Gainesville,FL – On August 23, 2013, SPOHP debuted a brand new website. Take a look! And enjoy this photo gallery of our origins 20 years ago, in honor of the occasion.

circa Turlington Hall, 1980

Gainesville, FL, August 15, 2013—George A. Smathers Libraries approved a mini-grant proposal to transcribe the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP)’s Mississippi Freedom Project collection. The collection features in-depth oral history interviews with leaders and activists involved in the civil rights movement in Mississippi. The completion of this project is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer during the summer of 2014.

The Mississippi Freedom Project is a collection of over 100 interviews focusing on civil rights  activism and organizing in the Mississippi Delta, including important events such as Mississippi Freedom Summer, the nationally-recognized voter registration drive that took place in the Mississippi Delta in the summer of 1964 amidst racial violence and oppressive Jim Crow laws, and the founding of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), the political formation most responsible for the formulation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Mississippi Freedom Project collection is an ongoing series of interviews conducted since 2004. Every September, SPOHP sends a team of researchers to the Mississippi Delta to collect interviews and facilitate public workshops and lectures with veteran activists, lending the collection a unique focus on the lessons and work of community organizing in the Civil Rights Movement as it connects to the current social and political climate in Mississippi today. The Mississippi Freedom Project includes an interview and organizing workshop with Lawrence Guyot, Director of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964, and interviews with Liz Fusco, who served as Mississippi Statewide Coordinator of Freedom Schools, Kelvin Williams, elected the first African American sheriff of Bolivar County since Reconstruction in 2011, and students at the Sunflower County Freedom Project as well as the former Teach for America volunteers who now direct the program. Several interviews also contain reflections from individuals who worked directly with Fannie Lou Hamer, chair of the MFDP and a formidable civil rights leader and community organizer, as well as the experiences of lawyers whose depositions and affidavits formed the justification of Section 5, the heart of the Voting Rights Act.

In September 2013, SPOHP will send another team of researchers to gather more interviews for the collection. SPOHP is also a co-sponsor of the Sunflower County Civil Rights Organization’s 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer Reunion, to take place in June 2014.

African American Studies librarian Jana Ronan developed the proposal in collaboration with SPOHP researchers, and the proposal was approved by the mini-grant committee in May of 2013. The transcribed interviews will become a part of the University of Florida Digital Collections online, where they are available to researchers and educators. SPOHP will also present these transcripts to veterans of the Mississippi Freedom Summer at their 50th anniversary reunion in July of 2014. This processing project will leverage existing knowledge, resources, and partnerships to promote online access to the Mississippi Freedom Project collection, including the development of a Freedom Summer LibGuide, two new podcasts, and a second phase which involves continuing transcription, Google Optimization of transcripts, and expanded Mississippi Freedom Project content on SPOHP’s website.

As the upcoming 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer approaches, students, teachers, professors, and interested citizens will be seeking more information about the summer of 1964, and in-depth understanding of the context in which these historical events took place. The richly diverse thematic focus of the Mississippi Freedom Project interviews will help to promote a broad, interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of African American history, US social history, public policy, psychology, agriculture, and technological change, among other topics. Once processed, these interviews will support new research questions and intellectual outcomes.

The digitized, accessible oral history interviews in the Mississippi Freedom Project collection will be findable on the web at the University of Florida Digital Collections site, as well as through mainstream search engines such as Google or Bing, and represented in scholarly search engines such as Summon.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Paul Ortiz
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program Director
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, University of Florida
241 Pugh Hall ∙ PO Box 115215
Gainesville, FL, 32611
(352) 392-7168


Jana Ronan
African American Studies
University of Florida Libraries
(352) 273-2623

News Release
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP), University of Florida
August 15, 2013

“You Belong to Me,” a film following murder, sex, and race in the life story of Ruby McCollum, recently began production. Dr. Paul Ortiz, among other prominent historians, was interviewed for the film. The official press release follows below.

“You Belong To Me”: Feature of Murder, Sex, and Race Begins Production in Florida

Beverly Hills, CA, July 23, 2013 – Clearwater, Florida based production company Deliberate Murder LLC announced today that they are in production on You Belong To Me , a feature-length documentary portraying the shocking tale of Ruby McCollum. This story of race-induced sexual exploitation explores not only the infamous shooting and the trial but the impact of the case on Live Oak, Florida, the South and the Nation for more than sixty years. Production is slated to wrap up later this year.

Screen shot 2013-08-23 at 4.15.51 AM
You Belong To Me

The film is produced by both Hilary Saltzman, daughter of legendary producer Harry Saltzman of the original James Bond movies, and Jude Hagin, who served as film commissioner in Central Florida for 15 years. Kitty Potapow, former president of the Film Commission of Real Florida, Inc., is Executive Producing. You Belong To Me is being written and directed by John Cork, the creative force behind more than 100 documentary shorts and two feature length documentaries including Murnau, Borzage and Fox. Additionally, Cork wrote The Long Walk Home starring Sissy Spacek and Whoopi Goldberg. Lisa Van Eyssen, joins Cork on board as a producer from his production company, Cloverland.

The powerful film centers on Ruby McCollum, the wealthiest black woman in Suwanee County, Florida in the late 40s. With a husband who was a property owner and a son who was attending UCLA, her family was a promising exception to the perceived lifestyle of African-Americans in the Jim Crow South. Or so it seemed from the outside…

Despite her wealth, Ruby could not escape the clutches of the Jim Crow South, nor the inherent racism that came with it. One antebellum belief that had survived into Ruby’s day was the practice of paramour rights – a white man’s sexual entitlement to any black woman of any age or marital status, without consequence. Enter Dr. C. LeRoy Adams, a white State Senator-elect who, according to Ruby, had sexually violated her repeatedly over the years, leading her to giving birth to a daughter fathered by Dr. Adams. On August 3rd, 1952, Ruby McCollum pregnant once again by the Doctor, did something that grabbed national attention and paved the way for the abolition of what was essentially racially motivated sexual slavery: she shot Dr. Adams four times, killing him.

“You Belong To Me” investigates Ruby’s story, exploring a dark period in U.S. history and documenting the changing role of race and gender in our society and our legal system. Ultimately, the film reveals how tragedy and sacrifice can pave the way for necessary change.

For more information on the film, please consult the website

PanAfricanismCourse“Pan-Africanism,” Justin Dunnavant
Tues 2:00pm – 3:00pm, Thurs 2:00pm
AFA 4931, AFS 4935, ANT 4930

Broadly defining Pan-Africanism as a political and cultural movement as well as an ideology, this course will trace the intellectual genealogy of Pan-African thought into the 20th century. Geographically, we will focus heavily on Pan-Africanism in the United States, England, Africa, and the Caribbean and briefly touch on Pan-Africanism in Latin America and Asia. In addition to the concept of Pan-Africanism, we will explore the related themes of Black Nationalism, Ethiopianism, and Negritude. Lectures will be supplemented with documentary films, recorded speeches, and other multimedia sources.

Listing website.

Susie Mae White, a retired Alachua County educator, author, businesswoman and dedicated church mother, died March 30, 2013 of natural causes at Woodland Care Center in southwest Gainesville.

Mrs. White was born in Madison County Florida to the late Rev. John A. Williams and Lucy Crawford Williams. Her education began at Rochelle Elementary, and graduated from Lincoln High School Class of 1935. She furthered her education at the following University’s: Florida Memorial College – Class of 1943 and 1948, University of Maryland – Class of 1953, Michigan State College in 1955, and Michigan State University in 1960. Mrs. White is a retired Alachua County Elementary School Teacher.

She also served in the capacity as Guidance Counselor, Social Service Specialist, and School Psychologist. Affiliations include: NE Eagle Eyes Organizer, Pleasant Street Historical Association, MPAC, Ministers Wives and Widows, Founder of Mother Dear’s Child Care Center, Founder of Friendship Day Care, FL Memorial University Alumni, Church Women United, FL Retired Education Association, AAUW, FL Association of School Psychologist. She was the recipient of various civic, social fraternal and religious awards, citations and honors. She was married to the late Rev. D.E. White and served her church in various capacities: Sunday School Teacher and Superintend ant, Bible School Teacher, State Director of Education for Leadership with the Florida General Baptist Division.

(Reprint of The Gainesville Sun obituary, 4/4/2013)

In the News
Gainesville Sun, “Educator Susie Mae White dies at 101,” 4/3/2013.

Community Oral History Workshop: Lawtey, FL (July 20,2011)

The Philadelphia Missionary Baptist Church of Lawtey invited SPOHP to conduct an oral history workshop, meet and interview community members who marched in St. Augustine during The Movement. Marna Weston lead a workshop with a live interview and post interview discussion.

Community Oral History Workshop: Starke, FL (July 12, 2011)

Jacqueline Totura & the Women’s Club of Starke invited SPOHP to discuss oral history collection and its relevance at the Bradford County Public Library. Marna Weston lectured on previous oral history interview experiences, scheduled future interviews, and fielded audience questions. The event was videotaped by the Women’s Club.

Community Oral History Workshop: High Springs, FL (June 30, 2011)

Reverend Byran Williams and the congregation of Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church in High Springs Florida again invited SPOHP to an evening of community reflections on the local impact of the Civil Rights Movement. Marna Weston conducted a second live oral history interview and entertained questions from the audience.

He survived the infamous Bataan Death March; he survived bombing attacks by his fellow Americans on Corregidor who were shelling the Japanese on Bataan; he survived two hellish internment camps in the Philippines; he survived the terrifying passage in the hold of a Japanese Hell Ship en route to Japan; and he survived forced labor in a condemned Japanese coal mile. Herbert Pepper suffered beatings and malnutrition and contracted tuberculosis and beriberi during those years as a POW from 1942 to 1945.

In 2005, Pepper recounted those horrific experiences in an oral history, conducted by Dr. Julian Pleasants, then director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. SPOHP also had catalogued three other oral histories of POWs held by the Japanese.

In 2008, Deborah Hendrix and Diane Fischler of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program produced a documentary titled “I Just Wanted to Live!” based on these four oral histories in its World War II collection. The film (both a 35-minute presentation version and a longer 55-minute version) premiered in Pugh Hall on November 10, 2008, in a program titled “Testimony of War.”

Herbert Pepper had been hospitalized in the Lake City VA the week before the premiere but insisted on leaving his hospital bed to come to Gainesville to attend the documentary’s debut. He arrived in a wheelchair accompanied by many family members.

One of the other two ex-POWs, Victor Cote of New Smyrna Beach, also came to the program. The two former POWs shook hands and were both astonished to learn that they had worked in the same coal mining camp in Japan, Camp Fukuoka. Their handshake spoke volumes of their shared prisoner-of-war experiences. hpepper1

On October 2, 2012, at age 93, Herbert Pepper passed away at the Lake City VA. He was a true survivor. It was an honor and privilege for the Oral History Program to capture the hell-on-earth years of these heroic men.

Herbert Pepper’s oral history interview is part of the World War II project, WWII-030.

Thank you, Mr. Clayton!
Thank you, Mr. Clayton!

Mr. Clayton has taken outstanding photographs of SPOHP public programs, symposia, and special events for several years running. A combat veteran of the army, he has also assisted SPOHP in expanding our connections in African American as well as veterans’ communities.

Originally interviewed for the African American History Project, Mr. Clayton shared his experiences of living in the South and service in the Vietnam War. He started working with the volunteer program as a photographer, and his work can be seen around the website, including the Events and Public Programs Archive.

We greatly appreciate Mr. Clayton’s enthusiasm and dedication to the program. His photographs of public programs and office life are unique snapshots of the community that supports the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, including interns, staff, volunteers, and community partners.

Mr. Clayton’s photography skills are well-known throughout the state. He can be reached for photos and events through his online contact page.

Please join us in thanking Mr. Cornelius Clayton for his outstanding volunteer service to the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program!

 The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) at the University of Florida will host a series of public programs for the 2013-2014 academic year, presenting a dynamic selection of acclaimed speakers who will share their research with the campus and wider community. This series will illuminate consecutive generations of documentarians and scholars and illustrate how these individuals use their work to inform social change. This series was made possible by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere Rothman Endowment for Workshops and Speaker Series in the Humanities.

On October 1st, 2013, SPOHP will launch the official premier of Siempre Adelante: A Look at Faith and the Immigrant Struggle. The screening will take place at 6 p.m. in the Pugh Hall Ocora in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month events. Siempre Adelante features the life narratives of four remarkable people living in Gainesville who emigrated from three different countries and share the struggle of always moving forward. This film offers an important glimpse into the growing immigrant community of Alachua county and north central Florida. This is SPOHP’s third full-length documentary, and the film was produced by Deborah Hendrix, Maria Munoz, and Jaime Zelaya. The screening is co-sponsored by Hispanic Heritage Month 2013.

On October 22nd, 2013, at 6 p.m. in the Pugh Hall Ocora,SPOHP will host a public panel entitled, “Stetson Kennedy: Re-Imagining Justice in the 21st Century.” The panel will commemorate the University of Florida’s acquisition of the personal papers of Stetson Kennedy, the renowned author,folklorist, and human rights activist from Florida. Panelists will include acclaimed author and FIU professor Marvin Dunn, former director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress Peggy Bulger, and Lucy Anne Hurston,author and niece of literary luminary Zora Neale Hurston. The event is co-sponsored by P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History at the University of Florida Smathers Libraries.

On December 4, 2013, SPOHP will host a student panel at 6p.m. at the Civic Media Center in downtown Gainesville entitled, “SPOHP in theDelta: 6th Annual Student Panel.” This annual event highlights student research initiatives resulting from SPOHP’s yearly research trip to the Mississippi Delta. Panelists will give a multimedia presentation and share insights after interviewing veterans of the civil rights movement, labor leaders, contemporary activists, and scholars living in the Delta region. This event is co-sponsored by the Civic Media Center.

On January 15, 2014, SPOHP will welcome Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker Tia Lessin. Lessin is the director and producer, along with Carl Deal of Citizen Koch and Trouble the Water. Lessin also co-produced several of Michael Moore’s films, including Capitalism: A Love Story, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Bowling for Columbine. At 2:30 p.m., Lessin will participate in a public panel in Ustler Hall, and at 6 p.m. Lessin will host a public screening of Trouble the Water, a redemptive tale of a couple in Louisiana surviving failed levees, bungling bureaucrats, and their own troubled past in this portrait of a community abandoned long before Hurricane Katrin hit the Gulf. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2009 and an Emmy Award for best informational program in 2010. This event is co-sponsored by the UF Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research.

On March 12, 2014 at 6 p.m., SPOHP will host a public panel in Pugh Hall called, “”‘If It Takes All Summer’: The 50th Anniversary of the St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement.” The city of St. Augustine became a national stage for the civil rights movement in 1964 when the federal government allocated funds for a segregated celebration of the 400thanniversary of the city’s founding. Martin Luther King Jr. came to northeast Florida and remarked that St.Augustine was “the most segregated city in America” at the time. He pledged to defeat segregation using nonviolence, even “if it takes all summer.” This panel will be a vibrant commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the St. Augustine movement and will bring recognition to the foot soldiers that sacrificed so much for equality.

All of these events will offer free parking on campus and a reception after the program. In addition, all public programs will be recorded and shared on SPOHP’s YouTube page for public and educational access in the future. SPOHP would like to thank the UF Center for the Humanities and thePublic Sphere for their Rothman Endowment for Workshops and Speaker Series in the Humanities, which support this year’s speaker series.  For more information, call (352) 392-7168 or visit our website .