John Armwood

Citation
John Armwood

Material Information

Title:
John Armwood
Series Title:
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Creator:
Armwood, John
Anthony, Otis R
Black History Research Project of Tampa
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publisher:
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
1 sound file (63 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
African Americans -- Florida ( lcsh )
African Americans -- History -- Florida ( lcsh )
Genre:
Oral history. ( local )
Online audio. ( local )
interview ( marcgt )
Oral history ( local )
Online audio ( local )

Notes

Summary:
John Armwood discusses his family's history. Particular emphasis is given to Blanche Armwood, who was a prominent educator and activist during the early 20th century.
Venue:
Interview conducted April 10, 1978.
General Note:
Other interviewers for the Black History Research Project of Tampa were Fred Beaton, Joyce Dyer, Herbert Jones, and Shirley Smith.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Otis R. Anthony and members of the Black History Research Project of Tampa.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
020798056 ( ALEPH )
436221737 ( OCLC )
A31-00005 ( USFLDC DOI )
a31.5 ( USFLDC Handle )

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Audio

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This item has the following downloads:


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segment idx 0time text length 89 John Armwood: I'm curious to know or very interested in the fact that this has been done.
1442 Otis Anthony: Okay, let me tell you. We're working on a federal grant with the Hillsborough County Museum. It's something I have been interested in doing a long time. As a matter of fact, it's something I would have eventually done on my own. Shirley [Smith] is oral history writer with the project, and I am the project coordinator. We have a staff of about six people, okay. And we have an advisory committee. Do you know Bob Saunders?
253 JA: No, I don't know anybody in Tampa, unfortunately.
3142 OA: Well, that's okay. Bob Saunders is the chair of our advisory committee and we have people like Miriam Anderson on our advisory committee.
4JA: I know her.
5699 OA: Okay, all right. She's on our advisory committee. And what we are really trying to do is finally documents and recorded chronologically the history of blacks in Tampa. Let me give you an idea of some of the things we've done. Like, we began with about the period of 1500, would you believe that? When the first black man set foot on Tampa Bay. Now, Fort Brooke, which was formerly Tampa, began in about 1824, but we have some information just on the first blacks to come here, slaves, that type of stuff. And we've collected information up until about the 1920s. Now it is still some gaps in what are doing and we're still not satisfied and we are still digging hard for research material.
6661 This kind of thing here is fantastic. What we're trying to do is absolute fantastic. When you said this, I knew exactly, that's what we were looking for. Just last week a professor from the University of South Florida was able to get together people like Cody Fowler, who was part of the Biracial Bias Committee, and Reverend [A. Leon] Lowry and all those first desegregating this area. And they have the letters and papers now on file in the University of South Florida's library about what the civil rights era was about and the approach to it. So you know, things are finally coming out, now that's this project has started and we want to keep it rolling.
7824 JA: Well, that's great. Over the years there has been people in Tampa, as in most other southern cities where there is strict discrimination, there have been people who are bridges between the races and who are able to get things done that could have been done otherwise. I know from here, say in Tampa, how riots have been prevented, how lynching have been prevented. All this sort of stuff which has happened and doesn't get in the history book and nobody knows about it, so that young people today-I remember during the sixties [1960s] when the picketing and all this sort of stuff was going on. People say, "Well gee. We have to do everything. What did y'all ever do, you know. What did your generation ever do, you know, y'all just sat back and took it, you know." They just didn't know. And they still don't know.
8881 I'll give you an example of not knowing. Most segregated schools did not have any subject matter on Negro history at all. I think, finally, in Tampa they did get a course in Negro history and I think-well, I know that when I went to high school-I went to high school in South Carolina-we were the only school in the state that had a course in Negro history, a book written and published by Carter G. Woodson. So that young folks just don't get it. They don't know about it and it's important that they do. And when I heard about this project-in fact my cousin Street called my brother last week and told him about it. And since I was heading in this direction and I had been nursing-as you notice how brittle some of this stuff is, I've been nursing it for years. So I said well I would bring it along with me and see if you could see if you could glean any information from it.
920 OA: Yes, definitely.
10125 JA: Tell me, what specifically have you-you told me generally what you are doing. First of all, have you run into my family?
1129 OA: Okay, the Armwood family?
128 JA: Yes.
1323 OA: No, no, we haven't.
149 JA: Well.
1578 OA: Maybe you better tell me some of the people that's included in the family.
1679 JA: The young man that I spoke to yesterday, Mr. [Herbert] Jones, knew of Blan-
17OA: Oh, Blanche Armwood Beatty. Of course! Of course! Of course. Yeah. Okay.
1850 JA: Now, have you run into any of her antecedents?
19254 OA: Ah, no; the only information we have on her is indirectly from the history of the Tampa Urban League, and that's something we will be doing a complete thing on very soon. And a great deal of that will be centered around her, from what we understand.
20468 JA: There is a good bit of Urban League stuff in here. There should be something on her father, and something on her brother, and on her sister, because they were a pivotal family, and much of the activities, civic activities and racial activities, went on generally around them in their communities. For example, my grandfather-there is a court over here in the projects named Armwood Court and it's named for my grandfather, who was the first settler in that area.
2126 OA: And what was his name?
2218 JA: Levin Armwood.
2374 OA: Levin Armwood. Do you get any idea around what time he first settled?
24169 JA: I was thinking about that the other night and I really don't know. But judging from things that I have heard and trying to go back over the years, I should imagine-
25936 My father was born in 1879. He wasn't born in Tampa. He was born over near Sanford and I can't recall the name of the little town. It's not there anymore, because I remember we went by once to try and locate it, but it's nothing but grown up in bushes now, a little community. But what happen was, of course he was born in slavery and emancipation came. They had moved from North Carolina to Georgia and from Georgia down to Florida, on the east coast, and finally-I don't know why or how they got over to Tampa, but I know they did come on across to Tampa. Their homestead is a place over on the east coast and then part of them, including my grandfather, came on over to Tampa. Now as I said, my father was born in seventy-nine [1879], so it wasn't too much later that was brought to Tampa, so I should imagine somewhere around in the early 1880s-around 1885 probably, somewhere in there. That is as hard as I can fasten it down.
26OA: Okay.
27164 JA: Then he remained in Tampa, in Seffner. There was a school named after him in Seffner. He was instrumental in getting it started when it was built and so forth.
2834 OA: What did you say the town was?
2912 JA: Seffner.
3031 OA: But the name of the school?
3125 JA: Levin Armwood School.
32OA: Levin Armwood School.
33112 JA: I don't think it's there anymore, with the consolidation that had been going on over the years and so forth.
3452 OA: It was, like, part of the public school systems?
35322 JA: Yes, Hillsborough County School System. He was quite an old man-when I say quite an old man I am not speaking in terms of age, but in his overall activities. He was active all around the city. At one time he was the first black policeman in Tampa. Oh, that's another thing it may be a good idea if you checked into.
36OA: Okay.
37225 JA: Records, city records, and county records. Because many times they are listed as Armwood colored, and it may not be, you see. You might miss something like that, you see, if you don't know the name as you came across it.
3891 OA: That is why we are trying to do our interviews first and get people to throw out names.
39242 JA: I don't know how long he was on the force, I know he quit because he arrested a white man and the judge told him you can't arrest a white man. He said, "If I can't arrest him then I am no cop," you know. So he quit right then and there.
40OA: He's a man of conscience.
4156 JA: Right, right, he is very well known for the quality.
4261 OA: Do you have any idea around what time he was a policeman?
4366 JA: Must been in the nineties [1890s], or shortly there afterword.
4433 OA: Eighteen nineties, beautiful.
4545 JA: You know we are talking a long time back.
4680 OA: That's okay. Okay. If we get into (inaudible) then we know where to look at.
47348 JA: I believed he died when he was thirty-six, and he had been a farmer for as long as I can remember. Had a place out here in Seffner. So, you know, all of this goes way, way, way back. The records will show that the Armwood family, generally, was active in county and the city. For an example, my father opened the first black drugstore in Tampa.
48OA: And his name was Armwood?
4911 JA: Armwood
50OA: First name?
51JA: Walter.
5259 OA: Walter Armwood, and your grandfather was Levin Armwood?
53104 JA: The drugstore was on Central Avenue, near Constance. They don't call it Constance any more, do they?
5464 OA: I don't think so; I think I know what you are talking about.
5586 JA: They changed it. Anyway, it was below Scott [Street]. He was there for many years.
56OA: The name of the drugstore was Armwood Drugstore?
57462 J A: No, it was the Gem Drugstore [1308 Central Ave]. But it was owned and operated by him. He also was-check out your school records. There was at one time Blanche Armwood, who was superintendent of Negro schools, and he was principal of Lomax [High School] at one time, and Dot was teaching home economics in the school system. So, there were two sister and a brother. All three of them were in the system at one time and the system was Negro-excuse that term.
58OA: That's okay. That's all right. We have gone through that changes, man.
5944 JA: You do not get offended by that anymore?
60OA: No, no.
61320 JA: But we called it Negro schools at that tine, you know. So she was superintendent of the Negro schools for Hillsborough County and my father worked at Lomax and to think, his last school job was with Booker T. [Washington School] when it was a high school. He also was vice president at one time, FAMC, my father was.
62OA: Of what?
6335 JA: FAMC-you are not a Florida boy?
6458 OA: No, I am from Florida, but that the way you said that-
6547 JA: You don't know FMAC? Tell him what FMAC is.
66Unknown Voice: It's Florida A&M [Agricultural & Mechanical University].
67JA: Tell him what FMAC is.
6855 OA: I know, I know, but I never heard anybody say that.
69219 JA: No kidding. Well of course, they have changed the name in recent years. But he was head of the Mechanical Arts Department there for some time. So, the family does have a history in the country and city and state.
70OA: In all the things that you just mentioned, that's what Walter Armwood did?
71195 JA: Right, right. For example, during World War I he was-I think his title was Coordinator of Negro Leader of the State of Florida, under the Department of Labor-World War II-I mean World War I.
72193 OA: You know, that World War I area is an area we are looking for information in terms of what blacks were doing. Whether they were involved [in] shipbuilding and exactly what they were doing.
73298 JA: They were-there is a family here, I can't think of their name offhand, but I can recall stories told by my father. For example, Tampa Shipyard was active during World War I and-oh, I can see this old man now, but I can't call his name, a big tall heavy man. He also was active in union affairs.
74OA: Now, that's the kind of stuff we need to know.
75427 JA: There was a some German activity at the shipyard. I recalled that my father telling us-used to tell the story of how he suspected, and they got the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigations] in on it. And finally they arrested the man for attempting sabotage. And it was through his observation that the man was caught. So there are all kind of things like this that happen that you don't get in any normal process, you see.
76809 There is an article in one of these books talking about World War II-World War I-omitting the fact that Negro women were staying out of the white women's kitchens. In other words, they were not going to work. And the reason they were not going to was they were able to sit down on their front porch and rock because their husbands and sons were sending them allotment checks. And that the same law that applied to men should apply to them. In other words, there was a law at the time that they called the "work or fight law." Either you have a job or went to jail or you went into the army. And they wanted this law to apply to Negro women-not white women, but Negro women because they were refusing to go to work in the white women's kitchens, see. There are a couple of clippings in here confirming that.
77274 It's a thing like this we need to know about. It's just unbelievable, some of the things that have happened and you mention them, no, it couldn't happen. But when you start a research program like you have-you know there is a long way back to go and a lot of digging to do.
78OA: That's right. Well, we are going to do it.
79381 JA: A lot of digging to do. You should have one or two people reading the newspapers from the time they began forward and making notes, because you really cross a lot of hidden stuff that doesn't become apparent until it's linked with something else. There is a lot of stuff here that was in the papers. Because I know you must have checked that [Florida Sentinel] Bulletin now.
8032 OA: This week we're going there.
8141 JA: Good, how long have you been started?
82OA: We started in January, really.
83JA: That's not very long. How long are you programmed for?
84234 OA: Hopefully until we've gathered everything. It may be for a while. The first grant runs out in September, and our advisory committee is meeting Thursday to get it extended past September, so we can spend a year to two years on it.
8522 JA: Well, you need to.
8619 OA: I know, I know.
87143 JA: Negros in Tampa, particularly, have always been able to avoid much of the racial stress that other parts of the state have been subject to.
8867 OA: You know, I got that feeling too, and I couldn't understand it.
89885 JA: Well, one reason is because they had good leadership and they were aggressive with that leadership. For example, they-I forget his name now, I have heard about it for years. For example, the sheriff and my father grew together as boys. The mayor and my mother were children together. So that they knew there was an-even though there [was] segregation, there was still some mingling in terms of normal, or ordinary, everyday activities. The kids played together and Mr. So and So-you see, if you were independent and let everybody know you were independent, you got a little more respect from the other side. Consequently, you got along better with them and there was no hanky-panky between you, you see. And this did happen with some of the families in Tampa. So, they were able to have some influence on what took place and what didn't take place and what didn't take place.
90720 For example, the county jail, two or three times there were people coming from out of the county that were going to take somebody out of jail. By travel drum, the news spread. When I say travel drum, I'm speaking figuratively, by the grapevine. The news got around in the right places. They gathered, and met and said, "What we are going to do about this? We can't have it happen here." And they got the white people together and they stopped it, see. This had happened more than once, so there has been an overall leadership in Tampa which has helped to prevent that sort of thing. You go in some parts of the State of Florida and there were times when it wasn't safe to be caught at night, and this is literally so.
91OA: I don't believe that.
92JA: Because you were open game.
9330 OA: They call it coon hunting.
94101 JA: Right, right, you take your place like up west of Tallahassee, between Tallahassee and Pensacola.
95Unknown Voice: Quincy?
96303 JA: No. Quincy is right next to Tallahassee. It had a reputation. Place up here out of Jacksonville. I recalled once driving from Daytona to Tallahassee with my father and signs posted, "Nigger, read and run." Now you hear that expression and you really don't believe it. Right, you don't believe it.
97OA: No, a lot of young people don't believe it, I believe it.
98JA: You don't believe it.
9917 OA: I believe it.
100588 JA: But it is an actual fact. That area in Florida-there are areas in Georgia and Alabama, where your life wasn't safe at any time. Because the population thrived on keeping you in your place and that was the way they did it. It was pure abject fear for your life, so that we all this history behind us. And we don't know it. We don't know there were people attempting to do something about it. And it's good that you are now getting down to with-what interests me in the fact that in Tampa, in Florida, the government is at long last getting around to sponsoring something like this.
10148 OA: And it was a unique type of thing to happen.
102516 JA: This is indicative to me of the change, which has taken place in the atmosphere generally of race relations and civil rights and so forth in the country as a whole. Florida is not alone in its real discrimination, and neither is Mississippi. I've seen the same signs in-believe it or not-Kansas City in 1943. I was in the service and I was flabbergasted, and on the street poles, utilities poles, were signs, "Nigger stay out, Nigger read and run." I don't mean just one, but the whole neighborhood was posted.
103309 Now, I was in the service and at the time I was in the Intelligence Corps. I went back and reported I had seen these signs and nobody believed me and so I took my camera out and took pictures of them. And of course, this opened a lot of people's eyes to the fact that there was a potential for racial strife.
104OA: The black man wasn't really safe anywhere in the country.
105253 JA: So, ah-and Kansas was supposed to have been one of those places where during the slavery and reconstruction, you could at least pass through safely, you know. But all those (inaudible) there been spots where it's better that other sports, you know.
10673 OA: That kind of stuff we've been picking up on in our research material.
10762 JA: It's been very, very rough on blacks all over the country.
108OA: And so the next Armwood that would get involved-
109794 JA: Well, there's one person that I don't know, and I think you should talk to Melba [Street] about that. Her father and his brother, back in the twenties [1920s]-his brother was a mechanical engineer and he had developed and constructed two models of an automobile. And at the time-I think this goes back to the early twenties [1920s]-he wanted to start a factory between here and Albany, Georgia. He had some promise of some industrial property there to set up a factory where he could get money for it. And he did sell stock in and around Tampa. Melba's father was helping with it, and I think this is something she may be able to tell you. He too was in the cigar business, cigar factories, and there were several makers around that time. They think of the Cubans being the cigar makers.
110111 OA: You know, that's right. We were working as apprentices in the cigar factories and were very much involved.
111JA: Right, very much involved. My father was very much involved in the unions, cigar factory unions.
112OA: That's an area I'm really excited about. All the various strikes that took place.
113170 JA: So, you see, this is one-he was, incidentally, a building contractor, my father was. Like I said, if you get records you will find out a lot of things that happened.
114102 (to someone in the background) Could we have a little light? No, we are not reading, just talking now.
115123 So the records, the county records and so forth, will show you another part of the family, the Holloman part of the family.
11613 OA: Holloman?
11798 JA: Holloman, Holloman. There is a real estate subdivision I couldn't locate now to save my life-
11827 Side 1 ends; side 2 begins.
119356 JA: -was very prominent around Tampa at the same time. The Hollomans and the Armwoods came to Tampa around the same period of time. And they developed around the same period of time. My grandfather married a Holloman girl and so they sort of united the two families. Somewhere I have a copy of a commission appointing county commissioner John Holloman.
12024 OA: County Commissioner?
121JA: Yes, and this was back in eighteen something or other.
12282 OA: A county commissioner? He was appointed a county commissioner by the governor?
123359 JA: I've never been able to verify. I never tried to verify. But I have heard that, for example, where Temple Terrace is now, I understand that he homesteaded that area. And in the early 1900s, somehow it was not a strictly legitimate deal. In other words, somebody got it from him by other than legitimate means and then developed it into what it is today.
124189 OA: That also happen with the fellow, I can't remember his name, that [Hugh] MacFarlane bought that area in West Tampa from a black man, owned most of that area in West Tampa, I understand.
125208 JA: It had happen, you know. They get you into various legalities and you don't stand a chance. At that time, I think when Blanche's first husband, Perkins, was about the lawyer in Tampa, first black lawyer.
126OA: Do you remember his first name?
127JA: Daniel Perkins.
128OA: First black lawyer?
129JA: Yeah, I think he was. I don't recall ever hearing of any other before him.
130OA: And he was a lawyer around what time?
131291 JA: This would have been-well, I remember him, he just died-about, say around 1910 to 1915. He left Tampa. They separated, he left Tampa and went to Jacksonville and open a practice in Jacksonville and until he died. Which hasn't been too long ago. So, these are just some of the, you know.
13254 OA: And I thought you didn't have anything to tell us.
13370 JA: Well, I thought by now you would have had all of this information.
134284 OA: No, see we were just reaching a period of the 1920 zone. We have covered, like, the reconstruction area, slavery, Civil War, you know. So we are just getting into the twenties [1920s]. We are short on material on the World War [I] period and we are just into the twenties [1920s].
135470 JA: Well, these books have-it's funny, she [Blanche] clipped much of this because it was her personal interest, but attached there too and around and about, a lot of interesting stuff in the period and what was going on and sometimes the relationships that developed from that time. For example, you know her as the organizer and the first executive secretary of the Tampa Urban League. But do you have her as the first organizer of the Tampa Gas School, Cooking School?
136644 See, when the gas company first began operate, everybody was cooking with wood. Every white woman who could spare fifty cents a week had a cook, a black cook. So, if they were going to put in these stoves in the kitchens, they had to have people who knew how to use them. So the gas company organized gas-cooking schools to teach them how to operate the stoves and so forth. And the tuition was free. They set the school up and equipped it and she operated the first one in Tampa. Here is a booklet of what they were doing and so forth. She did that, not only in Tampa, but she set up a school in Athens, Georgia and another one in New Orleans.
137She also-I don't know about Tampa, but in Athens she organized the first NAACP group. So incidentally-she's quite a woman, she got her first degree from Howard [University]. She didn't get a chance to-where is the constitution? Now, that's the original.
138OA: Now, this is history here.
139JA: That's the original.
14081 OA: This is history here. I am sure the Urban League doesn't have a copy of this.
141296 J A: I doubt they have the original. See, this stuff goes way back to twenty-three [1923] and the other book there probably goes back to a little further than that. I haven't been through it myself in quite sometime because I don't like to handle it. Do you have a method of preserving documents?
142OA: Yes, the museum does.
143J A: That's what I understand.
144OA: In our collections department.
145JA: Well, how do you do it?
14657 OA: I don't know how they do it; they're very good at it.
147220 JA: I had said to myself this morning that if you were interested in this material, I wouldn't dare let these books get out of my procession, except under the provision that they were strictly preserved. In other words-
14840 OA: Listen, they will be and I tell you.
149JA: When I say preserved, I mean gone through whatever process they use to preserve old documents and that none will be destroyed and there would have to be a catalog made and all that sort of stuff, and they are very valuable. My son is very much interested in this sort of thing. So, if he knows I brought it down here-
150336 You know, she [Blanche] was very active in the Republican Party. For example, when she was going through law school in Washington, she would leave law school at night and take a train to Boston and make a speech and be back in class the next morning. By train, not by plane because they didn't have that type of services at that time.
151OA: And the Republican Party at that time was in power?
152456 JA: Annual report activity of the Tampa Urban League, all kinds of stuff. Let me see what this is. "Whereas Blanche Armwood Washington had been duly appointed by the governor according to the constitution of Florida State Notary Republic." You never know what you are going to run into these things. There's all kinds of stuff, see. She was active in the National Association of Negro Women; there was no better speaker on anybody's roster than she was.
153OA: Yeah, I notice this.
154JA: She could get in front a audience for an hour without a note and keep talking.
155OA: You know, I was thinking about that. I think it was what like last week. I think it's a shame that we don't put the kind of a claim that we should have put into orators these days, because we missed a lot of education, and there are a lot of good orators around, you know, people just don't come out for that kind of stuff anymore.
156121 JA: I would like to see-something I've always wanted to do is to one of the recorder. There are several of them in here.
157Unknown Voice: Does it say here on this picture?
158297 JA: It's almost a whole history of that (inaudible) Baptist Church. I don't know what town that is, from Florida, from Tampa, from Georgia, that led for a while in Tennessee. That's the Urban League was started. You know, up until the Urban League was started, we didn't have a library to attend.
159144 OA: Did we have the organization that was organized for many of the formal structures to advance our people before the Urban League was started?
160308 JA: When you say formal structure-I don't recall. There were organizations, for example, were active in that respect. But they're not the type of thing that the Urban League is or was. And they didn't do the same kind of work, so that-some other pictures here, a copy of the Crisis, where she was involved.
161OA: I always wonder what one of those looked like.
16294 JA: It used to be the sorriest looking color you ever saw, but that's a pretty good one there.
163OA: I'd love to read that.
16416 JA: Here she is.
16563 OA: Okay, let me see her. That's what I've been wanting to see.
166279 JA: There she is. These are some of the women that were active during her time, her contemporaries. Yes, she could talk a while. She had spoken on several national radio hook ups for the Republican Party. She was in a train wreck going to a Republican convention in California.
16760 OA: Do you know if she ever made any anti-lynching speeches?
16843 JA: I'm not sure, can you say specifically?
16928 OA: Yeah, or just generally.
170149 JA: I can't give you subject matter because, as I said, now there are some copies here, for example, there is somewhere here-copies of the newspaper.
171Unknown Voice: Here's a copy of the Holloman School.
172JA: Holloman School was where? They tore it down, didn't they? My first school.
173Unknown Voice: They talk about your father, your grandfather?
174415 JA: Levin, that was my grandfather. Somewhere in here I just ran across-she also was not hesitant about writing to the newspaper. The Bulletin would have quite a-let's see, was it Middleton? She had some controversy once with [George S.] Middleton and they were back and forth in the papers for quite sometime. This would have been in the mid-twenties [1920s]. But, like I say, there's all kinds of stuff in here.
175135 OA: And you know who would also help us? They would love this; they would love to help to preserve this. The university would join us.
176JA: Well, they would have perhaps had more facilities than the museum.
177181 OA: As a matter of fact, we work more closely with the University that the museum. We just, sort of, work out of the museum. But the museum does have its own collections department.
178JA: There was a-where are the picture of the school? Actually, the articles are more preserved than the sheets they are attached to. See, they had a cheesecake in those days, too. There are several pictures of various gas schools in Tampa; "Schools for cooks start here soon." This was, I think, in Athens.
179548 This is Lomax High School in 1917. She kept her records. "Two Negro women speakers on uplift of race tell a crying need of detention home for juvenile sent to prison." She was very active in terms of young people and the judicial system. One of the earliest story I know about her was when she was about thirteen or fourteen years old. A girl was arrested who was about her age, really. And she felt so outraged that she went to court and pleaded the girl's case and got her out, which at that time was unheard of for a Negro person, you know.
180So ah, Florida Federation of Women, you'll find it. The Tampa Morning Tribune "Economy in Their Home," by Blanche A. Perkins. Another thing that gave her entry to many civic activities she that wouldn't have otherwise.
181OA: Is there something wrong here?
18238 JA: This, no this a letter written by-
183OA: Is there a page one to this? This is sort of like a biography.
18446 JA: Oh, yeah, it's probably in here somewhere.
185OA: Now this we definitely want. We can make a Xerox copy of this. You can keep this, so we can write a biography of her.
186JA: This is her lesson plans for cooking school. She even had to teach them to write. She had a B average in law school.
187OA: In law school?
188JA: Uh-huh, B average.
189OA: Heavy course load.
190JA: Not only that, as I said, but being active in politics, too. Who was our Negro congressman in 1934, thirty-five [1935], thirty-six [1936]?
191OA: From where?
192JA: Anywhere.
193OA: In thirty-five [1935] and thirty-six [1936]?
194JA: Uh huh, who was our Negro congressman? These are pictures of her classroom.
195159 OA: See, you've got to teach me something. Because I thought the last of the reconstruction politicians were in the sort of-1890s or so, in thirty-six [1936]?
196JA: Did you ever hear of Oscar Dupree?
197OA: Yes, yes, I heard of him.
198463 JA: This is her wartime cookbook, everything from potatoes, bread, on. Some good eating in here. Potatoes, sweet potatoes. So, what I was going to say is that, it is tied in. She had, during this period had, attended school in Lynchburg, Virginia, a lot of things she has had. Wartime cooking school, (inaudible) value. You'll find some white politicians names here, too, who she was not afraid to deal with. "Bad Colored Boy turned into Model War Gardeners."
199OA: Benjamin Mays talks about him.
200JA: He's still living, isn't he?
201OA: Yeah, he's over the educational system.
202JA: I haven't seen him in years.
203OA: He talks about Blanche.
204JA: He worked with her for quite a while.
205OA: He came to the Urban League in twenty-six [1926].
206238 JA: Uh huh, right. Yes, he was. I don't know when he left Tampa. I think he left Tampa and went to West Virginia in the thirties [1930s]. Benjamin Mays. "Women must win the war." "Mrs. Perkins address the gathering at Xavier University."
207OA: Xavier?
20892 JA: That's New Orleans. Like I say, I haven't myself, looked through this in quite a while.
209OA: Was that (inaudible) you just turned from?
210230 JA: No, I think this must be the Negro Women Club or something. Oh, this is National Gas Company Association. "Negros criticize through Cookman's Union." "Cookman's program bring protest from housewives." It's all here somewhere.
211What do you mean by when she was always nice looking?
212Unknown Voice: See, what I am saying, now we don't have pictures like this around schools anymore.
213JA: I don't care what you say. How she looked when she smiled, that was it. She wiped out all your other ideas about beauty.
214222 Cooking school, she was well equipped, they were selling stoves. This was over at Booker T., I think; Booker T. Washington High School. This is the ticket to the gallery at the House of Representatives from Oscar Dupree.
215OA: Oscar Dupree?
21669 JA: It's his signature in it. Excuse me, let me just turn that page.
21777 OA: Was he the only Congressman we had at that during period for a long time?
21865 JA: Then if you recall, you probably recall, Dawson replaced him.
219OA: Dawson?
220705 JA: Dawson; they're from Chicago and Dawson became a power during the fifties [1950s] and sixties [1960s]. The Board of Education can give you a lot of information on people in Tampa. Just going through the records of who was teaching at that time. You talk to some of the older people in Tampa who went to school in Tampa, they could give you much information. There's a whole thing there on the convention meeting for the Republican Party's at [Warren] Harding's home in Ohio at one time. She speaks out against conditions in Louisiana and to say that "I shall bring it to the attention of the President. Sincerely yours Christian (inaudible), Junior, Secretary to the President of the United States."
221Unknown Voice: This is a picture of your grandfather here?
222JA: If you look at the picture real good, real good, you might see somebody else on that picture, who could be sitting in front of you.
223end of interview
unicode



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COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 2009, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrig hted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fo wler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.

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1 Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida Oral History Project Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida, Tampa Library Digital Object Identifier: A31 00005 Interviewee: John Armwood (JA) Interview by: Otis Anthony (OA ) Interview date: April 10, 1978 Interview location: Unknown Transcribed by: Unknown Transcription date: Unknown Interview C hanges by: Kimberly Nordon Interview Changes date: December 8, 2008 Final Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Final Edit date: March 1 0, 2009 John Armwood : I'm curious to know or very interested in the fact that this has been done. Otis Anthony : Okay, let me tell you. We're working on a federal grant with the Hillsborough County Museum. It's something I have been interested in doing a long time. As a matter of fact, it's something I would have eventually done on my own. Shirley [Smith] is oral history writer with the project, a nd I am the project coordinator. W e have a staff of about six people, okay. And we have an advisory commit tee. Do you know Bob Saunders? JA: No, I don't know anybody in Tampa, unfortunately. OA: Well, that's okay. Bob Saunders is the chair of our advisory committee and we have people like Miriam Anderson on our advisory committee. JA: I know her. OA: Okay, all right. She's on our advisory committee. And what we are really trying to do is finally documents and recorded chronologically the history of b lacks in Tampa. Let me give you an idea of some of the things we've done. Like, we began with about the period of 1500, would you believe that? When the first black man set foot on Tampa Bay. Now, Fort Brooke, which was formerly Tampa, began in about 1824, but we have some information just on the first blacks to come here, slaves, that type of stuff. A nd we've collected information up until about the 1920s. Now it is still some gaps in what are doing and we're still not satisfied and we are still digging hard for research material. This ki nd of thing here is fantastic. W hat we're trying to do is abso lute fantastic. When you said this, I knew exactly, that's what we were looking for. Just last week a professor from the University of South Florida was able to get together people like Cody Fowler,

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2 who was part of the Biracial Bias Committee, and Reveren d [A. Leon] Lowry and all those first desegregating this area. And they have the letters and papers now on file in the University of South Florida's library about what the civil rights era was about and the approach to it. So you know, things are finally coming out, now that's this project has started and we want to keep it rolling. JA: Well, that's great. Over the years there has been people in Tampa, as in most other southern cities where there is strict discrimination, there have been people who are b ridges between the races and who are able to get things done that could have been done otherwise. I know from here, say in Tampa, how riots have been prevented, how lynching have been prevented. All this sort of stuff which has happened and doesn't get i n the history book and nobody knows about it, so that young people today I remember during the sixties [1960s] when the picketing and all this sort of st uff was going on. People say, "Well gee. W e have to do everything. Wh at did y'all ever do, you know. W hat did your generation ever do, you know, y'all just sat back and took it, you know." T hey just didn't know. And they still don't know. I'll give you an example of not knowing. Most segregated schools did not have any subject matter on Negro history at all. I think, finally, in Tampa they did get a course in Negro history and I think well, I know that when I went to high school I went to high school in South Carolina we were the only school in the state that h ad a course in Negro history, a book writ ten and published by Carter G. Woodson. So that young folks just don't get it. T hey don't know about it and it's important that they do. And when I hea r d about this project in fact my cousin Street called my brother last week and told him about it. And s ince I was heading in this direction and I had been nursing as you notice how brittle some of this stuff is, I've been nursing it for years. So I said well I would bring it along with me and see if you could see if you could glean any information from it. OA: Yes, definitely. JA: Tell me, what specifically have you you told me generally what you are doing. First of all, have you run into my family? OA: Okay, the Armwood family? JA: Yes. OA: No, no, we haven't. JA: Well. OA: Maybe you better tell me some of the people that's included in the family. JA: The young man that I spoke to yesterday, Mr. [Herbert] Jones, knew of Blan

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3 OA: Oh, Blanche Armwood Beatty. Of course! Of course! Of course. Yeah. Okay. JA: Now, have you run into any of her ante cedents? OA: Ah, no; the only information we have on her is indirectly from the history of the Tampa Urban League, and that's something we will be doing a complete thing on very soon. And a great deal of that will be centered around her, from what we und erstand. JA: There is a good bit of Urban League stuff in here. There should be something on her father, and something on her brother, and on her sister, because they were a pivotal family, and much of the activities, civic activities and racial activiti es, went on generally around them in their communitie s. For example, my grandfather there is a court over here in the projects named Armwood Court and it's named for my grandfather, who was the first settler in that area. OA: And what was his name? JA: Levin Armwood. OA: Levin Armwood. Do you get any idea around what time he first settled? JA: I was thinking about that the other night and I really don't know. But judging from things that I have hea r d and trying to go back over the years, I should ima gine My father was born in 1 879. He wasn't born in Tampa. H e was born over near Sanford and I can't recall the name of the little town. It's not there anymore, because I remember we went by once to try and locate it, but it's nothing but grown up in b ushes now, a little community. But what happen was, of course he was born in slavery and emancipation came. T hey had moved from North Carolina to Georgia and from Georgia down to Florida, on the east coast, and finally I don't know why or how they got ove r to Tampa, but I know they did come on across to Tampa. Their homestead is a place over on the east coast and then part of them, including my grandfather, came on over to Tampa. Now as I said, my father was born in seventy nine [1879] so it wasn't too much later that was brought to Tampa, so I should imagine somewhere around in the early 1880s around 1885 probably, somewhere in there. That is as hard as I can fasten it down. OA: Okay. JA: Then he remained in Tampa, in Seffner. T here was a school named after him in Seffner. He was instrumental in getting it started when it was built and so forth. OA: What did you say the town was? JA: Seffner. OA: But the name of the school?

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4 JA: Levin Armwood School. OA: Levin Armwood School. JA: I don't think it 's there anymore, with the consolidation that had been going on over the years and so forth. OA: It was like part of the public school systems? JA: Y es, Hillsborough County School S ystem. He was quite an old man when I say quite an old man I am not sp eaking in terms of age, but in his overall activities. He was active all around the city. At one time he was the first black policeman in Tampa. Oh, that's another thing it may be a good idea if you checked into. OA: Okay. JA: Records, city records, an d county records. Because many times they are listed as Armwood colored, and it may not be, you see. You might miss something like that, you see, if you don't know the name as you came across it. OA: That is why we are trying to do our interviews first a nd get people to throw out names. JA: I don't know how long he was on the force, I know he quit because he arrested a white man and the judge told him you can't arrest a white man. He said "I f I can't arrest him then I am no cop, you know. So he quit right then and there. OA: He's a man of conscience. JA: Right, right, he is very well known for the quality. OA: Do you have any idea around what time he wa s a policeman? JA: Must been in the nineties [1890s] or shortly there afterword. OA: Eighteen nineties beautiful. JA: You know we are talking a long time back. OA: That's okay. Okay. I f we get into (inaudible) then we know where to look at. JA: I believed he died when he was thirty six, and he had been a farmer for as long as I can remember. Had a place out here in Seffner. So, you know, all of this goes way, way, way back. The records will show that the Armwood family, generally, was active in county and the city. For an example, my father opened the first b lack drugstore in Tampa.

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5 OA: And h is name was Armwood? JA: Armwood OA: First name? JA: Walter. OA: Walter Armwood, and your grandfather was Levin Armwood? JA: The drugstore was on Central Avenue, near Constance. They don't call it Constance any more, do they? OA: I don't think so; I think I know what you are talking about. JA: They changed it A nyway it was below Scott [Street] He was there for many years. OA: The name of the drug store was Armwood Drug s tore? J A: No, it was the Gem D rugstore [1308 Central Ave] But it was owned a nd operated by him. He also was check out your school records T here was at one ti me Blanche Armwood who was superintendent of N egro schools and he was principal of Lomax [High School] at one time, and Dot was teaching home economic s in the school system So, there were two sister and a brother A ll three of them were in the s ystem at one time and the system was Negro excuse that term. OA: That's okay. T hat's all right W e have gone through that changes man. JA: You do not get offended by that anymore? OA: No, no JA: But we called it Negro schools at that tine, you know. So she was superintendent of the Negro school s for Hillsborough County and my father worked at Lomax and to think, his last school job was with Booker T. [Washington School] when it was a high school. He also was vice president at one time, FAMC, my father was. OA: Of what? JA: FAMC you are not a Florida boy? OA: No, I am from Florida, but that the way you said that JA: You don't know FMAC? Tell him what FMAC is.

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6 Unknown Voice : It s Florida A&M [Agricultural & Mechanical University] JA: Tell him what FMAC is. OA: I know, I know, but I never heard anybody say that. JA: No kidding. Well of course, they have changed the name in recent years. But he was head of the Mechanical Arts Department there for some time. So, the family does have a history in the country and city and state. OA: In all the things that you just mentioned, that's what Walter Armwood did? JA: Right, right. For example, during World War I he was I think his title was C oordinator of Negro Leader of the State of Florida, under the Department of Labor World War II I mean World War I. OA: You know that World War I area is an area we are looking for information in terms of what blacks were doing. Whether th ey were involved [in] shipbuilding and exactly what they were doing. JA: They were there is a family here, I can't think of their name offhand, but I can recall stories told by my father. For example, Tampa S hipyard was active during World War I and oh, I can see this old man now, but I can't call his name a big tall heavy man H e also was active in union affairs. OA: Now, that's the kind of stuff we need to know. JA: There was a some German activity at the shipyard. I recalled that my father telling us used to tell the story of how he suspected, and they got the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigations] in on it. And finally they arrested the man for attempting sabotage. And it was through his observation that the man was caught. So there are all kind o f things like this that happen that you don't get in any normal process, you see. There is an article in on e of these books talking about World War II World War I omitting the fact that Negro women were staying out of the white women's kitchen s In oth er words, they were not going to work A nd the reason they were not going to was they were able to sit down on their front porch and rock because their husbands and sons were sending them allotment checks. And that the same law that applied to men should a pply to them. In other words, there w as a law at the time that they call ed the work or fight law E ither you have a job or went to jail or you went into the army. And they wanted this law to apply to Negro women not white women, but Negro women because they were refusing to go to work in the white women's kitchen s see. There are a couple of clipping s in here confirming that. It's a thin g like this we need to know about I t's just unbelievable, some of the things that have happened and you mention th em, no, it couldn't happen. But when you star t a

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7 research program like you have y ou know there is a long way back to go and a lot of digging to do. OA: That's right. Well, we are going to do it. JA: A lot of digging to do. You should have one or two people reading the newspapers from the time they be gan forward and making notes, b ecause you really cross a lot of hidden stuff that doesn't become apparent until it's linked with something else. There is a lot of stuff here that was in the papers. Beca use I know you must have checked that [ Florida Sentinel ] Bulletin now. OA: This week we're going there. JA: Good, how long have you been started? OA: We started in January, really. JA: That's not very long. How long are you programmed for? OA: Hopefu lly until we've gathered everything. It may be for a while. The first grant runs out in September and ou r advisory committee is meeting Thursday to get it extended past September, so we can spend a year to two years on it. JA: Well, you need to. OA: I know, I know. JA: Negros in Tampa particularly, have always been able to avoid much of the racial stress that other parts of the state have been subject to. OA: You know, I got that feeling too and I couldn't understand it. JA: Well, one reason is bec ause they had good leadership and they were aggressive with that leadership. For example, they I forget hi s name now, I have heard about it for years. For example, the sheriff and my father grew together as boys. T he mayor and my mother were children tog ether. So that they knew there was an e ven though there [was] segregation, there was still some mingling in terms of normal or ordinary everyday activities. Th e kids played together and Mr. S o and S o y ou see, if you were independent and let everybody k now you were independent, you got a little more respect from the other side. Consequently, you got along better w ith them and there was no hanky panky between you, you see. And this did happen with some of the families in Tampa. So, they were able to hav e some influence on what took place and what didn't take place and what didn't take place. For example, the county jail, two or three times there were people coming from out of the county that were going to take somebody out of jail. B y travel drum the news spread.

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8 When I say travel drum, I'm speaking figuratively, by the grapevine T he news got around in the right places. They gathered, and met and said W hat we are going to do about this ? We can't have it happen her e. And they g o t the white people together and they stopped it, see. This had happen ed more than once, so there has been an overall leadership in Tampa which has helped to prevent that sort of thing You go in some parts of the S tate of Florida and there were times when it wasn't safe to be caught at night and this is literally so. OA: I don't believe that. JA: Because you were open game. OA: They call it coon hunting. JA: Right, right, you take your place like up west of Tallahassee, between Tallahassee and Pensacola. Unknown Voice : Quincy? JA: No. Quinc y is right next to Tallahassee. It had a reputation. Place up here out of Jacksonville. I recalled once driving from Daytona to Tal lahassee with my father and signs posted, "Nigger, read and run." N ow you hear that expression and you really don't believe it. Right, you don't believe it. OA: No, a lot of young people don't believe it, I believe it. JA: You don't believe it. OA: I believe it. JA: But it is an actual fact. That area in Florida there are areas in Georgia and Ala bama, where your life wasn't safe at any time. Because the population thrived on keeping you in your place and that was the way they did it. It was pure abject fear for your life, so that we all this history b ehind us. And we don't know it. W e don't kno w there were people attempting to do something about it. And it s good that you are now getting down to with w hat interests me in the fact that in Tampa, in Florida, the government is at long last getting around to sponsoring something like this. OA: And it was a unique type of thing to happen. JA: This is indicative to me of the change, which has taken place in the atmosphere generally of race relations and civil rights and so forth in the country as a whole. Florida is not alone in its real discrimina tion and neither is Mississippi. I've seen the same signs in believe it or not Kansas City in 1943. I was in the service and I was flabbergasted, and on the street poles utilities poles, were signs, Nigge r stay out, Nigger read and run." I don't mean j ust one, but the whole neighborhood was posted.

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9 Now, I was in the service and at the time I was in the Intelligen ce Corp s I went back and reported I had seen these signs and nobody believed me and so I took my camera out and took pictures of them. And of course, this opened a lot of people's eyes to the fact that there was a potential for racial strife. OA: The black man wasn't really safe anywhere in the country. JA: So, ah and Kan sas was supposed to have been one of those places where during the s lavery and reconstruction, you could at least pass through safely, you know. But all those (inaudible) there been spots where it's better that other sports, you know. OA: That kind of stuff we've been picking up on in our research material. JA: It's bee n very, very rough on blacks all over the country. OA: And so the next Armwood that would get involved JA: Well, there's one person that I don't know, and I think you should talk to Melba [Street] about that. Her father and his brother, back in the twen ties [1920s] his brother was a mechanical engineer and he had developed and constructed two models of an automobile And at the time I think this goes back to the early twenties [1920s] he wanted to start a factory between here and Albany, Georgia. He had some promise of some industrial property there to set up a factory where he could get money for it. And he did sell stock in and around Tampa. Melba's father was helping with it, and I think this is something she may be able to tell you. He too was in t he cigar business, cigar factories, and there were several makers around that time. They think of the Cubans being the cigar makers. OA: You know, that's right. We were working as apprentices in the cigar factories and were very much involved. JA: Rig ht, very much involved. My father was very much involved in the unions, cigar factory unions. OA: That's an area I'm really excited about. All the various strikes that took place. JA: So, you see, this is one he was, incidentally, a building contractor my father was. Like I said, if you get records you will find out a lot of things that happened. (t o someone in the background) Could we have a little light? No, we are not reading, just talking now. So the records, the county records and so forth will show you another part of the family, the Holloman part of the family.

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10 OA: Holloman? JA: Holloman, Holloman. The re is a real estate subdivision I couldn't locate now to save my life Side 1 ends; side 2 begins. JA: was very prominent around T ampa at the same time. The Hollomans and the Armwoods came to Tampa around the same period of time. And they developed around the same period of time. My grandfather married a Holloman girl and so they sort of united the two families. Somewhere I have a copy of a commission appointing c ounty c ommissioner John Holloman. OA: County Commissioner? JA: Yes, and this was back in eighteen something or other. OA: A county c ommissioner? He was appointed a c ounty c ommissioner by the governor? JA: I've never been able to verify. I neve r tried to verify. B ut I have heard that, for example, where Temple Terrace is now, I understand that he homesteaded that area. And in the early 1900 s somehow it was not a strictly legitimate deal. In other words, somebody got it from him by other than legitimate means and then developed it into what it is today. OA: That also happen with the fellow, I can't remember his name, that [Hugh] MacFarlane b ought t h at area in West Tampa from a black man, owned most of that area in We st Tampa, I understand. J A: It had happen, you know. T hey get you into various legalities and you don't stand a chance. At that time, I think when Blanche's first husband, Perkins, was about the lawyer in Tampa, first black lawyer. OA: Do you remember h is first name? JA: Daniel Perkins. OA: First black lawyer? JA: Yeah, I think he was. I don't recall ever hearing of any other before him. OA: And he was a lawyer around what time? JA: This would have been well, I remember him, he just died a bout, sa y around 1910 to 1915. He left Tampa. They separated, he left Tampa and went to Jacksonville and open a practice in Jacksonville and until he died. Which hasn't been too long ago. So,

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11 these are just so me of the, you know. OA: And I though t you didn't hav e anything to tell us. JA: Well, I though t by now you would have had all of this information. OA: No, see we w ere j ust reach ing a period of the 1920 zone. W e have covered like the reconstruction area, sl aver y, Civil War, you know. S o we are just getti ng into the twenties [1920s] We are short on material o n the World War [I] period and we are just into the twenties [1920s] JA: Well, these books h ave it's funny, she [Blanche] clipped much of this because it was her personal interest, but attached ther e too and around and about, a lot of interesting stuff in the period and what was going on and sometimes the relationships th at developed from t hat time. For example, you know her as the organizer and the first executive secretary of the Tampa Urban League But do you have her as the first organizer of the Tampa Gas School, Cooking School? See, when the gas company first began operate, everybody was cooking with wood. E very w hite woman who could spare fifty cent s a week had a cook, a b lack cook. So, if th ey were going to put in these stoves in the kitchens, they had to have people who knew how to use them. So the gas company organized gas cooking schools to teach them how to operate the stoves and so fo rth. And the tuition was free. T hey set the school up and equipped it and she operated the first one in Tampa. Here is a booklet of what they were doing and so forth. She did that not only in Tampa, but she set up a school in Athens, Georgia and another one in New Orleans. She also I don't know about Tampa but in Athens she organized the f irst NAACP group. So incidentally she's quite a woman, she got her first degree from Howard [University] S he didn't get a chance to where is the constitution? Now, that's the original. OA: Now, this is history here. JA : That's the original OA: This is history here. I am sure the Urban League doesn't have a copy o f this. J A: I doubt they have the original. See, this stuff goes way back to twenty three [1923] and the other book there probably goes back to a little fur ther than that. I haven't been through it myself in quite som etime because I don't like to handle it. Do you have a method of preserving documents? OA: Yes, the museum does. J A: That's what I understand.

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12 OA: In our collections department. JA: Well, how do you do it? OA: I don't know how they do it ; they're very good at it. JA: I had said to myself this morning that if you were interested in this material, I wouldn't dare let these book s get out of my procession, except under the provision that they were strictly preserved. In other words OA: Listen, they will be and I tell you. JA: When I say preserved, I mean gone through whatever process they use to preserve old documents and that none will be destroyed and there would have to be a catalog mad e and all that sort of stuff, and they are very valuable. My son is very much int erested in this sort of thing. S o if he knows I brought it down here You know, she [Blanche] was very active in the Republican Party. For example, when she was going th rough law school in Washington, she would leave law school at night and take a train to Boston and make a speech and be back in class the next morning. By train, not by plane because they didn't have that type of services at that time. OA: And the Repu blican Party at that time was in power? JA: Annual report activity of the Tampa Urban League, all kinds of stuff. Let me see what this is. Whereas Blanch e Armwood Washington had been duly appointed by the governor according to the constitution of Florid a State Notary Republic. You never know what you are going to run into these things T here's all kinds of stuff, see. She was active in the National Association of Negro Women ; there was no better speaker on anybody's roster tha n she was. OA: Yea h I notice this. JA: She could get in front a audience for an hour without a note and keep talking. OA: You know, I was thinking about that. I think it was what like last week. I think it's a shame that we don't put the kind of a claim that we should have p ut into orators these days, because we missed a lot of education, and there are a lot of good orators around, you know, people just don't come out for that kind of stuff anymore. JA: I would like to see s omething I've always wanted to do is to one of the recorder. There are several of them in here. Unknown Voice: Does it say here on this picture?

PAGE 14

13 JA: It s almost a whole history of that (inaudible) Baptist Church. I don't know what town that is, f rom Florida, from Tampa, from Georgia, that led for a whil e in Tennessee. That 's the Urban League was started. You know, up until the Urban League was started, we didn't have a library to attend. OA: Did we have the organization that was organized for many of the formal structure s to advance our people before t he Urban League was started? JA: When you say formal structure I don't recall. There were organizations, for example, were active in that respect. But they're not the type of thing that the Urban League is or was. And they didn't do the same kind of wor k so that s ome other pictures here, a copy of the Crisis where she was involved. OA: I always wonder what one of those look ed like. JA: It u sed to be the sorriest looking color you ever saw, but that's a pretty good one there. OA: I'd love to read tha t. JA: Here she is. OA: Okay let me see her. T hat 's what I've been wanting to see. JA: There she is. T hese are some of the women that were active during her time, her contemporaries. Yes, she could talk a while. S he had spoken on several national radi o hook ups for the Republican Party. She was in a train wre c k going to a Republic an convention in California. OA: Do you know if she ever made any anti lynching speeches? JA: I'm not sure, can you say specifically? OA: Yea h or just generally. JA: I can't give you subject matter because, as I said, now there are some copies here, for example, there is somewhere here copies of the newspaper. Unknown Voice: Here's a copy of the Holloman School. JA: Holloman School was where? They tore it down, didn't they? My first school. Unknown Voice: They talk about your father, your grandfather? JA: Levin, that was my grandfather. Somewhere in here I just ran across she also was not hesitant about writing to the newspaper. The Bulletin would have quite a let's see,

PAGE 15

14 was it Middleton? She had some controversy on c e with [George S.] Middleton and they were back and forth in t he papers for quite sometime. This would have b een in the mid twenties [1920s]. B ut like I say, there's all kinds of stuff in here. OA: And you know who would also help us? They would love this; they would love to help to preserve this. The u niversity would join us. JA: Well, they would have perhaps had more facilities than the museum. OA: As a matter of fact, we work more closely with the University that the museum W e just sort of work out of the museum. B ut the museum does have its own collections department. JA: There was a where are the picture of the school? Actually, the articles are mor e preserved than the sheets they are attached to. See, they had a cheesecake in those days too. There are several pictures of various gas schools in Tampa ; "S chools for cooks start here soon." This was, I think, in Athens. This is Lomax High School in 1917. She kept her records. "Two Negro wo m en speakers on uplift of race t ell a crying need of detention home for juvenile sent to prison." She was very active in terms of young people and the judicial system. One of the earliest story I know about her was when she was about thirteen or fourteen years old. A girl was arrested who was about her age, really. And she felt so outraged that she went to court and pleaded the girl's case and got her out w hich at that time was unheard of for a Negro person, you know. So ah, Florida Federation of Wom en, you'll find it. The Tampa Morning Tribune E conomy in T heir Home," by Blanche A. Perkins. Another thing that gave her entry to many civic activities she that wouldn't have otherwise. OA: Is there something wrong here? JA: Th is, no this a letter wri tten by OA: Is there a page one to this? This is sort of like a biography. JA: Oh yeah, it s probably in here somewhere. OA: Now this we defi n i t e ly want. We can make a Xerox copy of this. Y ou can keep this, so we can write a biography of her. JA: Thi s is her lesson plans for cooki ng school. S he even had to t each them to write. She had a B average in law school. OA: In law school?

PAGE 16

15 JA: Uh huh, B average. OA: Heavy course load. JA: Not only t hat, as I said, but being active in politics too. Who wa s ou r Negro congressman in 1934, thirty five [1935], thirty six [1936] ? OA: From where? JA: Anywhere. OA: In thirty five [1935] and thirty six [1936] ? JA: Uh huh, who was our Negro congressman? These are pictures of her classroom. OA: See, you've got to teach me something. Because I thought the last of the reconstruction politicians were in the sort of 1890s or so, in thirty six [1936] ? JA: Did you ever hear of Oscar Dupree? OA: Yes, yes I heard of him. JA: This is her wartime cookbook, everything from potatoes bread on. Some good eating in here. Potatoes, sweet potatoes. So, what I was going to say is that, it is tied i n. She had, during this period had attended school in Lynchburg Virginia a lot of things she has had. Wartime cooking scho ol, (inaudible) value. You'll find some white politicians names here too who she was not afraid to deal with. "Bad C olored B oy turned into Model War Gardeners." OA: Benjamin Mays talks about him. JA: He's still living, isn't he? OA: Yeah, he's over the educational system JA: I haven't seen him in years. OA: He talks about Blanche. JA: He worked with her for quite a while. OA: He came to the Urban League in twenty six [1926] JA: Uh huh, right. Yes, he was I don't know when he left Tampa. I thi nk he left Tampa and w ent to West Virginia in the thirties [1930s] Benjamin Mays. "Women must win the war." "Mrs. Perkins address the gathering at Xavier University."

PAGE 17

16 OA: Xavier? JA: That's New Orleans. Like I say, I haven't myself, looked through th is in quite a while. OA: Was that (inaudible) you just turned from? JA: No, I think this must be the Negro Women Club or something. Oh, this is National Gas Company Association. "Negros criticize through Cookman's Union." "Cookman's program bring prote s t from housewives." It's all here somewhere. What do you mean by w hen she was always nice looking? Unknown Voice: See, what I am saying now we don't have pictures like this around schools anymore. JA: I don't care what you say H ow she looked when sh e smiled, that was it. She wiped out all your other ideas about beauty. Cooking school, she was well equipped, they were selling stoves. This was over at Boo ker T., I think; Booker T. Washington High School. This is the ticket to the gallery at the H ouse of Representatives from Oscar Dupree. OA: Oscar Dupree? JA: It's his signature in it. Excuse me let me just turn that page. OA: Was he the only Congressman we had at tha t during period for a long time? JA: Then if you recall, you probably recal l, Dawson replaced him. OA: Dawson? JA: Daws on; they're from Chicago and Daws on became a power during the fifties [1950s] and sixties [1960s] The Board of Education can give you a lot of information on people in Tampa. Just going through the records of who was teaching at that time. You talk to some of the older people in Tampa who went to school in Tampa, they could give you much information. There's a whole thing there on the convention meeting for the Republican Party's at [Warren] Harding's home in Ohio at one time. She speaks out against conditions in Louisiana and to say that I shall bring it to the attention of the President S incerely yours Christian ( inaudible ), J unio r, Secretary to the President of the United States. Unknown Voice: This is a picture of your grandfather here?

PAGE 18

17 JA: If you look at the picture real good, real good, you might see somebody else on that picture, who could be sitting in front of you. end of interview


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