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Florence M. Rice

Florence M. Rice was born on March 22, 1919, in Buffalo, New York. She is the founder of the Harlem Consumer Education Council. During her childhood, Rice spent several years in the Colored Orphan Asylum and in several foster homes in New York. Upon completion of the eighth grade, Rice left school for work as a domestic seamstress where she became a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Rice spoke out against the discriminatory practices against African American and Latino workers. She participated in Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.’s 1962 congressional hearing, which probed dressmaker union’s policies, and after testifying, she was blacklisted.

In the 1960s, Rice founded the Harlem Consumer Education Council, waging a war against corporations who discriminated against African Americans and other minorities. The Council organized many successful New York City boycotts and picket lines against grocery stories, furniture stores, and individuals found to be overcharging minorities. Rice’s biggest victory was against the New York State Public Service Commission, forcing New York Telephone to stop charging low income residents pre-installation fees. The Harlem Consumer Education Council investigated over 100,000 complaints.

Appointed Special Consultant to the Consumer Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Board in the 1970s, Rice also taught consumer education at Malcolm-King College and has lectured to thousands at her workshops and seminars. In the 1990s, Rice was responsible for the Bell Atlantic Technology Center in Harlem. The center is dedicated to educating business people, students, senior citizens and other customers about the latest advances in telecommunication technologies. She has lectured in several countries, including South Africa where she was named a delegate in the first World Consumer Congress. Rice continues to work in consumer affairs in New York City where she lives.

Accession Number

A2006.169

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/29/2006 |and| 12/14/2006

Last Name

Rice

Maker Category
Middle Name

M.

Schools

P.S. 040 Samuel Huntington

Oakside School

First Name

Florence

Birth City, State, Country

Buffalo

HM ID

RIC12

Favorite Season

Winter

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

Keep The Faith.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/22/1919

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Consumer activist and consumer educator Florence M. Rice (1919 - ) founded the Harlem Consumer Education Council, fighting discriminatory practices by businesses and corporations with protests and boycotts. In the 1990s, Rice was responsible for the Bell Atlantic Technology Center in Harlem.

Employment

Malcolm-King College

Favorite Color

Blue, Red, White

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Florence M. Rice's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Florence M. Rice lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Florence M. Rice talks about her parents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Florence M. Rice recalls her time in foster care

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Florence M. Rice recalls P.S. 040 Samuel Huntington in New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Florence M. Rice recalls Rush Temple African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Florence M. Rice recalls the schools she attended

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Florence M. Rice remembers her rebellious teenage years

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Florence M. Rice remembers running away to New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Florence M. Rice remembers working in New York City as a teenage mother

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Florence M. Rice recalls placing her daughter in foster care during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Florence M. Rice recalls regaining custody of her daughter

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Florence M. Rice recalls famous African Americans in Harlem, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Florence M. Rice recalls racial discrimination at New York City department stores

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Florence M. Rice talks about her political role models

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Florence M. Rice recalls joining the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Florence M. Rice recalls her abusive ex-husband

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Florence M. Rice describes her ex-husband

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Florence M. Rice recalls speaking at Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.'s 1962 congressional hearing

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Florence M. Rice remembers looking for a job after the congressional hearing

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Florence M. Rice describes the value of political connections

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Florence M. Rice recalls the creation of the Bell Atlantic Technology Center

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Florence M. Rice recalls challenging New York Telephone Company's discriminatory practices

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Florence M. Rice talks about the Harlem Consumer Education Council

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Florence M. Rice cautions about speaking against economic racism

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Florence M. Rice recalls the greatest difficulty in community education

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Florence M. Rice describes the importance of consumer education

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Florence M. Rice talks about Roger Toussaint and expectations for black men

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Florence M. Rice describes influential members of the Harlem community

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Florence M. Rice describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community in Harlem, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Florence M. Rice talks about her fight against direct deposit policies

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Florence M. Rice reflects upon her legacy and how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Florence M. Rice talks about her mentor, Lugenia Gordon

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Florence M. Rice talks about the Original Gullah Festival

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Florence M. Rice describes her advocacy for tenants of her apartment building

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Florence M. Rice describes changes in the American education system

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Florence M. Rice reflects upon her most meaningful awards

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of Florence M. Rice's interview, session 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Florence M. Rice recalls her testimony against the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Florence M. Rice explains how she first became involved in activism

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Florence M. Rice shares some tips from her book, 'Shopping'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Florence M. Rice explains her desire to teach consumer education

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Florence M. Rice shares tips for educated consumption

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Florence M. Rice describes her hopes and concerns for the education system

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Florence M. Rice recalls volunteering to teach at Malcolm-King College

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Florence M. Rice describes the changes in the American labor market

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Florence M. Rice talks about racial discrimination in consumer education

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Florence M. Rice describes other trailblazers in consumer education

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Florence M. Rice recalls studying at the Henry George School of Social Science

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Florence M. Rice recalls conducting consumer education conferences

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Florence M. Rice remembers running on a ticket with Harvey McArthur

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Florence M. Rice remembers trying to establish a technology center in Harlem

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Florence M. Rice talks about her radio show on WLIB Radio in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Florence M. Rice talks about Dorothy Garrett and her aspirations

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Florence M. Rice describes the results of her battle with her landlord

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Florence M. Rice talks about her radio and cable shows

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Florence M. Rice talks about consumer reports and consumer agencies

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Florence M. Rice describes the dismantlement of federal consumer protections

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Florence M. Rice talks about her nephew's business

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Florence M. Rice describes her concerns about direct deposits and police brutality

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Florence M. Rice talks about her daughter

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Florence M. Rice recalls writing a resolution for Son-in-Law Day

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Florence M. Rice describes her plans and concerns for the future

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Florence M. Rice talks about gentrification in Harlem

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Florence M. Rice describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Florence M. Rice talks about consumer rights groups

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Florence M. Rice offers advice about the value of kindness

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Florence M. Rice describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Florence M. Rice talks about the Harlem Consumer Education Council

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Florence M. Rice narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

9$1

DATitle
Florence M. Rice remembers looking for a job after the congressional hearing
Florence M. Rice describes the value of political connections
Transcript
And I just stood for what I believed and I just never, and then to, to punish me I never worked another day in a union shop, you know. And I always like to say I think unions, you know, I, I, that union treated me bad but see I say that the unions have never been for black people, you know, they were, they, you became a member but you never received the benefits like the, the whites and I guess that's, I always showed, you know, showed that. And as a result I did work in a couple of union shops until, I think then what you had, you had your poverty problem program come along and then there were things that I had, I began to, you know, move into that direction.$$So talk to me about moving from, you, you said you were blackballed so you couldn't get any work?$$Couldn't get no garment work (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Union, no garment work.$$Um-um.$$And what was the poverty program that you spoke about?$$Now, when I say the poverty well, at that time, oh, well, see what happened from the, from the union there was a District 65, and he had a, I can't, and that's terrible 'cause I'd like to give honors to him and he just, he, we were talking and so he told me that he could get me work and he got me work in, where are we, here. At met, right across the street in Mentor Bentley [ph.]. And, and I got a job at Mentor Bentley in the credit house. And that's when I began to see how we were being charged high- you know, higher prices. And Mornat [ph.], and I had an Irish guy who taught me about, Mornat told me about credit 'cause the main idea was to keep people buying and buying which that's the, the, the, I call it the economy and that's the capitalistic system. And that they had the door to door salesmen that was the dollar down, dollar, dollar down, dollar a month, what is it, dollar down, and the dollar a week. I, I might not have that right but anyway you paid a dollar down, you paid for it for the rest of your life. And I was able to, to begin to educate and tell people, you know, how they were being overpriced and like that, so.$I think one of the things that had helped me out was attending hearings and that's where you meet all the, the big boys, the CEOs because they come to the hearings. And I, I've met, well, generally in the utilities they all know me, well they know my name, you know. And--$$How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as an activist for the poor? Do you see yourself--$$I like to, I'm always concerned with them, I'm not concerned with the well-to-do, I'm concerned with the people who don't know, I want the people like I never knew, you know. And I found that people were not always willing to share, and especially the African Americans. They're, we, we had sort of blocked oursel- selves, that they had their sororities and their membership and, and it appeared to me they, they never reached back, you know. And what I always like to tell people, the doors were never opened to me by my people, they were always opened by, by the other, the whites. And they, I, I find that generally when they meet people like myself and, you know, you, they hear your ideas and your thoughts, they work with it. And on, on account of that and I've had a great life. I've been able to travel. And I've been able to go places that most people, and associate with people because I always like to say there's not--I will--it's spent, when I say spent time in Washington [D.C.] but I'd be in Washington practically all the time and you, you met all the, all the people, you know, the, the people that you need to know (laughter) which is, is good when you, when you, and especially when we were certainly trying to put through bills and stuff like that. For me I just say it's been a, my, my work has been a, a, a great work because out of it, I was able through a woman called Mattie Cook who was, what is it, here at, president, and I don't wanna mislabel like the president at Malcom-King College [Malcolm-King: Harlem College Extension, New York, New York], this Mattie Cook who gave me the opportunity to teach consumer education. And I think I taught for about almost eight years, eight, between eight and ten years.$$Where did you teach?$$Malcom-King College, right over (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Malcolm-King College, okay.$$Um-hm, well, it was through, through Mattie otherwise I would probably, wouldn't even be talking.$$Mattie Cook?$$Mattie Cook, Mattie Cook, Malcolm-King president, I'll say president of Malcolm-King College. And I was able to, what I learnt from the, I, the people that I associated with, I was able to bring a lot of the heads of the agency, the head of the agency into Harlem [New York, New York]. I was able to teach so many people out there consumer education, how to handle a telephone bill, their Con Ed [Consolidated Edison, Inc., New York, New York] bill. It would always amaze me, you had doctors and lawyers and, you know, blacks who didn't know how to take care of their own bills, (laughter) you know.