Interview, Frederick Denson
Frederick Denson (b. 1937) was born in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. After high school, he received a scholarship and enrolled at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study engineering, becoming one of only three black students at the school. He graduated in 1959 and eventually found work at the United States Naval Propellant Plant near Washington, DC. Denson earned a law degree from Georgetown University and accepted a job as a patent attorney at Kodak in 1967. He later established his own legal practice to serve black inventors. Denson hosted and co-produced a news show in Rochester called “Black Dimensions,” which emphasized the positive aspects of Rochester’s African American community. He was also involved with the community organizations FIGHT (Freedom, Integration, God, Honor, Today) and the Urban League, and he ran for various local political offices.
In this interview, Denson discusses the racism he encountered in the white-dominated field of engineering, recalling an interview with Kodak in which he was told that he would not be happy in Rochester because “there are no colored people there in your social or educational strata.” He also notes his experience with housing discrimination in Rochester in the late 1960s.