Silent Leader

Silent Leader

Overview

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The Biography of Dr. Freddie L. Thomas by Rodney Brown

 

By Bruce Cosby, Ph.D.
Recently in Rochester, a book signing was held in honor of Dr. Freddie L. Thomas at the school named in his honor, Dr. Freddie Thomas Learning Center. Silent Leader by Rodney Brown is a long-awaited biography of an outstanding African American. Since Thomas’ transition in 1974, there have been few occasions to honor his legacy. One exception was Buffalo’s African Consciousness Workshop, who hosted a presentation by Waddell X, author of Expressions of Wisdom from Freddie X Thomas (1995).
Brother Freddie was a world-renowned scholar and public intellectual. He was unique in his ability to relate to people of all works of life. His house was a seamless combination of a school, library and hospitality. When not teaching in his living room, he would walk the streets at night, even outside bars and restaurants, engaging folks to expand their minds and study.
Brother Freddie, who was also referred to as Freddie X for his discipleship in the Nation of Islam, mastered several fields: African history (especially Egyptian history), religious history, music (he played the piano and composed music), anthropology, mathematics, biology and chemistry. He was fond of teaching Egyptian history and the origin of the alphabet. He introduced students to classic texts of African history, including George James’ Stolen Legacy, Alexander Winchell’s PreAdmamites, Gerald Massey’s Egypt Light of the World, Godfrey Higgens, Anacalypsis, and so many others, long before it became popular. He corresponded with some of the most important historians of the time, including Arthur Schomburg, Leo Hansberry, J. A. Rogers and Yosef ben-Jochannan. Inspired by Elijah Muhammad’s historiography, he wrote a series of articles on the Asiatic Blackman in Buffalo’s Empire Star newspaper in 1958.
Although he was mainly self-taught, he attended Wagner College, Albany Medical School and the University of Rochester. He invented a device for Eastman Kodak in the 1950s. His scientifi c research was in the areas of cell biology, tissue culture and photographic science. Freddie had an unusual ability to teach math to grade school, college students or anyone who wanted to learn. He combined these lectures with history and African philosophy.
Rodney Brown’s book has rekindled an interest in the legacy of Dr. Thomas. Freddie, who lived in the tradition of a modern Imhotep or Chiekh Anta Diop, is worth commemorating. The fi rst scholar to recognize this connection was James G. Spady, author of “Cheikh Anta Diop and Freddie Thomas: Two Philosophical Perspectives on Pristine Black History” (Journal of African Civilization, 1979).
The book also uncovers the special relationship Thomas had with his wife, Margaret Banks-Thomas. The book narrates how they met and married, including the song he wrote and played at the wedding. A self-taught pianist, he copyrighted more than seventy musical compositions by age 40. In this way, the book is undergirded by a love story between two people committed to each other and the community.
Margaret or Midge as she is affectionately known, has struggled to keep Freddie’s legacy alive by the development of the Freddie Thomas Fund for high school seniors and by archiving essential documents.  Rodney Brown’s biography of Dr. Freddie L. Thomas serves to rekindle the memory of one of the most important scholars and public intellectuals of the twentieth century.