Laura Hill: Okay. So you knew what you were getting into.

Mrs. Price: Not really.

Laura Hill: Okay.


Mrs. Price: No, I didn’t know a thing, but, you know, it’s worked out very well.

Mr. Price: See, in those days, we worked seven days and your eighth day was off.

Laura Hill: I see.

Mr. Price: So every seventh week, you had a Saturday and Sunday off. The other times you’d only have a day during the week off. And it—actually, I can honestly say, I dreaded the day I had off.

Laura Hill: Really?

Mr. Price: I liked the police department so much.

Laura Hill: Why?

Mr. Price: I don’t know. It was a challenge.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: And somethin’ I was doing that was just a challenge to me.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. Were you, um—how were you used in the police department? So by this I mean, what kinds of tasks were you given? What kind of spaces were you put in? How did your early years on the force work? How does that translate?

Mr. Price: Well, to my feelings, I was treated just like any of the other younger fellas coming on. When I first went on, as I said, they put me in the Joseph Avenue area where it was the Seventh Ward. We used to call it “the gut.”

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: So there’s where I had to work. I worked there for ‘bout four years before they had a change of policies and all. And they had split the different—instead of having the precincts, they went to areas. So I was put in from the East side, I went to the West side. I worked out of headquarters office, so now I’m workin’ downtown. When I say downtown, I worked at Main and State.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: So I had the Main and State beat, but I had Front Street, the old Front Street. I used to love to work Front Street.

Laura Hill: Why?

Mr. Price: It was another thing that was a challenge. The gentlemen and ladies who were on Front Street at that time, sure, some of ‘em were down-and-outers, they used to call them.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: But we had good people there. I had doctors and lawyers who were alcoholics, as they were called at that time, probably today. And I’d know when they came down and I’d look out for ‘em, and when I felt that they’d had enough, I’d call their parents if they lived out in East Rochester, call them and come on down and get ‘em.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. How did the, how did the communities accept you as an officer? I mean, you, on the one hand, you’re dealing with the police force, but how does the community see a black officer?

Mr. Price: Well, it depends on where you was working.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: Down in the Seventh Ward, I had my ups and downs, but I had very good ups. Mostly people there I knew ‘em and they respected me, and I respected them. When I worked at the corner of Main and State and Front Street, the guys down there, I got to know ‘em and they got to know me, businessmen and all, and no problems. There’d be maybe some problems at the corner of Main and State sometime, but most of the time I was treated very well, both by the police and the constituents, or the people in the city of Rochester. There were a couple different incidents that we had, even when I was workin’ in the Seventh Ward where a couple of young kids came down and called me on my name and all.

Laura Hill: And by that you mean the n-word?

Mr. Price: Yeah, “n”. And they would disrespect me, but I remember old Captain Leary grabbed him and brought him back and made him apologize to me. I thought Captain Leary was the biggest guy in the world at that time.

Laura Hill: Right, right.

Mr. Price: I felt real good about that. But then, I did have an experience where when I was moving up in the police department, I’ll put it that way.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: I got to be a plainclothes man. I was workin’ with the youth, because I always did like workin’ with kids and all.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: And I was workin’ with the youth and we used to get these calls and people would say kids are doing this or that in the area. And I’d go out to investigate it.

Laura Hill: Who’d call you?

Mr. Price: The, ah, a citizen. A citizen would call and say, “Hey, these kids are out here throwin’ stones or throwin’ peaches or fruit at my house,” or somethin’, or they’re runnin’ up and down the street and all.

Laura Hill: Sure, mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: I can remember going to a house and knockin’ on the door, no answer. I’d go back to the car and say, “You got the right number?” And they’d tell me yes, it was at the number—I’d say, “Okay.” And I’d sit there for a while. They’d call me again, they’d say, “Hey, did you go to that house? The woman’s callin’ again. These kids are botherin’ her and no policeman has been here.” I go to the door and knock again, you know. And I could see somebody movin’ around in there, but they wouldn’t come to the front door.

Laura Hill: What’s this black man doing at my door?

Mr. Price: No, at the front door. Yeah, knockin’ on her front door.

Laura Hill: There’s not a policeman here; there’s a black man here. Sure.

Mr. Price: Yes, I thought I was dressed right; I had a white shirt, tie on and all.

Mrs. Price: But not a uniform.

Mr. Price: But not a uniform. But I’m knockin’ on the door. Finally, I says, when they came over the third time, I said, “You tell that person inside that the policeman’s been at that door twice and if she doesn’t want to answer the door, shame on her.”

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: So I went back and she said, “Go around,” and I said, “No, this is the front door. If you want me, here I am.”

Laura Hill: She wanted you to go to the back door.

Mr. Price: Go around to the back door, mmm-hmm. So I said—she finally opened the door and I explained to her that I was here to help her. We got along good, but that image was not there at the time.

Laura Hill: Sure, sure. So, we move through the 50’s, we have these migrants coming in, you’re noticing changes in the city. Tell me what your understanding of the Civil Rights Movement was. Were you all involved? Would you consider yourselves activists in that period?

Mrs. Price: In what period is that?

Laura Hill: Well, I mean I guess I would say the late ‘50’s, the early ‘60’s, before the riot in 1964. How did you understand civil rights? Did that touch your world at all?

Mr. Price: It touched our world, our area. It was still this time, as I said, I had a couple good friends who went away to college and they went down to Hampton Insti—well, at that time, it was called Hampton Institute. And he graduated as an engineer, but he came back here to Rochester to work, mmm-mmm! He can’t be an engineer at our place, no, no.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: But that, I would say, was the slap in the face. And I think this is what’s gonna happen in the world today, right now. A lot of kids are graduating from colleges—with this computerized world, electronic world, alotta the jobs are gone. Now, they’re lookin’ for work. What used to take five people to do, now it’s done by a computer in five seconds.

Laura Hill: Right, sure.

Mr. Price: So, when you trained for a position or a job and you go to get it and there’s nothin’ there for you, what’re you gonna do?

Laura Hill: So are you suggesting that the lack of jobs, though people were qualified, led to a Civil Rights Movement here?

Mr. Price: I think the jobs were available and it was open for people, but not for black people at the time. You just, that was the big thing. There were jobs, a lot of good opportunities—

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: —but, the status quo didn’t wanna let ‘em in, because they figured they get their toe in, they’re going to get their foot in, their leg in and then they’re gonna be takin’ my job.

Laura Hill: Then they’re going to be there. Sure, sure.

Mr. Price: You know, everybody wants to protect their own little area or their interests and say, “This is mine and I’m not gonna let anybody take it.”

Laura Hill: Right. Mrs. Price, were you aware of the Civil Rights Movement?

Mrs. Price: Yes, but not as much as he was, you know.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mrs. Price: You know, I knew some of these things that went on and some of them I didn’t, because I was kinda secluded. I would go to work and come home, go to work and come home, and that was about it. But you knew that there were issues, because I know there was a couple females that wanted to get an apartment in this area and they couldn’t. You know, things like that and even the jobs. Like at Kodak, you might get a factory job, but it was very hard to get in an office job.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mrs. Price: Because I worked at Kodak, I left—first I worked at the YWCA doing office work, and then I went to Kodak and applied for an office job, but I got a factory job. And then the next thing I know, this one that was working next to me who had never had any office training, she got the job.

Laura Hill: It was a white woman?

Mrs. Price: Mmm-hmm, yeah, so that kind of thing.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mrs. Price: So, but I mean, you know, it wasn’t—I wasn’t involved in a lot of that type thing like he might’ve been and other people, because my world—you know, I didn’t go out that much in different places.

Laura Hill: Right. What kind of recourses were there in Rochester for people like these two women who tried to get an apartment and were denied, or somebody trying to get a job at Kodak and is denied? Where could they go? What could they do?

Mr. Price: Very little at the time. We had the NAACP here and all, which I belonged to at that time, and things like that, but they could go just so far too.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: I mean, even ministers and doctors—Dr. Lunsford and Dr. Levy, you know. They could go forward, but how far could they go? They could go to the people and make a big noise about it, but, “Yeah, we’ll take care of it,” and put it on the second shelf and later on, that’s as far as it’ll go.

Mrs. Price: And I think, too, that people, black people realized the limitations, so a lot of times they didn’t go beyond it, like they would go today. I know I can’t live over here, so why even bother to try to get a house over here?

Laura Hill: I see.

Mrs. Price: You know, that sort of thing.

Mr. Price: What was the big story they had about Dr. Lindsey?

Mrs. Price: Yeah, Dr. Lindsey, he was the dentist and I think it was Arnett Boulevard—.

Mr. Price: It was Arnett Boulevard.

Mrs. Price: And there were no blacks up in that area.

Mr. Price: The other side of Thurston Road, now.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mrs. Price: And he bought the property and had a house built. And the people there thought that he was the chauffer and that his wife was the maid of the people that were building the house.

Laura Hill: I see.

Mrs. Price: And then when they found out who was building the house, it was too late for them to do anything about it.

Laura Hill: I see. Hmm.

Mr. Price: And I found out later, that one of the big people who was fighting him was one of the big men on the Rochester police department.

Laura Hill: Tell me about that.

Mr. Price: Nooo! I can’t use names.

Laura Hill: You don’t need to name names, but what does that do then?

Mr. Price: Nothing. I just said, I just found out, now I said, “Mmm-hmm, now I know.”

Laura Hill: I see.

Mr. Price: See, you can find out alotta things and sometimes you let ‘em go and sometimes you kind of slip it to ‘em a little bit. Well, maybe you said such and such—“Huh? How’d you know that?”

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: I have a good philosophy.

Laura Hill: What is it?

Mr. Price: That is, you can’t beat ‘em from the outside. You’ve gotta join ‘em and beat ‘em from the inside out.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: So you find out how they work and then beat ‘em from the inside out.

Laura Hill: Once you’re inside, how do you beat them?

Mr. Price: What you do, you sit there and you listen, and you learn, and you find out—well, wait a minute, they said they did such and such and such a thing, they did it this way. So now, when it comes up for your turn to do it, you say, “Wait a minute now, you remember back in so-and-so, you did it this way? Why can’t we do the same thing now?” “Uh, uh, uh—.” “Wait a minute, you did it the other day; we can do it now.”

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: See, so you get ‘em that way.

Laura Hill: So you, at this time, are on the police force and you are also a member of the NAACP. Did that ever cause conflict for you?

Mr. Price: No. No.

Laura Hill: Okay. So then, tell me, when Rochester becomes embroiled in these police brutality cases—Rufus Fairwell, A.C. White—

Mr. Price: That’s the name I was trying to remember the other day.

Laura Hill: —I’m not as familiar with it, but a Faison case.

Mr. Price: Faison?

Laura Hill: Faison, okay. And then, of course, the Black Muslim case. Tell me how you are juggling those two positions as a member of the NAACP who’s fighting those battles and then as a member of the police force.

Mr. Price: Well, you have to treat people as you want to be treated yourself.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: I mean, some of the Muslims, as you say, I knew ‘em well. I could talk to ‘em.

Laura Hill: Okay, who were those Muslims?

Mr. Price: Well, what was it? Mohammed—I can’t even think of his name right now.[5] This goes way back now, because he was up at Attica. He got out of Attica and he came here to Rochester and all. And he was there with Malcolm X. I mean, at the time I really got to know him, ‘cause I had studied him before he got to be Malcolm X—Little was his name.

Laura Hill: Yeah, Malcolm Little.

Mr. Price: Yeah, and he was from Arkansas, because I had done a little of my own history running before. You know, you have to do that so you can talk to people intelligently, shall I say.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmmm.

Mr. Price: And I had did a little background on him—“Big Red,” he was called and all— so I knew all this.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: So when we sat down to talk as Malcolm X, he knew what I knew and I knew what he knew, and we could sit down and talk. But at that time, see, I’d already been moved up in the police department, I was a captain and all. So I’m in charge. I’m telling people what to do and where to go, so I could go and sit and talk with him, you know. And I was with him the night he left Rochester and went to New York City. The next—two nights later, he was killed.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: So I knew him way back.

Laura Hill: I’m just dying to fire questions at you now, of course. [Laughs] So if we can just go back a little—why does the Black Muslim case become the Black Muslim case in Rochester? So what I’m referring to, of course, are the night—I think it’s January 6, 1963. Two officers go to the Muslim mosque and they have an anonymous report that there’s a man with a gun.

Mr. Price: D’Angelo. [Laughs]

Laura Hill: Yeah, of course, I’m jogging your memory now. Um, why does—?

Mr. Price: I was in the intelligence part of the police department at that time, so that’s why I knew about it.

Laura Hill: Then tell me about it.

Mr. Price: [Laughs] No, I knew that they were goin’ there to the house, goin’ to the—we were—had surveillance on it, but I didn’t know that they were gonna try to force their way in. And as I tell the guys, even today—when I was a captain, I said, “Now, look. Remember this thing I told you about joinin’?” I used to tell ‘em, “Are you going to a Catholic Church tonight? Are you going in that Catholic Church and go up and grab the priest?” “Well—.” “Now, wait a minute. It’s the same thing.” This Muslim is a Imam. Do you go in the Baptist Church or do you go in the Catholic Church, or do you go in any church and just grab somebody? Even though he’s wanted, there’s other ways that you can make the arrest.

Laura Hill: Right. Why was the mosque under surveillance?

Mr. Price: ‘Cause nobody knew anything—what Muslim was about. It was a scary thing.

Laura Hill: Okay. Did you think it was a scary thing?

Mr. Price: No, ‘cause I knew the guys. I knew that they—I shouldn’t say that. I knew the fellas, but I didn’t know the complete rundown of it. Because, you see, it was new.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: See, and just like at the prison, up at Attica—now, for years, the penitentiary, in any prisons, on Fridays they serve fish. Why? Because the Catholics had said they cannot eat meat on Fridays, is that right?

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: So they didn’t serve meat on Friday; they served fish. So now here are the Muslims say, “We can’t eat pork.” “Oh yes, you can. Here it is. You’ve gotta eat it. We cooked it, you’ve gotta eat it.” Wait a minute, what’s the difference now? Is there something wrong here? Are we looking at something different? If you don’t serve meat on Friday, then you don’t serve pork to them. But that was the thing. You’ve gotta get through this bull-headedness, shall I say, that this is what we’ve been doing for years and you do if we say.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. So, in your estimation, the mosque is under surveillance because people were scared.

Mr. Price: You say people, I gotta say the establishment, should we say, was scared, because we didn’t know. It was new. This was something new. Like today, we got new things in these gangs things that are goin’ on.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: I was watchin’ TV the other night, and it was talkin’ about the Spanish gangs in the different prisons now.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: And what they—how they communicate back and forth. I was very intrigued with it. And I says, “Well, hey, that’s kinda tight,” but if you don’t know what’s goin’ on, you don’t speak their language, it’s scary.

Laura Hill: Sure, sure. So, again, the two officers decide on their own they’re gonna force their way in. And then what happens?

Mr. Price: Well, the guys wouldn’t let ‘em in. They said, “You can’t go up—.” Well, you had to go up the stairs to get into the mosque, like an old-world theatre, and they said, “No.”

Laura Hill: Had there been anything in the surveillance up until that point that indicated the mosque needed to be entered?

Mr. Price: That I cannot say positively. Even if they had something in the mosque—let’s say there was a gun in there.

Laura Hill: No law against that.

Mr. Price: You still can’t—yeah. Do you go in a church ‘cause there’s a gun in the church? Or, do you go get a warrant and go—?

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: So you—there’s legal ways and there’s ways that, you know, “Hey, we’re right. We’re gonna do what we wanna do.”

Laura Hill: Sure. So, around the same time, I mentioned the Rufus Fairwell case is happening.

Mr. Price: Oh, Fairwell, I’m from that Plymouth area.

Laura Hill: Yep. I’ve been readin’ a lot about that. Um, the A.C. White case—what is that doing to the police force at that time? I mean, these are very, very public cases. They’re in the newspapers on a regular basis. How is the police force responding to these charges of police brutality?

Mr. Price: Well, back in—let’s see, A.C. White and Fairwell, I’d just come from my job on Plymouth Avenue. They did their investigation of it, but I couldn’t say what—the complete story of what went on at that time.

Laura Hill: Well, Fairwell, of course, is—he’s severely beaten. He ends up with a couple of broken vertebrae, and that case ends up going to the justice department. I mean, it’s one of the first times—.

Mr. Price: And that went just so far.

Laura Hill: Yeah. Tell me. How does that all affect the police force?

Mr. Price: It, it enf—what the hell would you say? It empowered ‘em more, because it didn’t go any farther.

Laura Hill: Okay. So they were able to stop it.

Mr. Price: Not the—I don’t know who stopped it, but it went just so far and it stopped, because I think he settled, but he settled outta court, with a monetary thing.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: But he could have really went farther on that.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm, okay. And so, I mean I think one of the things that comes out of the A.C. White case, of course, are the massive protests and the rallying for a Police Review Board. The NAACP is fairly involved. There’s a meeting at the Baden Street Settlement.

Mr. Price: The Urban League was involved there too.

Laura Hill: Well, the Urban League comes later, right? They’re after the riots, in ‘65.

Mr. Price: Yeah, but—.

Laura Hill: CORE is involved, there’s—.

Mr. Price: SNCC.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. Ministers are involved. You know, there’s a—it seems there’s a city council meeting to have a hearing about this Police Review Board. What did you think about the idea of a Police Review Board?

Mr. Price: It never bothered me that much, because I’m on the—if you do your job right, you don’t have anything to worry about.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: If you make a mistake, admit it. Say, “Hey, okay, we made a mistake, we won’t do that again.” But then, now, you gotta go to some of ‘em right off the bat—you don’t deny anything right off the bat until you look into it and find out.

Laura Hill: Were there people on the force that had something to fear from the Police Review Board?

Mr. Price: Maybe some, a few, yeah. We can admit that. But I know most of ‘em, no. As I said, if you do your job, you don’t have to worry about anybody reviewing yourself. I was in charge of internal affairs for years, and I used to always tell the fellas, “Tell me the truth and we can work around it, but if you lie to me—.” [Claps]

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: “I can’t help you.”

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: “Sure. You’re gonna make mistakes, you’re gonna be hot-headed, you’re human. What you’re going through, I’ve probably gone through it.” ‘Cause I can remember standing at the corner of Main and State and a woman spittin’ at me, spittin’ all down the front of me. Now, I could have got mad and punched her and everything else, but what would that look like in the papers the next mornin’? Right? You have to learn to subdue your passions, shall we say.

Laura Hill: Right. In these cases where police brutality was charged, was it frequently the same officers that were being charged? That were being accused, I should say?

Mr. Price: I can’t answer that definitely. Let’s see, I was in charge—I set up a program one time to find out—computers were just starting. And I says, well, what I wanna do, I want it to give me the age of the police officer, the height of the police officer, the weight of the police officer, the number of years that you’ve got in the department.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: And then every case that comes in, put this down, so we can calculate it and see if there’s—‘cause there’s always a story that says that the little guy’s the one that—or the littlest dog always makes the most noise.

Laura Hill: Right. The Napoleon Complex, right?

Mr. Price: Yeah, yeah. So I wanted to see if this was a theory, or was it true or not.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: I got fought. “No, you can’t do that.” “All right.” So I never could figure that one out.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: But you asked me if certain officers’ names came up every time. It depends on the area where they was working.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: If they’re workin’ in an active area, you’re gonna have complaints, period.

Laura Hill: Sure. I mean, well, I have heard anecdotes where there were certain officers who could work those areas with absolutely no problem. You know, I’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve said, “We knew who we could talk to. We knew who we could count on. And we knew who to avoid at all costs.” So, I guess I’m making an assumption that that was also common knowledge in the police force.

Mr. Price: I would say that that’s a true statement. Comin’ to college—there’s one professor nobody wants to have that professor, he’s tough, you know.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: So then you avoid him—I wanna take another course. Or if somebody’s being taught by another professor, I’ll take that professor. I don’t want to go through him, ‘cause he’s tough.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: It’s human.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. Mrs. Price, do you remember the Police Review Board? When that was—do you remember when the Police Review Board was an issue?

Mrs. Price: Not really. I didn’t get that involved.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: Well, she’s mad at me now, because a lot of stuff I did—and she says, “You never told me that!”

Laura Hill: Uh-huh.

Mrs. Price: He’s one that years later you hear about it, but at the time, you didn’t hear, you know.

Mr. Price: I never brought my work home.

Mrs. Price: No, he never did.

Laura Hill: Okay. You know, it’s interesting to be a researcher and to read these newspaper accounts. I mean, it’s splashed across the D&C, the Times-Union is putting out special editions and, you know, and then you talk to folks and they say, “Yeah, I didn’t even have any idea it was going on.” It’s hard to get a sense of how significant an event was in a community like Rochester.

Mr. Price: I can remember during the riots—I’m on Joseph Avenue. I git a call that, “They’re breaking in the store.”

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: “They’re stealing this; they’re takin’ this out the front door,” blah, blah, blah, and everything else. I’m sittin’ with another area officer in the car and I’m lookin’ and says, “That’s the store. Nobody’s there.” Comes over the air again. I call in, I says, “Who’s gettin’ this report?” It was a newspaper reporter. So I know him, so I get out and go over to the phone—‘cause back in those days now, we didn’t have the cell phone, no such thing.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: You know, you’ve got to go and find one of these phones and dial the numbers. So, I call him and I says, “Hey, where are you gettin’ your information from?” “Oh, they’re breaking—.” I says, “I’m sittin’ right across the street. I’m looking at the store right now.” Eh, today, we are the best of friends.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: And I talk to him all the time. Any time we have a meeting, where it comes up on the riots, he’s there and he’s, “Don’t tell ‘em about our story, Charlie.”


Mr. Price: But this is what happens. Somebody calls in, says, let’s make a big story outta this. And it’s the same thing on writing—who’s the best person who can write? What’s the verbiage—have they got good verbiage that they can write up the—? Outta one word, they can make a paragraph.

Laura Hill: Sure, sure.

Mr. Price: So that’s how I go with reporters.

Laura Hill: Yeah. I want to get to the riots, but before we do, you have mentioned conversations you’ve had with Malcolm X—how did you come to know him?

Mr. Price: Well, my job, at the time when I really got to know him, was—my job was to protect the notoriety people, shall we say, who come to the city of Rochester.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: I had Dr. King’s father, Malcolm X, what were those two brothers who had the—from SNCC. I can’t think of the two brothers. They were both reverends.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm, absolutely. SNCC or SCLC?

Mr. Price: SCLC.

Laura Hill: Uh, Andrew Young and James Bevel?

Mr. Price: No, they was the bigger ones. These were the ones that came to Rochester and set up a—they got an apartment house named for ‘em over on Bronson Avenue—McKee Boulevard, I’m sorry. They change the name every—I tell people Bronson Avenue—

Laura Hill: And they don’t know it. Okay.

Mr. Price: —that’s all I know, is Bronson Avenue. But I can’t think of their names right now.

Laura Hill: So you’re, you’re assigned to these people.

Mr. Price: Yes. My job is to make—they come here to Rochester, do their little thing and go home safe. And I had Bobby Kennedy, and who else? Nixon. I can’t think of some—there’re so many I can’t even keep up with ‘em

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: I’ll never forget the one with Bobby Kennedy. The guys said I turned white that night.

Laura Hill: You did? How come?

Mr. Price: Well, I had planned the whole setup—where he was gonna make his speech, how he was gonna go in, leave, what car he was gonna be in, what route we’re gonna take to go back to the airport.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: So we left this one area and we’re comin’ down Main Street, and we’re goin’ down Main Street. And I said—now the route was to go down Main Street to Chili Avenue, Chili Avenue to get to the airport.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: I’m in the lead car and I think everything’s goin’ good. I’m goin’ down Plymouth[6] and just as we passed Plymouth Avenue, I get down towards Washington Street and I says, “Where’s the rest of the group?” I look behind me. They had turned on Plymouth Avenue and went down Plymouth Avenue and went to Immaculate Conception. They had already planned this, shall we say—

Laura Hill: Detour?

Mr. Price: —detour. It had been planned by these other people, unbeknowing to me.

Laura Hill: Bobby Kennedy’s people.

Mr. Price: No, Rochester people for Bobby Kennedy and Bobby knew about it and all too.

Laura Hill: I see.

Mr. Price: But I didn’t, we didn’t know. So I’m goin’ down Main Street with the group that’s behind me with Bobby Kennedy, they turned down Plymouth Avenue and I’m goin’ down Main Street—whoa! I make a complete circle and come back and get down to Plymouth Avenue. He gets in an open car now he is—he’s standing up in an open car, addressing this mob of people in front of the Immaculate Conception.

Laura Hill: Of course, Immaculate Conception is a Catholic Church?

Mr. Price: Yes. The Catholic Church right there on Plymouth Avenue.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: And all these colored people are there. I know nothing of this. And the guy who planned it, he always kids me ‘til today; he’s still alive. He says, “Boy you should have seen your face.” I says, “You don’t know how I felt. I was gonna kill you.”

Laura Hill: Who plans this?

Mr. Price: The people who were pushing Bobby Kennedy at the time here in Rochester—the Democratic Party was pushing—

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: —but the lead person who set this up, I don’t wanna mention his name.

Laura Hill: Okay, fair enough.

Mr. Price: But he knows and I know, and he kids me today about it.

Laura Hill: Sure. So you—God, that’s a great story.

Mr. Price: Story? I’ve got a better name for it.


Laura Hill: So you are, then, assigned to Malcolm. When does he start getting people assigned to him? Because he comes a number of times. He comes in ‘62 and he speaks at the University of Rochester. Does he—?

Mr. Price: I’ve got pictures of that.

Laura Hill: Does he have people then?

Mr. Price: What do you mean, has people?

Laura Hill: I mean are people assigned to him to protect him?

Mr. Price: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Anytime he came to Rochester, when he went to the Colgate Divinity School.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: I’ve got pictures of that.

Laura Hill: And you were present at these events?

Mr. Price: Oh, I’m present.

Laura Hill: Tell me what he’s saying. Tell me how people are responding.

Mr. Price: Everybody’s responding—he was a very good person to listen to. I mean, and he could present himself very well.

Laura Hill: Of course.

Mr. Price: And some of those things he was saying were true, but you had to kinda sit back and really listen to him. And if you just wanted to say, well, he said so and so, and grab that first sentence and forget it, yes, maybe some of the things were a little outta line, but if you listened to him all the way down the line, he’s telling the truth. And as I say, Malcolm X was a very—I’ll never forget the time the FBI came to talk to me about him, after he got killed.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: And we were the best of friends. The FBI gentleman who came—but that morning when he came in to see me, he said, “Captain Price, so and so—.” Wait a minute now, we’ve been buddy-buddy for I don’t know how long—I get very, kinda, I don’t remember nothin’. I don’t know nothin’. You want to treat me this way, I don’t know nothin’.

Laura Hill: Right, right. I understand—do we need to break? Okay.

Laura Hill: Well, let me ask you—I was speaking to Goldstein Small this morning.

Mr. Price: That’s amazing.

Laura Hill: Well, it should be. Goldstein Small was one of the two Muslims that were arrested that night in ‘63, when officers forced their way through. Goldstein Small and Freddy Thomas were the two.

Mr. Price: Oh, I know Freddy.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm, were the two men. So, anyhow, Mr. Small was telling me that a man named Ray Ray Shabazz—.

Mr. Price: That’s the one. That’s the one that I was talking—Shabazz.

Laura Hill: Okay, good.

Mr. Price: I’ve got his picture and all at home.

Laura Hill: Well, if you have—Goldstein Small was trying to get some contact information from me for him, so if you have a contact, I would love to talk to him. Anyhow—.

Mr. Price: Shabazz, that’s the name I forgot.

Laura Hill: Ray Ray Shabazz. So, I started to ask—you are assigned to Malcolm X. Tell me about the conversations you were having with him. What was that exchange like? Did he want you to become a Muslim?

Mr. Price: No and yes, but, you know, I says—“You knew that”—I told him one time, “You know that I’m a Presbyterian.” And he says, “All right,” and you know, we start doing. But the, what do you say, he draws you in.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: Um, the way he would talk to you and all—you’re startin’ to lean, until you can say, “Whoa, I’m getting to that edge, get back! Let’s get back!” you know.

Laura Hill: Sure, sure.

Mr. Price: But that’s the way he was. We said, I remember that night up in the old Manger Hotel. We had both taken our shoes off and we’re sittin’ there, just talkin’ back and forth. It was just like two gentleman just sittin’ there talkin’, that’s all.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: He’s saying, “What about this and what about that?” and that was it. None of this here political ramifications of pushing on anybody, it was just sittin’, talkin’ back and forth.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: And I left that night and went home—I guess I left Irv there that night. And the next morning I picked him up and took him to the airport, “See ya.” “Okay, Malcolm.” And two nights later, he’s killed.

Laura Hill: And that’s in ‘65, of course.

Mr. Price: In New York City.

Laura Hill: Sure, sure. How frequently was he in Rochester?

Mr. Price: I would say at least four or five times. At least that, because when he first came here, nobody knew him—he was Big Red. And then he came to Colgate and he came to U of R here. I think he was called back another time, he was here too.

Laura Hill: Corn Hill Methodist. That’s the same trip as the Colgate trip, I think.

Mr. Price: Yeah, they were two together.

Laura Hill: So, the FBI is very interested in what he’s doing in Rochester.

Mr. Price: Oh, they were interested in well, did we know what happened? We had the—I think the word was out that he was on the hit list, shall we put it.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: And that’s why we—when he came here to Rochester the last time, that’s why he had twenty-four-hour surveillance and twenty-four-hour service right with him. I stayed with him and another officer, when I went home, I assigned another officer to stay all night with him, right there in the Manger Hotel.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: He stayed with him all night long, the next morning, when I got there, I picked him up and took him to the airport. We had an inkling that something was gonna happen—we didn’t know what.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: But we knew something was gonna happen.

Laura Hill: Right. How was he, how was he received in Rochester? How did black people receive him? How did white people receive him? How did the police department receive him?

Mr. Price: Well, the police department received him in the way that we—our job was to protect him, so that’s how we received him. As the people who brought him here, they were, in a way shall I say, mesmerized with him. And then there was the white people who wanted to know him and wanted to get in there, but there was that fear. Here’s this guy who can draw people. Here’s a man who can talk to people.

Laura Hill: Yeah.

Mr. Price: People would get riled up about what he says and how he says it, so there’s that group that’re saying, “Well, wait a minute, we’ve got to watch ourselves. What’s he doing? This guy’s getting too powerful. He’s too big.”

Laura Hill: Right, right. Okay, so I would like to move to the riots, but while we’re still on Malcolm—I had the opportunity to read the report that Chief Lombard puts together after the riots, and he actually says in this report that Malcolm X came into the community; he stirred up hate and convinced a bunch of black leaders that police brutality was the problem, and so really, Malcolm X is the reason why we have the riot. This is a small section of it. He does a very balanced job, I think, in sort of looking at the conditions, but he really saw Malcolm X as a catalyst for this. How would you respond to that?

Mr. Price: That he was a catalyst to the riots?

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: I would say he was a—I wouldn’t say catalyst, but I would say he, uh, how would you put it? He made people—when I say people, now, I’m saying black people—realize that they were being held down. That they had certain rights that they were being denied, and alotta people didn’t like that.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: But I couldn’t say he was a catalyst for the riot. The riots was an economic, I would say, and political—people were tired of being denied things that they actually should’ve, that was their given rights. So, there was alotta stuff in the riots. Now, you wanna go to the riots—I’ve kind of been in a number of panels. I just sit and listen. At some of them, I would say, “Were you there?” “Well, I read about it.” “Oh, okay, then you know all about it then.” I’m not gonna say any word.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: I was there. Now, you can say what you wanna, okay. And actually, the riots—it was a funny thing, I’ll put it that way, because, you see, I did a little research on it also, on my own. Reverend Brooks had come to the city of Rochester, got a permit to have Nassau Street blocked off for a block party from Nassau and Joseph to Joiner. Reverend Brooks lived in the third house in on the left, I remember the house. [Laughs] I knew Reverend Brooks, okay.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: He’s havin’ a party. You’re havin’ a party at your house. One person comes into your house now and starts pushin’ things around in your house—now what are you gonna do? You tell ‘em to stop, same thing he did. He went to this gentleman and says, “Look, you’re inebriated, you’ve had a few drinks—cool it.”

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: The guy that you have in your house is tearin’ your house up. You talk to him, he doesn’t abide. So now you call the police—Reverend Brooks calls the police. Now the police come to your house—they come to Reverend Brooks’. Now what is the police supposed to do? There’s a gentleman outta line. The gentleman at your house is a little outta line, now if the police walk away and leave him at your house, you’re mad. The police walk away from the riots, this gentleman down in—Reverend Brooks, his group is mad.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: So now the police are gonna take him away; they’re gonna make an arrest. Try to talk to him, you can’t talk to him, ‘cause he’s had a few to drink.

Laura Hill: Inebriated.

Mr. Price: All right, we’ll say that. Now—I have to laugh, you know on TV you always see these people being locked up. The guy puts his hands behind his back very easy and they put the hand cuffs on him. I have never, as long as I’ve been a police officer, been able to put hand cuffs on a guy, just puts his hands behind his back—it’s impossible. If I’m gonna put handcuffs on you right now today, you’re not just gonna put your hands behind your back.

Laura Hill: No, it’s against human nature.

Mr. Price: That’s true.

Laura Hill: You don’t want to be in bondage.

Mr. Price: But you see this on TV and everybody thinks, oh that’s the way they act. Forget it! Nobody wants to be handcuffed or arrested anyhow, right? So the gentleman gets a little riled up. So that’s the beginning, in my estimation—people are—it’s a hot night, everybody’s out, as I stated before—the politics, the economics and all this is still brewin’.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: Malcolm X has been here. He’s told these people some of their rights and all, which is true. People are a little teared, as you say. A.C. White’s case had been there, Fairwell’s case—these things are all boiling.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: They’re in this pot, this stew—boiling. It’s gonna boil, and it blew. Alotta people like to say the riots are because of this arrest—partially, okay, I’ll grant you. It was part of the arrest, but there was alotta other undercurrents underneath it.

Laura Hill: Tell me a little bit about—because they have been such a presence in the record of the riots, tell me about the police dogs.

Mr. Price: They first said—and I did the investigation of this. I headed the investigation—I didn’t do the complete investigation, I just headed it. They said it was Kenny Scott, who I knew—

Laura Hill: They?

Mr. Price: —they said he was a K-9 officer. He and his dog was down there. Kenny Scott wasn’t even workin’ that night. But somebody had put out this word—again, news people who’s got a good vocabulary, can write, said there was dogs there. There was no dogs. There was no dogs there that night.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: And they said Kenny Scott—“Hey Kenny—.” “I wasn’t even working that night.” So his dog—he wasn’t even there.

Laura Hill: How does this story about the dogs—the newspapers, okay—but it’s widely circulated in the community.

Mr. Price: All you’ve gotta do is get that word out, honey, and it goes. It goes.

Laura Hill: Okay. Then let me ask you this—why was the community receptive to a story about dogs? I mean, you can tell alotta stories. It doesn’t excite people, but you tell a story about the dogs—. [Snaps]

Mr. Price: See, the dogs was a problem from the beginning, coming into the department.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: Because they had the dogs in and they had these demonstrations. And some of the demonstrations were this guy with his big—like an armed guard.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: And it shows how the dog is grabbing the arm and all, and everybody goes for this. Plus, what did you see in the papers on Bull Connors, down in—? Nothin’ but dogs.

Laura Hill: Birmingham.

Mr. Price: In Birmingham, so this is in peoples’ minds—dogs. Fire hoses was another thing.

Laura Hill: That’s right.

Mr. Price: Did they call the fire department down? No, this is all in people’s minds. So, hey, all you gotta do is say, “Hey they had fire departments”—well, they were there.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: “Well they turned the hose on”—nobody knows it. “They turned the hose on people,” that’s all it takes.

Laura Hill: So, in your recollection, the dogs were not at the riot.

Mr. Price: They were not at the riot.

Laura Hill: And the hoses were not used on people at the riots.

Mr. Price: Now the hoses, they weren’t used on people at the riots; they were used to flush the streets some. I’ll grant you that, but they didn’t use ‘em on the people.

Laura Hill: Okay, okay. I mean, these are very, very important things.

Mr. Price: Not like they showed in Birmingham.

Laura Hill: Right, right. What were your specific responsibilities during the riot?

Mr. Price: Well, I was more—as I say, I just got outta hospital. I was in plainclothes ‘cause I’m working in the intelligence section of the police department. So I could walk up and down all the streets and nothin’ to it. I got arrested myself.

Laura Hill: In the riots?

Mr. Price: In the riots.

Laura Hill: What?

Mr. Price: Oh yeah.

Laura Hill: [Laughs] I don’t even know what to say about that. For what?

Mr. Price: I’m walking down Joseph Avenue and a state trooper says, “Get off the street.” And I say, “For what?” “’Cause I told you so.” “Well, I’m walking—.” “You’re under arrest.” “Okay, I’m not fightin’ you, all right.”

Laura Hill: You did not.

Mr. Price: Yes I did.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: They take me to the station. They say, “Charlie, what are you doin’?” I said, “He arrested me.” “That’s Sergeant”—yeah, I was a sergeant then, yeah. “That’s Sergeant Price! He’s walkin’ the street. He’s supposed to be down there; he’s trying to find out what’s goin’ on.” The trooper said, “Well, you didn’t tell me.” “You didn’t ask me, did you? You just told me I was under arrest; I couldn’t walk the streets!” That was another thing in the riots. This was a—now, I’m tryin’ to get a good—back in those days—.

Laura Hill: I’m sorry, you have just thrown me for a loop. I don’t even know what to say about that.

Mrs. Price: Typical.

Mr. Price: Typical.

Laura Hill: Typical, typical.

Mr. Price: It was like the time I came back from Newark, the riots in Newark, and you picked me up at the airport?

Mrs. Price: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: See, I had different handlers. I was also workin’ for the justice department.

Laura Hill: Hmm.

Mr. Price: I was sent down to the Newark riots. But let’s take the riots here in Rochester—back in ‘64, we didn’t have the beautiful air conditioning units that we have today.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: Not too many fans. Now, let’s take Joseph Avenue from the bridge, the railroad bridge, down to Herman Street.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: The houses go right up from the street, straight up. Most of ‘em are stores.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: The apartments are on the second and third floors. No air conditioning, right? Now they tell me, if you’re sittin’ there and you say, “You can’t come out your house. Go in your house.” So now you go in your house and you go up to the second floor. “Don’t look out that window. Don’t raise that window,” to get some air. “Hey! Don’t open that window; you maybe gonna drop somethin’. You’re gonna throw somethin’ out that winda’. Close that window!” Hey, I’m in my own house—you tell me I can’t come out to the street to get air. I’m in my apartment now and I want to open my window to let some air in and you tell me I can’t do it. Now, what am I gonna do, sit there? Like they say, don’t close your car doors and leave your animal in there or your baby. There’s—you know, human be’ins, “You stay in the house. Close that window.”

Laura Hill: Who is saying those things? Because now you have the Rochester police, Monroe County sheriffs, you have the state police, the national guard comes in—who’s running the operation at that point? I mean, you have the state police arresting the local police. [Laughs] Who’s running this show?

Mr. Price: Who was running the show at that time? Lombard was the chief, but then we had this civil defense area man and I can’t think of what his name was—the one who got killed in the airplane.

Laura Hill: Mmm. Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: I can’t think what his name was, now. And you’ve got—was Skinner—?

Laura Hill: Skinner.

Mr. Price: Skinner was the sheriff at the time. And I don’t know who was head of the state police at that time, but Lombard was the “wheel,” shall I say, but he had all these other people tellin’ him—the mayor, or the city manager, at that time—we didn’t have a mayor.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: It was the city manager.

Laura Hill: He’s ceremonial.

Mr. Price: No, the city manager was Lamb, Frank Lamb.

Laura Hill: It’s Homer is the city manager. Porter Homer, and then Frank Lamb is the Mayor.

Mr. Price: Well, Frank Lamb and I grew up together.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: We were buddies. Fought like cats and dogs with each other.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: They’d put us in the ring and it was somethin’.


Mr. Price: But actually, who was—the chief, I gotta say, would be Lombard.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: But he was takin’ his orders from whatever he got, information he could get.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: The thing was—don’t let anybody open the windows ‘cause they may throw somethin’ out the windows.

Laura Hill: Yeah—bricks, cocktails, mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: So you’ve gotta look on both sides of the story. Sure you tell somebody to close the windows, but then you start thinkin’ about it and you say, well, wait a minute—how far can we go?

Laura Hill: And so are you suggesting that once you do this—once you put the curfew out, once you force people back into their homes, once you tell them they can’t open their windows, that that increases?

Mr. Price: Certainly it would. Wouldn’t it increase you if I told you?

Laura Hill: Absolutely.

Mr. Price: If I said you can’t go out this room, you’ve gotta stay—what am I doin’?

Laura Hill: Absolutely. I don’t wanna put words in your mouth though, I wanna be sure I know what you’re saying. So the response, then, creates more of the problems that come the next night.

Mr. Price: And you’re—the response that you’re giving is what you’re getting first hand and you haven’t had time to digest it all. All you got to say, “Hey, we’ve got to do this now, period.”

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: This is way—the event is at the present time, and that’s all you can think of it then.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. So how and why do the riots end?

Mr. Price: Cool heads. People start to realize.

Laura Hill: People who?

Mr. Price: Both sides.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: Start to realize that no good is coming of this. The people who are supposedly—I use that word very loosely—rioting, and breakin’ this and doin’ all this. They’re cooling down. The police are cooling down. The national guard is kinda pulled back. [To his wife] Should we talk about Mac tryin’ to get home? From the national guard out in Cobbs Hill?

Mrs. Price: Ah yes.

Mr. Price: The national guard is bivouacked out there on Cobbs Hill.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: Now we live on Castlebar Road—I don’t know if you know about Castlebar road.

Laura Hill: I used to live on Castlebar Road.

Mr. Price: Well, we live at 125; we’ve been livin’ there since nineteen what? Sixty? Yeah, since 1960.

Laura Hill: I lived there for one year at thirty-two Castlebar Road.

Mr. Price: We live at 125.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. I saw your address and I thought, oh, that’s crazy. [Laughs]

Mr. Price: A friend of ours at the time, lived on Nunda Boulevard.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: His wife worked at, uh, Delco.

Mrs. Price: Delco.

Mr. Price: Delco. She worked the three to eleven shift.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: So he would pick her up to bring her home at night. Now, getting off the expressway at Culver Road, what d’you do? You take that—go through the park?

Laura Hill: Yeah, right.

Mr. Price: Okay, but the national guard is bivouacked there, right? Here you are in a nice car and you’re bringing your wife home. They stop him and say, “What are you doin’ here?” “Goin’ home.” “Don’ no n-word people live here”—now, he’s been livin’ there before us, on Nunda Boulevard. Lloyd Hurst lived on Castlebar Road.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: But now you bringin’ your wife home from work and somebody’s gonna tell you you don’t live here, you can’t come down this road? What are you talking about?

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: Oh, I just take it the national guard doesn’t know. They picked—the national guard who came in, maybe the guy that stopped him lives in Elmira, shall I say. How should he know who lives where and what?

Laura Hill: Sure, sure.

Mr. Price: He’s doin’ his job, but how do you feel when he says you can’t even go home?

Laura Hill: Mr. Price, I have to tell you, I’ve heard you talk tonight from both sides of the spectrum. How and what did all of this do to you? You’re a black man. You’re a police officer. You have friends that are being treated this way; you’re being treated this way. And yet you are asked to be, you are, an official of the city of Rochester. What does that do to you?

Mr. Price: Makes you, makes you think, that’s one sure thing. It makes you try to understand both sides of a story before you jump to conclusions. Even when I was in charge, as I say, of the internal affairs after I got promoted and all, and people would come in with complaints. Well, you know, the first thing is deny it. No. Well, wait a minute—it could be; let’s look into it first. It’s always two sides of a story.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: You just can’t take one person’s side and say, oh, that’s it. You have to look at it and then make a decision. Same way with the—I noticed alotta things that was goin’ wrong. I tried to correct ‘em. I’d bring the guys in and talk to ‘em, or I’d even talk to Lombard. I’d say, “Bill, it’s not right. This is not right. Can’t do it this way.” He’d say, “I wanna talk about it—well, let’s see if we can’t come to a happy medium here.” That’s what you have to do.

Laura Hill: Was the happy medium enough?

Mr. Price: Sometimes, but there’s somebody—you know, there’s always the one over here that you’re not gonna change—I don’t care what you do.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: Or what you say.

Laura Hill: Right. So the riots end, and you have a fury of activity—organizations developing, people coming together—“We have to do something. How did this happen to Rochester? The image is tarnished; we have to save it,” on and on and on. What did you make of all that, both of you?

Mr. Price: You want to talk for a while?

Mrs. Price: No, go ahead.


Mr. Price: What do I make of it? I make it that the city is turning; people are startin’ to think, people are startin’ to realize, “Hey, this happened in Rochester. It shouldn’t have happened in Rochester, but it happened. Now, what can we do to correct it?” Now, we’ve got people who are trying, we’ve got people who are sayin’, “Okay, we can go just so far and that’s it. I don’t care—we’re goin’ just so far and that’s it.”

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: And there’s others are sayin’, “Hey, that’s not right. We have got to do this; we’ve gotta do that, if this city’s gonna survive.” Same thing today right, same thing today—the economic condition—if we don’t start doin’ some changin’ now, we’re gonna be in a bad shape. But they start—people up at the top are sayin’, “Hey, this is what there’s gonna be and this is the way we’re gonna do it,” come hell or high water. They like it or not, we’re gonna do it.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: Is it right? Hey, I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and find out.

Laura Hill: What do you make of some of the organizations that come in after the riots? So, of course, the big one is FIGHT.

Mr. Price: FIGHT? Oh. [Laughs] I have no problems with FIGHT. I mean, the people who were in FIGHT when they first started—great. Some of ‘em in there, as I say, even when they first started were way off base, but some of ‘em were all right.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. What did FIGHT do right?

Mr. Price: It brought the people together, that’s what I was gonna say. I would say it brought people together. I mean, it brought people—when I say “people together,” it brought the people from both economic—from high economic to low economic together. And they’re sayin’, “Hey, we’re all one; we’ve gotta settle this.” I mean, you had the fraternities, the sororities, the churches, the low-economic group people gettin’ together, Action for a Better Community, Urban League—all of ‘em got together, working now.

Laura Hill: We’re all black; we’re all in this together.

Mr. Price: Well, yeah, that’s a way of sayin’ it that way, but we’re a human resource people. We’re gonna try and to get somethin’ done there.

Laura Hill: Okay, okay.

Mrs. Price: I think sometimes that the bad things that happen sometimes open up the doors to good things, because before the riots, the whole people, black people were here, here, but not spread out the way they are now. And jobs, and other areas—so, it was a bad thing, but it helped in the long run.

Mr. Price: Yeah, I would say, during the riots—I talked to some of these people now—and right after the riots, too. The way to express yourself was [bangs on the table]—Krushchev—“Now you’ve gotta do it this way.”

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: That was the only way you’d get your attention. Now, it’s a little different.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: You’ve gotta go to a person and you go, “All right, let’s sit down. Is there a way that we can settle this?” What’s your idea, what’s my idea? “Let’s come to a happy medium here. Can we sit down and talk?”

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: Now, if something will come of this, are we gonna write a nice big book and let it set on the shelf somewhere, or are we gonna take what we find here and what we discuss and put it into action?

Laura Hill: Right. Is FIGHT able to do that?

Mr. Price: FIGHT, today? No.

Laura Hill: FIGHT in 1965?

Mr. Price: I don’t think they were able in ‘65 to do that, ‘cause there’re too many fractions.

Laura Hill: Okay. Tell me about some of those fractions.

Mr. Price: Well, I mean you had too many different, you had different people and they’re tryin’ to run the whole show. Minister Florence was one of ‘em runnin’ the show. Then, you had the—some of the ministers got in there and they wanted to say, “Well, no, you do it this way.” And you’ve got your elite, and you’ve got the brainwave people tellin’ you what to do. You know, the ones that—the Harvard people. Harvard Law’s comin’ in to tell you what to do. You had Alinsky come in and tell you what to do. And, you got too many people tryin’ to run the show. It’s not gonna work.

Laura Hill: You mentioned Alinsky—what was Alinsky’s relationship to Rochester? What was his relationship to Florence?

Mr. Price: Well, he and Florence, I think, were very close. I didn’t get to meet Paul[7] that much. I knew of him. And I knew some people who knew of him in Chicago, and I kinda interviewed ‘dem to find out, “Hey, what kinda guy have I got here?” you know?

Laura Hill: Yeah. You’re in intelligence.

Mr. Price: Yeah, you know, before I open my mouth, what kind of guy is it? You know, Paul’s[8] this, he’s that and all. Art Ferrell came in here from Chicago who knew him very well.

Laura Hill: Art Ferrell.

Mr. Price: He was head, oh, he was head of Baden Street Settlement.

Laura Hill: Okay, okay. And so he knew Saul Alinsky from Chicago, I see. He didn’t like Saul Alinsky, if I remember correctly.

Mr. Price: Yeah, can’t read that man’s mind, but—[Laughs]

Laura Hill: Well, I think he was quite vocal about it, actually. I think he was quite vocal about it. Okay. I knew I knew the name, but I couldn’t place it. Okay, I see. So, what does the city do right, after the riots? If bad things lead to good things, that change has to happen, that process has to happen—what does the city do to facilitate those changes?

Mr. Price: Ah, Frankie tried, Frank Lamb tried to get—he and Connie Mitchell, I think it was—got together and they tried to set up some type of programs and all, but Frank’s hands were tied. I mean, he could go just so far.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm, and is that because he’s the mayor and the mayor doesn’t have the power? Why are his hands tied?

Mr. Price: Well, it’s political stuff. You’ve got fractions on both sides there. I mean, he’s—yeah, he was a Democrat, and you had the Republicans saying, “Eh, no, you know—.” Same thing that’s goin’ on in Washington today.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: “I want my little power here too.”

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: But he’s—as I say, Frank tried, and as I say, but he could go so far, but he made some boo-boos too.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: I told him. [Laughs] “Aw, Charlie—” I said, “You goofed.” In my sense—I don’t know if, in your sense, you may think you did the right thing.

Laura Hill: Right, right. And so, at this point, are you all involved in Mount Olivet?

Mr. Price: She is.

Laura Hill: Okay, you, you kept separate churches once you were married?

Mr. Price: Yep. Mmm-hmm.

Laura Hill: Okay, what’s being talked about at coffee hour at Mount Olivet around all this?

Mrs. Price: Well, actually, we don’t have that much coffee hour.

Laura Hill: You know, I was there a couple weeks ago and I thought, “Why don’t they have a coffee hour?”

Mrs. Price: Oh, you were at Mount Olivet?

Laura Hill: I was, mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: She is there every Sunday—every day.

Laura Hill: I think, it was the week of the art festival, the Corn Hill Art Festival, so it was a real small—

Mrs. Price: Yeah, I wasn’t there.

Laura Hill: —it was a small, small gathering that day.

Mrs. Price: Yeah, yeah.

Laura Hill: But what are people saying? I mean, you have your meetings, you’re all discussing—what’s being said?

Mrs. Price: Well, most of the meetings that I go to—you know, I go to Bible study, and of course, you know, that’s about the Bible, and then if they have a church meeting, it’s basically about what’s going on in the church and what they might want to happen in the church and things like that. You don’t really hear too much about anything outside. It’s just focused on what’s happening within the church.

Laura Hill: And it was like that in the 60’s as well?

Mrs. Price: Um, it was a little bit different.

Laura Hill: Whitaker. Reverend Whitaker was the minister then.

Mr. Price: Ah yes.[9]

Mrs. Price: And they don’t really get off the beaten track too much. Whatever’s goin’ on within the church, that’s what they discuss—or what they want to go on in there.

Laura Hill: What they are concerned with, yeah. Well, they had a very lovely baptism, that day that I was there.

Mrs. Price: Oh yeah? I wasn’t there that day.

Laura Hill: Very nice. And so, Presbyterian—what’s goin’ on in your church in the 60’s? How are they responding?

Mr. Price: Well, to tell you the truth, I wasn’t very active in my church in the 60’s.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: ‘Cause I was working with the police department and I was busy as—.

Laura Hill: Seven days on, one day off.

Mr. Price: Yeah, yeah. That one day wasn’t even off.

Mrs. Price: He worked nights too.

Mr. Price: Mmm-hmm. See, I didn’t get involved that much in the church. You know, I was just tryin’ to think—who was the minister at that time? Oh, Reverend Solomon. Reverend Solomon, Pogue had left, yeah, Reverend Solomon.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. What, um, what involvement, if any, did you have in any of your capacities with Colgate Divinity? Did you ever have occasion to go there? I mean, you mentioned bein’ there with Malcolm.


Laura Hill: Oh no, what have I gotten in to? You all are gigglin’.

Mr. Price: I think I remember up at Colgate, when they were going for the chair, they had that little uh, escapade up there.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: At Colgate Divinity School and the students had chained the doors and chained themselves.

Laura Hill: So this would be the Black Student Caucus.

Mr. Price: Yes.

Laura Hill: Oh, please tell.

Mr. Price: No, no, no, I don’t—.

Laura Hill: What d’you mean you don’t know anything about it?


Mrs. Price: You have to talk about your friend.

Mr. Price: No, no, I’m not going to talk about Dr. Thurman. He’s a very good friend of mine. [Laughs]

Laura Hill: Oh, please tell me what happened up there.

Mr. Price: Oh, it was funny because, as I say, I knew the—well I knew the—they were students, and I got to know ‘em better after—while they were there and I got to know ‘em better after.

Laura Hill: There was only like a handful of ‘em right? Nine, fourteen, something.

Mr. Price: That’s all. That’s about it. It was Bobby Saucer—what’s the guy? He was just here a couple of weeks ago at our church; he spoke at our church. Can’t think of his name now. And a number of others, but I knew some of ‘em. And the ministers and the teachers over there, I knew them—Reverend Jefferson and, what’s his name from Indiana? Marvin Chandler?[10]

Mrs. Price: Isn’t there somebody else?

Mr. Price: I’m tryin’ to think.

Mrs. Price: Reverend Thurman?

Mr. Price: Well, Thurman[11] was a student at the time. He was just a student.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: But I knew ‘em all, and they had this little settee, shall I say, up there. And Lombard—no, who was it—? Yeah Lombard was—was Lombard[12] chief then?

Laura Hill: Gosh, I think he’s not the chief anymore, because this is late—it’s ‘69, ’68. It’s ’68 or ’69 when this happens.

Mr. Price: No, it had to be Hastings. Yeah, Hastings.[13] Yeah, I was workin’ in the intelligence section then, too, ‘cause they told me about that they chained ‘em to doors and all up there. And the deputy chief—we used to call him Duke— we said, “What’ve you got?” He said, “Bolt cutters.” He had these big bolt cutters and he had to go up there, cut these bolts, so they could get in there and all. But, ah—.

Laura Hill: What—?

Mr. Price: That was something then, as I say, the students—they weren’t ministers yet, they were still students.

Laura Hill: What did they want?

Mr. Price: They wanted the—Dr. King chair, I think it was, the chair thing set up—yeah, that was it.

Laura Hill: Why did they have to take over a building in order for that to happen?

Mr. Price: Because the establishment said, no, they weren’t gonna do it.

Laura Hill: Okay. I mean, and this is an institution that has a very liberal, progressive background—they’re priding themselves on it.

Mr. Price: I know, but they weren’t thinkin’ of doing it until somebody said, yes, we want it.

Laura Hill: So the students locked themselves in this building.

Mr. Price: Bexley Hall.

Laura Hill: Bexley Hall, that’s right.

Mr. Price: Oh, you’re bringin’ back memories. I can’t remember all this.

Laura Hill: And the university, the seminary agrees they’re gonna have a Dr. King Chair.

Mr. Price: And it was all settled and that was it.

Laura Hill: Hmm. Okay. I don’t even know where to go now. You all had the giggles and I got sidetracked. [Laughter]

Mrs. Price: And he didn’t even tell you about it.

Laura Hill: Tell me, Mrs. Price.

Mr. Price: Well, Charles—Dr. Thurman—and I are very close. His first name is Charles, my name is Charles, and we have a good time together.

Mrs. Price: He’s a minister in, uh—

Mr. Price: Second Baptist Church.

Mrs. Price: —Second Baptist.

Laura Hill: Here in Rochester?

Mrs. Price: No, Mumford.

Laura Hill: Oh, Mumford, okay.

Mr. Price: That’s the oldest black church in this area.

Laura Hill: Yep, yep.

Mrs. Price: But every time they see each other, Reverend Thurman gets on him like white on rice. [Laughter] It is so funny.

Laura Hill: About?

Mr. Price: Any old thing.

Mrs. Price: Well, when he was at Colgate, you know, whatever he was involved in, he just keeps reminding him.

Laura Hill: What were you involved in?

Mr. Price: Oh—.

Mrs. Price: Oh come on, Chuck, tell her.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. You don’t make a very good interview subject, you know. [Laughs]

Mr. Price: Well, I learned a long time ago—.

Laura Hill: I bet you have. If we could move away from the particulars for just a little bit, I’m sure you all must be getting tired—can you tell me how, how does a police department, how does a, um, an investigative department, an intelligence department, cope with these changes in the black freedom struggle in this period? I mean, you move from this non-violent, Dr. King, Civil Rights Movement into Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Black Power, havin’ to cut open the doors of a seminary with bolt cutters—how do you all, as a department, cope with those changes?

Mr. Price: I guess you have to go with the flow, as they say, but you—to me, I just say, well hey, it’s another era, it’s another day, we had the 60’s, passed. Now we’ve got the kids here supposedly rioting—not rioting, but on the dope scene and there’s the gang scene. You have to cope with these problems as they come along. That’s how I felt about it, anyhow.

Laura Hill: Did people in the department, in the city—did they turn to you, Mr. Price, because you were black? Did they think that somehow you would have a better understanding of how to cope with these problems?

Mr. Price: In a way, some of ‘em did, and in the other way, as I said, they had been set in their ways and that was the way they were gonna do it.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: Until you just sit down and try to talk to ‘em, explain to ‘em and show them that you could do it. Many times, a certain instance would come up and I’d say, “No, no. Sit down for a minute, just take it easy.” Or they’d wanna make a statement, and I’d say, “No, don’t make any statement at the present time, ‘til you find out if it’s true or not.”

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: I mean, we had the problem there when James’ wife—I can’t think of that girls’ name. Jim—who’s head of ABC?

Laura Hill: McCuller?

Mr. Price: Jim McCuller. When Jim McCuller’s daughter got shot, it was a big story on that. And it was a big story about what happened at the hospital, when the daughter was brought into the hospital. And they wanted to make a statement, I said, “Don’t make any statements. Let’s find out what’s true first.”

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: If you’ve got something to back up what you’re sayin’, okay. Just don’t go out there and say, “She did this or they did this or somebody—.” Like I was telling you about the story of breakin’ into the store—go check and find out first.

Laura Hill: Right, right. I, um, something about you bringing up these particular incidents—I have to know, I’ve heard some fantastic stories about the FIGHT election where Bernie Gifford replaced Franklin Florence as the president.

Mr. Price: Bernie? Oh yeah.

Laura Hill: I have heard some amazing stories about that night—gun battles, arrests, kidnapping, I mean, all kinds of fantastic stories. Tell me.


Mr. Price: I was not there at that time. I’ve got to admit, I was not there.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: I’ll admit I was not there, but I heard stories, too. But, Bernie Gifford, I know him well; I knew Franklin Florence[14] well too. Both of ‘em.

Laura Hill: What kind of relationships—?

Mr. Price: What was the other’s name? [15]

Laura Hill: Ray Scott?

Mr. Price: I know Ray. Ray’s still here.

Laura Hill: Oh, DeLeon McEwen.

Mr. Price: McEwen.

Laura Hill: Yeah, McEwen.[16]

Mr. Price: Mmm-hmm.

Laura Hill: What kinds of relationships did those people have with the police department? Those presidents of FIGHT?

Mr. Price: Florence had a, I would say, a, oh, it was not a smooth relationship, shall I say, with the police department. Bernie Gifford, yes. You could sit down with—Bernie was very sharp. You could sit down and talk with Bernie.

Laura Hill: Right.[17]

Mr. Price: Who was the other one now?

Laura Hill: Ray Scott.

Mr. Price: Ray Scott. [18]Now, Ray Scott was a different individual altogether. He was very smooth, but he was very caustic if he wanted to be.

Laura Hill: Hmm.

Mr. Price: He could be very caustic, but he was very smooth. I just saw Ray out the other day. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time.

Laura Hill: How was that?

Mr. Price: Very good. We stood—“Hey, Charlie!” “Hi, Ray! How’re you doing?” You know, it’s one of these things. We, as I say, I had that relationship with him.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: Now, professional-wise? Reverend Scott? Best guy in FIGHT. One of these kinds of things, but we sat down and talked, friends. Minister Florence and I got along, but it wasn’t that smooth way, shall I say.

Laura Hill: Did they seek you out? Did they come to you in your role on the police force?

Mr. Price: Well, they would come to my office because they knew if they—they’d come to my office with their complaints. If they had complaints, they’d come to my office and I’d say—I’d be at the table there, and I’d say, “Well, come on in. Let’s sit down. Let’s talk and find out what this is all about.”

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: And if you’ve got a complaint, give me the complaint. I’ll handle it. You know, give me a week or two and I’ll get back to you and tell you what, if you’re right or wrong. And if you’re—many times, I came back to Reverend Florence and told him, you know, “You were wrong.” But, that didn’t hit with him.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: But the other ones, I could come back and explain to them. He says, “What happened?” “Oh, we didn’t know this.”

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: “Yeah, they said this, but here, let’s go by a time schedule,” which we had down and all.

Laura Hill: Right, right.

Mr. Price: “Now could this happen within this span? Well, no, it couldn’t.” Well—.

Laura Hill: Did the police department feel the need to keep intelligence on FIGHT?

Mr. Price: Mmm-hmm. Oh yes. I’ve gotta say that, because you wanna know what’s going on in your city, especially if you’re going to be patrolling it, you’ve got to know what’s going on. ‘Cause you’ve got to pass that information down on to your commanders, let ‘em know what’s going on. That’s the way I felt, and I—when I was commander, as I say, I was commander at Genesee section, I wanna know what’s going on in my area, so I can let my troops, the guys that work for me, let them know what’s goin’ on. You have to have that up and down communication.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. In, in broad form—I’m not asking for specifics, but in broad form—how do you go about, in any situation, gathering that intelligence?

Mr. Price: Ah, by knowing people.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: And knowing the area too. I could sit at my desk and get on the phone and call somebody and find out if a—I can call, “Hey. This is Charlie Price. What’s goin’ on?” “Oh, Charlie, so and so and so and so—” “Well, wait a minute.” And the guy would say, “He’s way off base. This is what happened and so on and so one. Don’t tell anybody, but this is what happened.” “Don’t worry about it. It’s all taken care of.”

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. One of the things that I have been able to sort of glean from these interviews that I’ve done is that there were incredible informal networks throughout the community. Um, you know, I’ll tell you, Darryl Porter relayed a story where he would find himself in a situation where there was about to be a gang fight and he knew they were gonna lose, so rather than not face it, he would call Connie Mitchell and say, “You need to get the police here at this time,” so on and so forth.

Mr. Price: Oh, that went on.

Laura Hill: And then Connie Mitchell would call, Lord knows, but that these information networks, these informal networks were the heart of the community.

Mr. Price: It’s the same thing even when they had the riots at Attica.

Laura Hill: Tell me about that.

Mr. Price: Ah, very good friend of mine—they wouldn’t let me go up there, but a very good friend of mine went up there. We’d sit down and talk and when he came back he’d talk to me at night about it. And I’d tell him, okay, blah, blah, blah. Next morning, I’d be at work and I knew what was gonna go on the next day.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: But that’s the information that goes on. But I have to laugh—or I shouldn’t say laugh, but—Darryl Porter, if he was twelve- to thirteen-years-old at the riots, we’re lucky.

Laura Hill: Yeah.

Mr. Price: If he was that old. I have known him since he was a baby. And I always said, “Darryl why don’t you stop your noise.” I says, “You were nothing but a little baby, for god sakes, when this went on. Now, you’re tellin’ everybody”—‘cause we’ve been on panels together.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: And, I says, “You’re tellin’ all these people about what you did and all this.” Can you imagine a thirteen-year-old or twelve-, thirteen-year-old telling these teenagers or nineteen- or twenty-year-old guys what to do? Can you imagine that?

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: Now, sure, you were twelve to thirteen—there’s a store that was just broken into, sure you’re gonna go in and grab a shirt—what teenager isn’t gonna do it? You don’t have any and here’s one laying out there—sure you’re gonna grab it.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: So don’t tell me, “I went and did this and did that—.” Okay.

Laura Hill: You’re making me want to check all my stories with you now.

Mr. Price: I know.

Laura Hill: There was another story we had—of the looting in the riots. We had, there was just another story that, you know, in the midst of the looting, in the middle of the riots, people stealing stuff, people takin’ stuff—two cases of liquor were brought to a house and the people that lived in the house said, “No, no, no. We don’t want that.” Two police officers show up, they say, “Hey, we’ll take it.” Into the trunk of their car.

Mr. Price: I can see that happenin’.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: And I can also see—can you visualize this? I know of—one, two, three, maybe four stores, on Joseph Avenue—heights of the riot, all during the riot, never touched.

Laura Hill: Why?

Mr. Price: Because they treated people with—people who lived up in that area knew that these people treated them very well. Max Freeland—I can see Max standin’ in front of his store now and I said, “Max, they aren’t gonna bother you.” He said, “I know it, Charlie, but I’ve gotta be here.” What’s the name of the meat place? Cohen’s. They never bothered Cohen’s.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. Mangione’s store.

Mr. Price: Hmm?

Laura Hill: The Mangione store.

Mr. Price: Oh, that was over farther, that’s why.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: See, that was over three or four streets over.

Laura Hill: Too far over, okay.

Mr. Price: Yeah, that was over toward St. Paul Street. No, they wouldn’t touch Mr. Mangione. I used to kid him. Even Chuck—when I was walking Clarissa Street, Chuck was only twelve-years-old—twelve- or thirteen-years-old—and he’d want to come in the Pythod to play, he said, “No, Chuck, you can’t come in. Out, out.” Father’d come up to me, “I’m here with him.” I’d say, “Okay, as long as you’re here with Mr. Mangione, you can come in,” but other than that, he can’t come in. I kid him every time I see him—“Remember, I wouldn’t let you in the door?”

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: And Gap, I know Gap. But, as I say, those four or five stores, never touched.

Laura Hill: So the stores that are—?

Mr. Price: Even liquor stores—Louie Lipsy’s place, never touched. Cotton Club—never touched. Ah, Little Harlem—what the heck was—? Can’t think of his name. Had a gas station right next door—never touched.

Laura Hill: It’s a discriminating mob.

Mr. Price: They knew the ones, the stores, who had treated them unfairly—how you say the word.

Laura Hill: Were those stores hit first?

Mr. Price: I would say so. I would say so.

Laura Hill: When people are—?

Mr. Price: Actually, the riot—the breaking in and looting, didn’t start until about, oh I would say almost four, three or four o’clock to five o’clock in the morning.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: Because they turned over Bill’s car and all, and then they had to clear the streets and all that. It was really a later time that the so-called rioting or breaking into stores took place.

Laura Hill: Okay. What would you call it, if not rioting?

Mr. Price: It was a riot—well, my estimation of a riot is, you know, they’re fighting somebody, back and forth.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: I’m fighting you, we’re rioting together.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: Against each other, but when you’re breaking into a store and just taking out something like that, you’re looting. You’re taking revenge out on that store, but you’re not hurting a individual.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: You’re hurting an individual, but not physically.

Laura Hill: Yeah, yeah. Um, I have a feeling I could sit here and talk to you all night, Mr. Price, but I probably oughta let the two of you get on with your evening.

Mr. Price: Oh, we got nothin’—we’re midnight people.

Laura Hill: Oh good Lord, I’m in bed by ten o’clock every night.

Mrs. Price: Really?

Mr. Price: Oh lord.

Laura Hill: I have a four-year-old son; I’m up at 6:00 a.m. every morning, too.

Mr. Price: I never go to bed before one o’clock.

Laura Hill: I’m on that kind of schedule. Are there things—before we wrap up—are there things that I have failed to ask you about, that you think are central to understanding this period? Other things I’ve missed?

Mr. Price: Mmm-mmm.

Mrs. Price: I don’t think you missed much. Very good.

Laura Hill: Thank you.

Mr. Price: I would have to tell you that I was, as I said, I was working for about two, three different departments, because, you see, in the army, I was in the army intelligence.

Laura Hill: Oh yeah, I’m waiting—right back in. Okay. You failed to mention that.

Mr. Price: Yeah, I know. And then when I came back here and I went into the police department, I was still in army intelligence, and then I went into—the justice department wanted me to work with them. So when they had the riots around, down the country, they’d call me in to go see. I got called to Newark.

Laura Hill: Tell me.

Mr. Price: In the Newark riots. And that’s the time when we were—I was coming back here to Rochester. Now, I had been in Newark. I called Bill Lombard, I said, “Bill, Nassau Street tonight, by the Sibley warehouse—Sibley trucking place, they’re gonna have races.” When I say races, I mean they’re gonna have drag races.

Laura Hill: Drag races, sure, sure.

Mr. Price: I said, “There may be a little problem.” I’m callin’ from Newark, that must have been about three, four o’clock in the afternoon. “Okay.” I catch a plane, must have been about seven, eight o’clock to come back here. I get off the plane, policemen are standing at the desk. They sent—well, he wasn’t a policeman. He was Bill’s administrator.

Laura Hill: Assistant?

Mr. Price: Assistant at the airport. She’s[19] come to pick me up. They say, “You’ve gotta get down to Joseph Avenue and Nassau Street right away. They’re starting to riot.”

Laura Hill: This is ‘67?

Mr. Price: Yeah. And I’m saying, “I called ‘em and told ‘em that.” They didn’t believe me. Now, I’m supposed to go to the riot. I said, “Look, tell ‘em I’ll be down as soon as I can; I’ve got to take my wife home. She’s got the car here, I’ll take her home and I’ll get down there.” Now we go down Scottsville Road, ‘cause I’m going to take Elmwood Avenue to home.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mr. Price: I get to Scottsville bridge, Scottsville—the bridge that goes over the canal—sheriff’s officer there, “You can’t come in the city of Rochester.” “Why?” “They’re rioting down there.” “No kiddin’.” “Turn around and go back.” Okay, I reach in my pocket—“Oh, Captain Price, I didn’t know ‘dat was you.”

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: I said, “Yeah, I’ve got to take my wife home. I’m goin’ down there.” “Okay.” But here, I’m stopped again. So don’t entertain how many different stories I can tell you—I can tell you a million different stories.

Laura Hill: How do you not become bitter?

Mr. Price: I don’t know. It’s my nature I guess. She says I smile about everything.

Mrs. Price: He doesn’t get angry about anything.

Laura Hill: He just lets it go, really?

Mrs. Price: Hmm?

Laura Hill: He just really lets it go?

Mrs. Price: Mmm-hmm.

Laura Hill: Do you get angry?

Mr. Price: Oh yes.

Laura Hill: Come on, now. Let her answer somethin’.

Mrs. Price: Yes, I do.


Laura Hill: I mean, you’re sitting in the car; you’re stopped twice on the way home.

Mrs. Price: Well, I wouldn’t—I can’t say that I would get angry with that. I might’ve had some fear, you know.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mrs. Price: But the anger wouldn’t really have been there. Just being afraid of them having the riot, and then having to be involved in it, you know.

Laura Hill: Right. Did these issues of race ever make you angry?

Mrs. Price: Yeah. It does, but they’ve gotten better, so you know, hopefully, over the years they’ll continue to get better.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mrs. Price: But, uh, sometimes I really don’t understand how people feel the way they do about other people.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. Can you remember a particular incident that really got under your skin?

Mrs. Price: Um, I guess nothin’ really—just like I said, you know, I think it—when I was applying for a job in the office, I think that was a racial thing. And there have been times when, you know, people look at you, and they ignore you or don’t wait on you when they should and things like that, but other than that, I’ve been very fortunate. I know, when I was a teenager, I used to go to Virginia, because that’s where my parents are from, and I went to the store to get some ice cream and I’m standing here at the counter and the freezer is here and the door is open so I can see the ice cream. And I said to the man, “I want some ice cream.” He says, “We don’t have any.” I said, “Yes, you do.” “No, I don’t.” “Yes, you do.” “No, I don’t.” Something told me to be quiet, you know, and I walked out. And then, another time, my cousin and I, we were in Virginia and we went in to get some ice cream at another—like a soda fountain place. It had a long counter and we walked in and it was like this, you know, an L-shape. The man was standing down here, so we walked down and asked for some ice cream, an ice cream cone. And he says, “Step down there.” And I thought it was just gonna be closer for him, and then I realized that we would not be served here. We had to go down there to be served. But the crazy thing, when we got ready to leave, the sheriff was there and he held the door open for us. I said, “This place is really crazy.”


Mrs. Price: But there have been, you know, little things like that. Fortunately, I haven’t had any big things, bad things, to happen.

Laura Hill: Sure.

Mrs. Price: But alotta small things. Then you hear it from other people, too. You know.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. Um, okay. So if you were thinking about people that live here in Rochester, people that were around during this period of time, who would you recommend that we talk to?

Mrs. Price: That are living now?

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: Very few.

Laura Hill: We can’t talk to the dead. [Laughter]

Mr. Price: There’s very few. I don’t—you’ve talked to Connie already?

Laura Hill: We did. To Connie and John, both.

Mr. Price: You just mentioned a name that goes back to that story that I told you about, but I’m not going to say which one.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: Ah, really, there’s not too many people, because even like the people you’re talking to now, like Connie Mitchell and Johnny, they came here at about the time of the riots.

Laura Hill: Yep.

Mr. Price: And then we’ve got a lot of people who came here, I would say after 1947, ‘48. But now, you read the paper—or if somebody does an interview with them—they know all about Rochester.

Laura Hill: Right.

Mr. Price: They’re the historians of Rochester. I sit there and shake my head. Freddy Jentons, but Freddy wouldn’t come here, I know better than that.

Mrs. Price: What about Reverend Thurman?

Mr. Price: Well he didn’t get here, didn’t come here in the fifties—sixties.

Mrs. Price: Oh yeah.

Laura Hill: When was he here?

Mr. Price: Hmm?

Laura Hill: When did he come here?

Mr. Price: I would say about—at the time of the—up at Colgate Divinity School.

Laura Hill: So, late sixties.

Mr. Price: Yeah, he was in the late fifties.

Laura Hill: Late fifties he comes? Or late sixties?

Mr. Price: Fifties.

Laura Hill: I would like to talk to him.

Mr. Price: Yeah, Reverend Thurman.

Laura Hill: I’d be real interested in talkin’ to him.

Mr. Price: Charles Thurman.

Laura Hill: Charles, right, because you have the same name.

Mrs. Price: He lives somewhere here in the city.

Laura Hill: Okay.

Mr. Price: But I can’t think of any—.

Mrs. Price: So many of ‘em are gone.

Mr. Price: I know.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. Well, I have to tell you, when Irene Ingram said that she went to church with you and she suggested—.

Mrs. Price: Oh, Irene?

Laura Hill: Irene did—suggested that we get up with you.

Mr. Price: Oh my God, I remember when she came here too.

Laura Hill: Yeah?

Mr. Price: Yes, oh yes.

Laura Hill: They, um, the two of them crack me up. They are one funny couple.


Mrs. Price: He just turned eighty.

Laura Hill: He did—Oh yeah, the 29th. I meant to give him a call and I forgot. July 29th, yeah.

Mr. Price: Oh, he’s a youngster.

Laura Hill: Oh yeah, absolutely. So they all actually suggested that I try to get with you two and I’m so glad that I did.

Mr. Price: Yeah, I’m only eighty-five.

Laura Hill: You are not! Well, you would have to be.

Mr. Price: I’m eighty-five.

Laura Hill: You know, when you told me, you said—.

Mr. Price: Born 1923.

Laura Hill: Oh my God, when you said that you joined the police force in ‘47, I thought, “He can’t have that right.” I was trying to do the math real quick, but I couldn’t pay attentionand do the math, so I stopped doing the math. Are you really eighty-five? That’s amazing.

Mrs. Price: I’m not, but he is.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Price: Yup, born and raised in old Rotten-chester, as I say. She gives me hell when I call it Rotten-chester.

Laura Hill: Mmm-hmm. Wow, that is impressive.

—End of Interview—


[1] Mr. and Mrs. Price made additions/corrections to this transcript in March 2009. Spelling corrections are reflected in the transcript text. Content additions and corrections that change the transcript text have been included in footnotes.

[2] Mrs. Price later stated that she also attended Number Thirty-Nine School and Number Nineteen School in Rochester.

[3] Mrs. Price later stated that Mr. Price did not go to West High; he attended and graduated from Madison High School.

[4] Columbia Avenue, Mrs. Price later clarified.

[5] Mr.Price later identified: Edward L. Miller, also known as Edward Lee Shabazz.

[6] Main St., Mr.Price later stated.

[7] Saul Alinsky

[8] Saul Alinsky

[9] A portion of the original was removed at the request of the interviewees.

[10] Reverend Marvin Chandler

[11] Reverend Charles Thurman

[12] William Lombard

[13] Thomas Hastings

[14] Reverend Franklin Florence

[15] A portion of the original was removed at the request of the interviewees.

[16] A portion of the original was removed at the request of the interviewees.

[17] A portion of the original was removed at the request of the interviewees.

[18] Reverend Raymond Scott

[19] Mrs. Price

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