A mural honoring Black Crusader Malcolm X, and Rochester Activists Franklin Florence and Connie Mitchell proudly adorns the wall of East High School, but someone is missing from that photo.
The mural, titled “Hidden Figures” was a project created in 2022 by writer Erica Bryant, photographer Quajay Donnel and Artist Ephraim Gebre. The three worked with Shaun Nelms—who was East High Superintendent at the time—to memorialize Malcolm X’s final speech in Rochester, NY.
It was February, 1965 and Malcolm X’s had come to Rochester to give what would be his final speech. He spoke at Colgate Rochester Divinity School and at the Corn Hill Methodist Church. Several days later he was killed while speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.
The church has since been torn down and the school has moved from its South Goodman Street campus to the Village Gate on Goodman Street.
So, who’s the “Hidden Figure” in the mural?
Her name is Doris Price.
Price was known as a community organizer in the Rochester community in the 1960’s and worked with Mitchell and Florence during Malcolm X’s visit to Rochester in 1965.
She is credited for having run the first Black Bookstore in the City of Rochester called Price Brown Afro American Bookstore.
“She had a mission to educate kids on the history of this country and the fact that a lot of Blacks were being left out of our history,” says her son-in-law Declan Brown.
Brown, an East High School graduate, was co-owner of the store along with his wife Sheila (Doris Price’s daughter). They ran the bookstore from Price’s home at 227 Edinburgh Street from 1965 to 1971.
“She and her husband Ted (Theodore) Price were very notable on Rochester’s West Side,” Brown says. “They were Realtors and had a reputation for taking in families and finding people a place to live when they couldn’t find housing.”
Brown says it was a time in Rochester history when Blacks were not welcomed at many “white” establishments like hotels and some restaurants and couldn’t live in certain neighborhoods.
“She believed in helping people… she helped a lot of Black families get housing,” he said.
Gloria Winston Al-Sarag was a columnist in Minority Reporter from 2008 to 2019. She has advocated to get recognition for Price for many years.
“I was there when the iconic pic of Connie, Doris Price, Minister Florence and Malcolm X was taken,” she wrote in 2018 in one of her weekly columns titled ‘Straight, No Chaser’. “For some reason when the pic is often published, Doris Price seems to fall on the editing floor and is cut off.
Winston Al-Sarag says Price was very instrumental in establishing the Rochester chapter of the Black Panther Party and helping to engage Malcolm X for his visit to Rochester in 1965.
Price left Rochester in 1971 and relocated to California. She never held any political office and was no longer visible on the ‘Rochester scene’. Some speculate that may be one of the reasons she gets overlooked.
Erica Bryant, who spearheaded the project says the photo was more coincidental to the undertaking.
“This was a project to honor those three individuals,” she explained. “While I realize the importance of honoring and recognizing Doris, the project wasn’t established for that purpose.”
Bryant says she is hoping to do something at a future date to honor Price and her contributions to the Rochester community.
“I don’t see the justification,” says Al-Sarag. “I don’t know why she gets overlooked. She was active in the community for many years and made some positive contributions.”
Winston Al-Sarag says while she doesn’t blame Bryant and her team for the oversight in the mural, she is bothered by the fact that the cropped photo has been circulated for years.
“At some point someone made the assessment that Doris wasn’t as important as Connie, Malcolm or Minister Florence, and decided to crop her out” she said. “That’s what bothers me the most.”
Nelms, now Vice President for Community Partnerships with the University of Rochester, says when it was brought to his attention that there was a fourth person in the photo, the mural was already almost completed.
“When we embarked on the (mural) project we did not select the image, it was provided to us. I never thought to double check if someone was cropped out. It just wasn’t something we ever imagined,” stated Nelms. “I honestly believe it was an oversight and certainly not intentional.”
Nelms says Bryant and her team did make a public acknowledgement at the unveiling ceremony and mentioned Doris by name, recognizing her contribution to the community and the oversight.
Price died on November 14, 2000, but Brown says he cherishes the lessons he learned from her.
“I loved her dearly,” he said. “I learned a lot about organizing from her… not just in the political sense but knocking on doors and informing people. She was focused on educating herself and other people, which is what led her to open the bookstore.
Brown lives in San Diego, California now and serves on several boards including ABC Youth Foundation, an organization empowering inner-city youth and offering positive alternatives to the prevalent drug and gang violence in their communities.
“She was very proactive and instilled a sense of community and activism in me which has helped lead me to who I am and what I am doing now.”