Florence, a nationally renowned civil rights activist and icon.
After the city of Rochester 1964 rebellion, officials at city hall made a commitment to hire more minorities, but executives of big industries like Kodak were not on board. The companies were vowed to their policy to not hire or train, black workers with blue collar skills for positions other than custodial.
The companies discriminatory hiring practices lit a flame that eventually galvanized hundreds of black protesters to take to the streets that led to Kodak’s administrative offices with signs saying, ‘Kodak Snaps the Shutter on Negroes.’
A strategy to unite the dissidents into a political force was formulated by Minister Franklin Florence Sr., former Pastor of Reynolds Street Church of Christ.
Florence decided to invite Saul Alinsky, a political activist from Chicago, Illinois to help organize the movement. As a consultant, Dr. Freddie Thomas advised Florence in closed meetings. Florence relied on his knowledge as a former senior scientist at Eastman Kodak and his experiences as a community organizer with the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia, which was led by Pan African Leader Marcus Garvey.
Inspired by the biblical phrase, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal light,” the voice of the black community in Rochester was organized under the name FIGHT (Freedom, Integration, God, Honor, Today) in June 1965.
Subsequent to establishing FIGHT, several white churches headed by Georgianna Sibley (building name after her downtown) united to support the demands of FIGHT, forming the organization, Friends of FIGHT.
After a two-year struggle, Kodak agreed to create a program that will train and employ more than seven- hundred minorities, over an eight-month span in 1967.
As a social-political organization, opportunities to employ minorities were limited, so FIGHT morphed into a small manufacturing firm in 1967 and reemerged as FIGHTON (now Eltrex Industries).
The new company exhibited non discriminatory hiring practices and demanded equitable consideration and awarding of contracts from the City of Rochester and firms, including Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb.
****The information above is an excerpt from the book: Silent Leader- The Biography of Dr. Freddie L. Thomas
Learn more at: drfreddiethomas.com
Southwest Tribune Newspaper, Rochester, New York