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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 Identifer: A31 00013 Interviewee: Fannie Coleman (FC) Interview by: Otis Anthony (OA) Interview date: September 13, 1978 Interview location: Unknown Transcribed by: Unknown Transcription date: Unknown Interview changes by: Kimberly Nordon Changes date: December 11, 2008 Final Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Final Edit date: Janua ry 7, 2009 O tis A nthony : You have to repeat it over again. Fannie Coleman : I a h w e supposedly come to Tampa in 1998  and I was 2 years old. I was born in Brooksville. OA: Okay, Ms. Coleman, when you came here, what were the how were blacks living when you came here? FC: In a poor condition. Very poor. OA: Correct. Can you go further in explaining what you're talking about? FC: How you mean, in what manner? OA: Just describe it. FC: Oh. Well, they was you know they was poor. And they wasn' t treated too good. So, I don't know what else to say. But I'm supposed to be 76 years old if I come here in 1998. OA: That's right, 1898. FC: That's right, 1898. And a h I know most of the problem of people in Tampa because Tampa wasn't nothin' when I w as old enough to know about it. It wasn't nothin'. And the depot was there o n Polk, in Tampa. And the Clara Frye Hospital was up o n L am ar Street. They had a little hospital up there. OA: Can you tell us something about the Clara Frye Hospital?
2 FC: Well, that's all I know about it. OA: All right. How was the living conditions, like the houses? FC: Well, the houses was little wooden shacks. An d this out here was nothin'... wasn't nothin' out here. Down here by this river. And when they did they were little houses face to face. I don't know you were too young to know. It was bad conditions to live in, but that 's what you had to do. And a average man, they claim, got a dollar and a dollar and a half a day. I don't know. I thought y' a ll wanted a h, like, the first colored doctor was here was Dr. Anderson, to my knowin'. Of course, Mr. Ferrell ought to could give you a lot of information, A. J. Ferrell, because he was brought up here too. And the Brumicks they used to OA: Yeah, tell us somethin' about the Brumicks We heard a lot about 'em, but we we have no information about 'em. FC: Well, the Brumicks, they owned a whole lot of property off of Franklin down there o n Tyler goin' to the river. And they were teachers. Two of 'em, Miss Vio la and Miss Emma, t hey was teachers in Hillsborough C ounty school. I went to Harlem, the little bit I went to school. I haven't gotten much of a education. But I went to school to Harlem. Yo u know, I don't understand it. C olored people haven't got anything yet today. Got no hospital. They got no nothin'. And I just don't understand it. How do th what they have get away from 'em? OA: Well, what happened to all the property the Brumicks owned? FC: I don't know. But they owned y ou've heard of them haven't ya? OA: Yes, ma'am, we have heard a lot about them. FC: Yeah. They owned property from Tampa Stre et back toward the river there o n Tyler. Now what become of it, I don't know. And ah who else I k now owned property? Did you h ave you all talked to Emma Mantz? OA: No we haven 't talked to her. FC: Well, she's raised here. I don't know whether she was born here, but she was here all of her life wh en I knowed her. She was on s he's up there on Ola and I can't think now. I know when St. Paul Church faced Marion Street, a little wo oden church. OA: A wooden church? FC: Yes, it was. And they turned it round to face Harrison Street.
3 OA: Oh, that's real interesting. FC: Yeah. OA: Okay, Ms. Coleman, how was segregation? FC: (laughs) Well, you know, you took the back seat on the y ou wouldn't dare sit up in the front because you wasn't allowed there. OA: Well, how did you view w hat was your view of it? FC: At that time? OA: Yes ma'am. FC: I was a child. I t didn't worry me, you know, because ain't had nothin' to ride with no how, you had to walk. I lived in West Side Park and I used to walk to Harlem every day, because they didn't have no OA: When you became a young lady how did it affect you, the segregation part? FC : Well, it was y ou got accustomed, I guess, to them kind of t hings. If white man put you in the back you was contented. I guess, you was. And there was the Howards. T hey owned a lot of property here. I guess you heard of them. OA: The Howards? FC: Yeah. It wa s a between Spring and Harland there o n Scott Street. Th ey tore that house down. OA: Umm hmm. FC : 'Cause the project come th (cough s) t's a lot of changes in Tampa, today (cough s) was when I remembered. [To someone else:] Hey, there. Hey, come in. OA: Do y ou recall the Tampa riots, a say, the in the 1930s? FC: There was, I hear OA: Yes ma'am. FC: Down o n Central was they? OA: In the 1930s when the soldiers was here.
4 FC: Oh, in 1930? OA: Yes ma'am. FC: Oh, I don't remember. I heard they say they camp ed here, but for me to know it, to my remembrance I don't. OA: How about the Depression? FC: Hmm. Hmm. Well, the Depression, it was hard. Couldn't hardly get bread. OA: Can you explain further? FC: Just know ed it was hard. And there wasn't no work. Or they didn't give it to black, no way, so you jus t pulled through it. I remember the Depression. OA: Okay. How about the soup lines? Are you familiar with the soup lines? FC: No, I wasn't. They say Charlie Moon had a soup li ne, but for me to know it I didn't know it. OA: Okay. Can you explain some of the social events that was on Central? If you F C: No. Black had had a restaurant down there. And I don't know what you mean by ? OA: Well, during the 1930s what social events did black s have to attend? FC: They went to dances and that's about all. We h ad a picture show t here o n Central. OA: Ms. Coleman have you anybody told you anything about, say, the shipyards or the railroads as to were blacks really employed in those two areas? Was blacks employed in the shipyards? FC: Yes. OA: And the railroads? FC: Yes. OA: Did anybody tell you anything about their working conditions? FC: No. But they some was employed in the shipyard and in the railroad. I don't know what they done, but they was there. My brother in law worked on the was in the railroad. But I don't know what he done.
5 OA: Okay. And befo re World War I? Do you recall ? FC: Well, what, ah, year was ? OA: That's gettin' into your thirties FC: In your thirties ? OA: Thirties and forties What were black people doin' in, say, the 30s and 4 0s in Tampa? FC: They was workin' public works and things. OA: Like the WPA? FC: Yeah, the WPA OA: D o you recall that? FC: was goin' did go. I don't k now what it was, but anyhow a nd the CC camps, a lot of young men went to them, to the CC camps. O A: What were CC camps? FC: I don't know. You know, Isabel? Isabel : The CC camp, I weren't here, but I know what they did. The CC camp was to train young mens how to do different kind of work. OA: Oh, it was sort of somethin' lik e a, a vocational educati on? Isabel : Yeah. Somethin' like that. And the PWA it worked 'em umm hmm it worked (inaudible) Nobody can't find no job they do what the rest of the work the black men's do workin' on the PWA and dig ditches and all that kind of stuff. Anything that alon g side of the road what the a, prisoner didn't do, that was the PWA. OA: Oh, I see. Isabel: They called it the PWA then. See, that was everywhere. Negroes was workin'. They worked farmin' shippin' T hey was OA: How about the comin' of the 50s [1950s] ? How did segregation affect the blacks in Tampa? Isabel : Sure didn't affect em.
6 OA: How did it you know, what were your ideas o n segregation, you know, in Tampa? Isabel: Well, in Tampa didn't even know what it is. You couldn't go to the restaurant whe re white folks eat like they can now. You couldn't go to the same rest rooms. If we ro d e the bus, why, they didn't put but four o n the bus and that's o n that back seat back there. They didn't (inaudible) that was black. (inaudible) just everyone in back. ( inaudible) We couldn't go to none of the functions like swimmin' pool or nothin' like the white folks do. We couldn't eat in no places. And we didn't have no kind of recreation place where you c ould be decent. You c ould go in swimmin' and stuff like that. (inaudible) o n bridges and creeks and things and try to swim. OA: Oh. Isabel : Because you weren't allowed to OA: Do you recall what was happening before World War I in Tampa? Isabel : No I don't. I weren't in Tampa, but I'm tellin' you what was a h in general. For, see, I had lots of people that was here and they could tell me what was happenin' during those times. The s ame thing was happenin' all over the world. Because where I was in Gainesville it was happenin' to me too. (inaudible) but I do remem ber. The first time that they st arted votin' here, I was here. T hat was in the 30s. Whe n they carried 'em out there one man was going around recruiting people to vote. When they carried hi m out there (inaudible) white folks beat hi m, told hi m they didn't have nothin' to vote for. They was tryin' (inaudible) and go. And I said, "W ell, I ain't goin' (inaudible) this time without me and I ain't goin'. I said, "Y ou all go out there and you're gonna get beat ," and that's what's happened. OA: Okay. Ms. Colema n do you recall the d id you ever vote in the 30s? FC: Yes, I, I voted. OA: Did you have any problems with voting? FC: No. No I haven't. OA: Okay. How was the churches in Tampa? FC: They were oh, they was more o f course, you know, they was little chu rches then. Churches always been the same to me. Of course they've made a lot of progress, but they always been the same. OA: Okay. Ms. Coleman I thank you for the interview. You helped me a great deal, particularly the time around about during World War I Y ou gave me some very good information o n that. And I also thank you for enlightening me o n the
7 Isabel : Well, if they (inaudible) for the church (inaudible) and the main thing (inaudible) baseball now and the football. Was (inaudible) and they had Un ion what t hey did with all that stuff t here were masonic halls and everything before when we came in. (inaudible) up the country and all (inaudible) happened to be in that. And I happened to be one of the bookin' agents. OA: What were they, Elks? Isabel : Golden Tones. Huh? OA: Were they Isabel : No. They'd go to the Elks Hall. OA: Oh, I see. Umm hmm. Isabel : Large a place as it was they would go there in the Lily White Temple and they would sing (inaudible). And so Golden Tones (inaudible) was the m ain manpower (inaudible) Golden Tones. (inaudible) and that was the thing. When anything happened like that why everyone had somewhere to go. (inaudible) lookin' for the next one to come in. (inaudible) people up north they was just ready to come in here. T he singin' and they would, a w hat, you know, they'd have contests, you know, one against the other one like that. And that was a hat was in those days, that was good times for us. FC: I've been a dau ght er Elk. OA: Oh, you have been a n Elk? FC: Yes. O A: Were the Elks very important in Tampa? FC: Yes, they was. And I joined there under daughter Ray Williams Altomes. They named that temple the Altomes Temple. And I guess it's o n Const because I don't get out and so I don't know (inaudible) But it's lots of changes been made in Tampa, that's right. OA: So, do you think we have progressed to the point that we could feel secur e or do you think we have to there's still more progress needed? FC: I think until we learn to trust a you the black man, we ain't gonna get nowhere. You knows there are a lot of 'em, "I don't want no 'nigger' doctor." Now to be a good doctor went off and he learned just like the white man. "I don't want some of them down steal my money like We've got to get out from that. You trus t a white man, you can trust a black man. That's the way I feels about it.
8 OA: Okay. And I thank you for the interview. And what I will do I will get back end of interview
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h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Otis R. Anthony and members of the Black History Research Project of Tampa.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (17 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Other interviewers for the Black History Research Project of Tampa were Fred Beaton, Joyce Dyer, Herbert Jones, and Shirley Smith.
Interview conducted September 13, 1978.
Fannie Coleman describes the Great Depression's effect on Tampa's African American community.
Anthony, Otis R.
Black History Research Project of Tampa.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS