Florida Voices: African American History In the Sunshine State To The Civil Rights Era, Volume 2 (2014)

july 2014 aahpcd2Professor Paul Ortiz
(Director, Samuel Proctor Oral History Program University of Florida)

By Ryan Morini, Justin Hosbey, Anna Jimenez, and Toni-Lee Maitland

This guide is organized around three themes. The first theme, “Education,” includes clips that discuss the educational experiences of African American children from North Central Florida during the Jim Crow era. Narratives discuss the ways that children experienced racialization, and even racial violence from both white peers and adults. Schools are a very salient presence in many AAHP interviews, as black primary and high schools under segregation were particularly potent hubs of community activity and solidarity. Many interviews explore the social transformations that occurred after the integration of schools, and the community ruptures that were created when segregated African American schools were closed.

The second theme, “Segregation of Public Facilities,” explore both de facto and de jure segregation, offering insight into the cultural politics of racial segregation in public spaces. The way African Americans were forced to navigate their bodies in both geographic and cultural spaces are articulated in several of the included interviews. These interviews uncover the spatial dimensions of racial discrimination, exploring the ways that allocations for public works and infrastructure for towns and cities in North Central Florida and Alabama were often determined by where one stood on the color line. The specter of racial violence was ubiquitous, and these narratives provide first-person accounts of the proxemics of white racial domination in the Jim Crow South.

The final theme, “Resistance,” speaks to ways that African Americans fought back against racism, repelling racial indignities and invoking their rights as citizens to access public resources. The mobilizations that culminated in the Tallahassee Bus Boycott are the focus of one particularly insightful interview.  This narrative reveals vital history about a boycott that was contemporaneous to the more well-known Montgomery Bus Boycott. Another interview speaks to the strategies that African American parents gave their children to buffet anti-black racial stereotypes and promote positive black identities. A final interview also speaks to the connections between the St. Augustine Movement, and civil rights activism in Gainesville.


Track 1: Oliver Jones– School Bus (AAHP-009)

Oliver Jones was born in Pensacola, Florida but raised in Gainesville where in 1921 his father, A. Quinn Jones, accepted a job offer as the principal of Union Academy, the first black school established in Gainesville. Mr. Jones worked as an educator throughout his life, much like the rest of his family members. He worked as a teacher at Lincoln High School, where his father served as the principal and was involved in the religious community, working as an associate superintendent to a Sunday school.

Mr. Jones talks about his life as the son of a principal and well-respected man in his community and of his own accomplishments. This portion of the interview also focuses on Mr. Jones’s perceptions of the changes in white Gainesville’s attitudes towards African Americans over time.

Date of Interview: January 28, 2010

Track 2: Joseph W. Welch– Microscopes (AAHP-303, interviewed by Ryan Morini)

Joseph W. Welch was born in Gainesville, FL and grew up in Porters, a historically black neighborhood in East Gainesville where blacks were confined during segregation. Mr. Welch grew up dealing with segregation and prejudice, despite some good experiences interacting with other people of different races. He attended Lincoln High School in his youth and eventually went on to work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress of Racial Equality, and as a teacher at Mebane and Newberry high schools.

In this interview, he discusses Gainesville’s past as a segregated city in the context of his personal history and life experiences. He explains how the “separate but equal” ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court was a myth when it came to providing educational and career opportunities for African Americans in Florida.

Date of Interview: April 29, 2013

 

Track 3: Albert White- Closing of Lincoln High (AAHP-022, interviewed by Marna Weston)

Albert White is an educator, entrepreneur, and a community leader. He was born and raised in Gainesville, FL in the Porters neighborhood in East Gainesville, which is an historically black neighborhood. He attended all-black Lincoln High School in the early 1960s and attended the historically black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina. In the early 1970s, he returned to Gainesville with his wife to attend graduate school at the University of Florida at a time when racial tension was at one of its many peaks.

His interview generally consists of his recollections of his and his family’s life in Gainesville, and in this excerpt, Mr. White discusses the negative effects integration had on the legacy and future of Lincoln High School. He also delves into the consequences of fighting institutionalized racism at UF and A&T.

 Date of Interview: May 25, 2010

Track 4: Mary Hall Daniels- Walking to School (AAHP-248B)

The Rosewood Massacre occurred in Levy County, Florida in January 1923. The massacre began when unsubstantiated rumors spread that a black man had assaulted a white woman. These rumors outraged groups of whites who initiated a campaign of mass murder and destruction of black businesses and residences in the area. African American survivors hid in the swamps the remaining days and left town. Some of the Rosewood refugees moved their families to Gainesville.  One of these survivors was Mary Hall Daniels.

In this clip, Mrs. Daniels tells of the segregation she faced in Gainesville. She describes her everyday experiences as she walked with her brothers to school.

Date of Interview: February 21, 2012

 

Track 5: Charles Demps-Lincoln High School (AAHP-193)

Lincoln High School was viewed with great pride in Gainesville’s African American community. However, as this remembrance from Mr. Demps attests, the school faced enormous obstacles in educating students. He explains that white officials placed Lincoln next to the city trash dump. Thus, the student’s nostrils were assaulted daily with the scent of garbage. However, he related that Lincoln—it’s parents, teachers and administrators–provided a diverse array of educational and vocational opportunities. Mr. Demps describes Lincoln as a community institution, “like a church.”

Date of Interview: October 4, 2011

 

Track 6: Evelyn Marie Moore Mickle –Challenges of “Integration” (AAHP-046)

Mrs. Evelyn Moore Mickle was the first black student to graduate from UF’s nursing program. Her narrative challenges our ideas of on the success of “educational integration” because she faced racism while at UF and was not accepted as a legitimately qualified student by some of her peers and professors.

In the wake of her successful professional career it is important to remember that Mrs. Mickle’s courageous educational experiences of suffering and triumph were shared by countless African Americans who had the courage to be “firsts” in their respective high school, college, and vocational school cohorts. In a sense, “Integration” in the wake of Brown v. Board did not signal a clear victory. Rather, it opened new possibilities and pathways of struggle for African Americans.

Date of Interview: June 4, 2009

Track 7: Mamie Leath– Vagrancy Laws and Potatoes (AAHP-202B)

 

Vagrancy laws were designed to keep wages low and job opportunities limited for black workers during segregation. Mami Lee Leath was born and raised in Porter’s neighborhood of Gainesville; she can point out the residential lot she was born on from the house she lives today. In this clip, she recalls picking potatoes and other crops in the fields near Lake Alice before the University expanded. As well as a discussion of labor and the value of money, one also finds the import of 1940s racial politics. When the war broke out, Ms. Leath and African Americans in Gainesville were targeted by vagrancy laws which gave area police tremendous power over black workers.

Date of Interview: November 8, 2011

 

Track 8: Monica Smith—Urban Renewal (AAHP-165)

Monica Smith was born in Germany. She survived World War II in Europe and later experienced the Watts Rebellion in 1965 in Los Angeles, before moving to Florida. She discusses a common enemy that African Americans faced across the country in the 1960s and 70s: urban renewal, a discriminatory public policy that African Americans wryly referred to as “Negro Removal.” Gainesville’s black community has waged its own struggle with the forces of urban renewal as well as gentrification.  In response to the city’s planned demolition of primarily black housing in West Gainesville, African Americans and their relatives from across the country organized in an effort to save their neighborhoods from destruction.

Date of Interview: March 12, 2011

 

Track 9: Isaac Chandler, Jr. – Segregation and Life in Jasper, Florida (AAHP-004A)

In this clip, Isaac Chandler, Jr., a native from Jasper, Florida talks about his life experiences during and after segregation. He explains how he never thought he would see desegregation in Jasper. Additionally, Mr. Chandler explains that during desegregation, white building owners refused to install bathrooms in the black part of town out of pride and principle.

 

Track 10: Oliver Jones– Segregation’s Dirt Roads (AAHP-009)

In this clip, Oliver Jones talks about the long walks he had to take on dirt roads in back neighborhoods. This made even simple tasks more complicated.

 

Track 11: Judge Samuel Stafford– Roads and Segregation (AAHP-050)

Samuel Stafford was born and raised in Tallahassee during the tail end of the Jim Crow Era. In this clip Professor Stafford recalls the long walks he took with his father during his childhood in Tallahassee as black people were not allowed to be on Florida State University campus. He describes the long walks and detours he and his family were forced to take, due to the gauntlet intolerance in Tallahassee, just to avoid crossing through campus. These racial experiences eventually lead his path to becoming a lawyer. Professor Stafford became a State Supreme Court Certified Arbitrator and professor in the Political Sciences department at University of Florida.

Date of Interview: June 11, 2009

 

Track 12: Reuben Brigety– Colored Laundry (AAHP–040)

Reuben Brigety was among the first African-Americans to enroll in the University of Florida at a time when racial tension created a climate conducive to violent prejudice and struggle in Gainesville, FL. He attended Morehouse College for medical school and came to the University of Florida in 1965 for graduate studies. In the interview he talks about his experiences as a Gator and what inspired him to want to attend the university. In this specific clip, he describes his lowest point as a resident of Gainesville, Florida which reminded him that he still faced obstacles despite his great accomplishments.

Date of Interview: February 7, 2009

 

Track 13: Ronald Colman– Tuscaloosa, Alabama Away Game (AAHP-138)

Ronald Colman was born in Ocala, Florida. He was the first African American athlete of the University of Florida in 1968. In this clip, he recalls one of numerous racist threats he received during his college career as member of the track and field team. This story took place at a restaurant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama after a competition.

Date of Interview: September 4, 2009

 

Track 14: Mary Ola Gaines­- Tallahassee Bus Boycott (BTV–052)

During the Jim Crow era of American History Florida cities including Tallahassee were segregated and wrought with racial tension. Mary Ola Gaines fought white supremacy during the entire half century she lived in Tallahassee. Originally from Georgia, Ms. Gaines came to Tallahassee in the late 1930s when she was around the age of twenty. She was an organizer in the historic 1955 Tallahassee Bus Boycott and a close ally of legendary civil rights movement leader, Rev. C.K. Steele of Bethel Baptist church.

In this excerpt, she explains the time she refused to give up her seat on a bus while she rode with some white children she was caring for at that time. Some African American women in Tallahassee were refusing to move to the back of the bus even before Rosa Park’s more famous refusal occurred in 1955.

Date of Interview: August 1, 1994

 

Track 15: Margaret Block– Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (MFP-006B)

Margaret Block has been an organizer in the Black Freedom Struggle since her youth coming of age in the Mississippi Delta. She is the younger sister of Sam Block, a civil rights icon, and a notable veteran of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) alongside Fannie Lou Hamer. Ms. Block worked as a field secretary for SNCC in the early 1960s and was recently honored with the Freedom Spirit of the Flame Award by the Freedom Foundation in Selma, Alabama. She is recognized as a Hall of Fame activist because she spent the majority of her life fighting for social justice.

In this interview, she talks about her time as an activist and her involvement in SNCC. While non-violent direct action was a philosophy espoused by the movement, black southerners often had to resort to armed self-defense in order to protect civil rights activists as well as their own families from white supremacist violence.

Date of Interview: March 20, 2011

 

Track 16: Reverend T.A. Wright– Civil Rights in St. Augustine & Gainesville (FAB-040)

Reverend T.A. Wright talks about the path that led him to become a leader in Gainesville’s Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  Rev. Wright lived with his wife, Affie Wright, in Saint Augustine and was pastor at Saint Mary’s Baptist Church. However, due to his leading role in the St. Augustine Movement, white supremacists threatened to kill Rev. Wright. He was later offered a position at Mount Carmel Baptist Church and led the Gainesville National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) where he was president for seventeen years.

Date of Interview: January 23, 1986

 

Track 17: Dennis Flannigan– Mississippi Race Relations and Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer (MFP-008)

Originally from Tacoma, Washington, Dennis Flannigan traveled down to Mississippi in 1964 to become involved in the Civil Rights movement. He joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and participated in the Freedom Summer initiative to help African Americans become registered voters. He also worked with Fannie Lou Hamer, a leader in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party who provided him a place to stay in her home when he first arrived in Mississippi.

In this interview, Mr. Flannigan discusses his involvement and experiences as a participant in the Civil Rights Movement. He discusses the challenges in the Mississippi in regard to race relations as well as the legacy of Ms. Hamer as a Civil Rights icon.

Date of Interview: September 12, 2008

 

Track 18: Laura Scott Reaves– Perry, Florida: Shot in the Back (AAHP-170)

In her interview, Laura Reaves recalls racism in Perry, Florida, continuing with cross burnings in recent years. Ms. Reaves discusses the region-wide phenomenon of black land loss, and the terrorist burning of buildings designed to strike fear into the black community.  She then describes an event in which a boy is shot in the back by a member of a white landowning family because he disliked the look on the boy’s face.

Date of Interview: March 6, 2010

 

Track 19: Laura Dixie– Back Door (AAHP-066)

 

Laura Dixie, founding president of the American Federation State County of Municipal Employees in Tallahassee and an organizer of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott, tells an anecdote of her childhood. A white lady asked Mrs. Dixie’s mother if she could hire Laura to work for her. Laura Dixie’s mother agreed upon the condition that her daughter be allowed to enter her employer’s house through the front door. Additionally, Mrs. Dixie tells that during her work time at the white woman’s house, she survived domestic abuse and fled the house and never went back to work.

Date of Interview: July 22, 2009

 

Track 20: Sherry DuPree- Blacks and Education. A Shooting at Fernandina (AAHP-060A)

Sherry DuPree began researching the Rosewood massacre in the 1970s while she worked as a librarian at the University of Florida. Gainesville is approximately sixty miles away from the town of Rosewood. Studying the massacre helped Ms. DuPree to become further involved in African-American history in the state of Florida. As a Smithsonian fellow, she set up an exhibit about the Rosewood massacre to further educate people about this gruesome occurrence of injustice and violence.

In her interview, she talks about her family history and her involvement with Florida’s education system and the problem of segregation in the South in contrast with the North. This particular clip features Ms. DuPree discussing a case where a young, unarmed black was shot in Fernandina Beach, Florida about forty times while in his car. The details of this case are poignant and relevant today.

Date of Interview: June 17, 2009

 

Track 21: George W. Allen–Virgil Hawkins & Protesting Segregation at UF (AAHP-290)

George Allen was born in Sanford, Florida. He was the first African American to attend the Fredric G. Levin College of Law (then the University of Florida College of Law). Mr.  Allen felt it was his duty to integrate the University of Florida and make a change in the education system of Florida. Therefore he declined the possibility of attending law school out of state (he had been accepted at Harvard Law and the University of California at Berkley.)

George Allen not only integrated the Levin School of Law in 1960, he also integrated the Ben Hill Griffin football stadium by organizing a group of black students and people from the community to attend the games. In this clip, George Allen talks about the events he was part of during the Civil Rights movement in Tallahassee such as tilting a bus and attending the Virgil Hawkins case at the Supreme Court.

Date of Interview:  November 29, 2012

Please enjoy the stories contained here. This guide demonstrates the power of the growing AAHP collection, but no document can fully convey the depth and richness of the African American experience in Florida. AAHP is producing a library of voices, and offering perspectives, experiences and knowledge of the history of so that they can be available to future generations. We hope that this guide gives some sense of the generosity and resilience of African Americans in the South.

To receive a copy of this guide and audio CD in the mail, contact AAHP coordinators today.


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