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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 00014 Interviewee: Jeanette Collins (JC) Interview by: Otis Anthony (OA) Interview date: April 14,1978 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: January 2 2, 2009 Jeanette Collins : that says colored water, I said "M y mama told me not to drink colored, water. I'm gonna to have to drink clean water and I'm going to have to drink this clean water. She had to laugh. And I never did drink that colored water. I had plenty of coverage. We went to New Orleans one time and we brought insurance and when I got to New Orleans I was buying insurance to come back, and the [person at the] ticket agency said, I can't sell it to you. A colored man punched me in the si de and s aid "D on't say nothing else. He brought me o n the other side and said I noticed you have a different tone of voice; you sound like you came from up North some place. Well, I said I came from Tampa, Florida. He said "W ell they were going to g et you, if you said anything else. Always when I saw those Negro bus d rivers, I was so glad. I lived o n Platt Street and I bordered that bus and I waited for him to come back. And those White folks, the man, the superintendent, the White people wouldn't get o n the bus and we would say, you just as well catch this one, cause the next one is going to be a Negro too. And I was down there when they were integrating these places, when Dr. [Reverend A. Leon] Lowry Otis Anthony : Okay, was you a part of Dr. L owr y's integration? JC: I was to see what w as happening, that was my job, s ee, to go down and stand and look. The young people from Blake [High School] was the ones that were sittin' in prayer. But I would go and sit and see, and the White folk would ask me. I said I was standing off here just like you, I don't know a thing about it. And when they were integrating the theaters, I was right down there too. Only this one time I went home when I saw some Negroes coming with bricks and bats and everything from Plant City, I turned the corner and went home. And my mama said to me, I knew you would come home. OA: Okay. N ow, were you working directly with Reverend Lowr y?
2 JC: No. N o I wasn't working directly. I was o n the Executive Board of the NAACP [Natio nal Association for the Advancement of Colored People] OA: Oh, I see. JC: See, I served o n the Executive Board and then when I would go down and just take a part to see for myself S ee all Central girls when they aided to Connors they sent Central girl s down but I couldn't go, o n account of I was o n the switchboard But the rest of them, Dr. Lowr y gave them information to stand around like you're buying and don't go exactly to the lunch counter, you kn ow, looking like you're buying. A nd then go up to th e lunch counter and be served. And then I know when the first crew of ladies was hired to ride the elevator at O. Falk's [Department Store] there was some loud mouth Lucys, and I went and called Dr. Lowry I said "Dr. Lowr y you better get those loud mou th Lucy s o ff them elevators ," cause they picked those loud mouth Lucys where they couldn't use them, see. But then after they got a new group, the bus driver were very fine men and then after then on, we didn't have any trouble. The only persons gave us some trouble were school teachers. They went out to Maas Brothers [Department Store] in that upstairs, and that wasn't supposed to be in a place to be integrated ; it was the five and ten stores. And they went up there dressed with the big hats on, and pock etbooks and the people ran them from down there. But they weren't suppose to integrate. Dr. Lowry picked those school children and they wou ld come in there and bow and [carry] a B ible It was done real nice. I t wasn't no fighting. The ruffians came one da y, that was all. OA: Looking back, can you think of how you viewed politic s? JC: Politic s? OA: Yes, can you think of the first Black that ever ran for o ffice in Tampa? JC: Up there o n 22nd street, what's his name? OA: [Francisco Junior] Rodriguez? J C: No. OA: [G.V.] Stewart? JC: No. OA: Dawson? JC: Dawson. Dawson had a good chance. Negroes didn't work for Dawson, the White folks did. OA: Can you explain why we haven't elected a Black offi cial until we elected Reverend Lowr y in Tampa?
3 JC: Well, a lo t of jealous y and they don't pull together. I could tell you a lot, cause when Dawson was running a certain man called me and said "L et s kill that Nigger. Said when he came to Tampa he was going to buy a home out o n Davis Island. And so I told him t hat I knew Dawson ; Dawson's mother use d to give my two nieces music. And see I knew Dawson and by the time what struggles his mother had and they didn't know I knew Dawson as w ell. The Negroes killed Dawson. A nd what they would do, when one get in and th ey start running, they would put another one in. And see, won't stand together and help that one. And this Mrs. a lady, oh she lives in West Tampa, built a beautiful home OA: Mary Ellen Dawson. JC: Huh? OA: Ms. Dawson. JC: Yeah, she had a good time t oo and they killed her. She was going good T hey paid somebody to run and that's why we can't make it they won't stand together. And I'm watching this now, Tony Little is married to my cousin and they don't know it, and I'm listen to everything they are saying. OA: So what you are saying is that other Blacks stopped the Blacks from running. JC: Yeah. E ach Black want to beat, but the other Black see I've been in this working for Central I get all that information. Another Black would put another Black in Either I think what's happened, somebody else pay them. My father was a politician. I never worked right out there, but I know by what they were doing T he Ku Klux Klan passed by our house when Dr. White and father and those had a meeting down there. B ut if they get right behind one person and get together, but they won't do that, they'll laugh and tell you I'm with you, see, and then they fight you. I had that in the church by being of Christian spirit and coming from my mama thought I was going to be a religion fanatic. See, I'm able to see things, see, k no w that's what they do, that's [why] we can't get anywhere. They get out there and they had meetings for Tony Little and they didn't know I was related to him. I heard lots they were saying. OA: Wha t do you think the chances are of, say, Attorney Little or, say, Alton White in the coming election? JC: They both should be elected. They both should be elected. OA: Well, do you think that will happen? Just give me an idea what do you think will happen ? JC: I think but before we go into that, look at what's co ming out in the paper. Dr. Lowr y was the only person that was elected and look at that. T hat's killing Dr. Lowry. The White folks see two Negroes fighting each other. That's what they want to see. Now, how can we stop that? Huh?
4 H ow can we stop that? OA: You are talking about Rudolph Harris. JC: Uh huh, now that's not going to help us any. In Atlanta all the young people get out and work when they put one man in. Now what you think of that? Is th ere anything you can do to stop that? OA: I don't think so. JC: I talked with Dr. Lowry; he's my friend. When they were fighting me, he wrote the b ishop and told the b ishop don't pay a bit of attention to them. And he called names cause they still raisin g hell, an d said, "Don't believe that story." H e's a very fin e Christian and nothing to them. He wrote that bishop o n them and they didn't know it. Reverend Bandfield you are to o young to know about Reverend Bandfield. He was a Seven th Day Advent ministe r. This was real funny today. Dr. Lowry was talking to me o n the phone and Harris had just walked in the building and I said "M an, you sure don't care nothing about your life. I said, "S omebody go i n to catch you just like they got Martin Luther King ," a nd he laughed. H e sure did, he sure did. H e stayed there a long time and talked. Some of tho se things he say is the truth, s ome of those thi ngs about the school children. O ur children are not learning anything under what's happen now, cause they are not tr ying to learn nothing. And those White teacher s are not teaching them anything, and they go in there with resentment against those teachers, see, and teacher s got resentment against them. S o that's just the way it is. OA: So what you r e saying is that so me of the things that Harris say is true and some of it is not. JC: No, I don't think he should put none of that in there, because it isn't helping any. Some of that stuff is true. But he and Mr. Harris Howard Harris like to had a fight out there talking. Harris said the other Harris is principal he said our children don't have as good brain s as the White children. That's what he told them and that's what they had the fight over. Said they don't have a background of culture and environment. Well I know he 's lying about that, cause some of us have plenty background and culture a nd environment. Way back then, o n my mother's side, they were teachers and principal s and all that kind of stuff, way back then in Stark e, Florida. T hey were proud people. OA: Well, Mrs. Collins, you say you been here all your life. Have you ever heard of anybody being lynched in Tampa? JC: No, I surely haven't killed, but I don't know anything about the lynching. That Mr. Gibson, the man who gave me the history, they could know ab out that. He gave me the history. I didn't have it, he gave it to me. He came from Wolf Brothers and gave it to me and I wrote it. It could have happen. My father worked for Martin Wall for thirty years. OA: What is your view of the education syst em of to day? What is your view o n education?
5 JC: Huh? OA: What is your view o n education? JC: I'll have to say that the education was good, because I got seven nieces and nephews all, and a sister, college graduates. I sent one of my nieces to Talladega and she was elected councilman in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Black girl too, pretty Black girl. And she was voted among Who's Who and she been going to all when she was councilwoman, Mayor Greco when they said I now present to you Alberta Dickson, Che yenne, Wyoming and former ly of Tampa, Florida, and he was looking for a White ga l, When this Black gal stood up, I got all kinds of write up about her. OA: And, I mean, she was originally from Tampa? JC: I sent her to Talladega from my house. OA: Yeah? JC: Uh huh. T ha t one there was presented, and Alberta and I presented both of those girls. The (inaudible) by how they carried themselves and that's when she was present ed. That Do lores, she works at O'Leo in Washington not Washington, in Atlanta. OA: Atlanta? JC: Uh h uh. OA: You had a long and distinguish JC: I helped all of them, but I sent that one straight out to Talla d ega. Mrs. Florence say, "W e use d to wonder how in the hell you were able to do what you were doing with that little salary W e would sit down ther e and watch you and see how y ou would bring them out to the o ffice and feed them, and they loved me. OA: Okay. L et s get to Central Life Insurance Company, the business. Can you give me something about that, a brief history about Central Life, some of th e pioneers of Central Life? JC: Well Mr. Rogers there were other presidents before Mr. Rogers, but I started there under Mr. G. D. Rogers A nd the next president was Mr. E. Broughton, then Mrs. Bethune, Bethune. OA: You mean Thelma Lewis Bethune? JC: Uh Huh, she was free. T hey ran her away from there because she was a woman. And the next president was Mr. Davis and that's all I served under. You see what position I worked in the field, as you say, for three years and three weeks and they transferred me, and how I got up to the front. They took a test, and Mr. Rogers was the first president I served under, said the sweetest voice this side of heaven. They took me over there and then they transferred me to another department and then [I] took this test and I've been up there every since. And there has been
6 friction there to o, and most of them was when Mr. Rogers died. Before Mr. Rogers died t hey got rid of him and put him o n chairman of the board. Mr. Martin t hey voted him out, M.S. Martin and Mr. Davis re tired before they were going to do the same thing to him. OA: Oh! He's retired now. JC: Uh huh. He's retired. B ut see now I know who the creditors is, but that hasn't been announced yet. So that's the on ly one they didn't get rid of. T he rest of them, something came up and they got rid of them. OA: Well, what influence do Centr al Life Insurance Company have o n Tampa, the Black community? JC: Well, that's the only thing that Tampa really have, Central Life Insurance Company that is. The people, when yo u say Central Life, they open their eyes. See, downtown when you say Central Life, you go to the bank and you say Central Life, Central Life, they know Central Life. Central Life is about the most outstanding organization in the c ity of Tampa, Central Life is. It has its faults, but it still i s N ow you take Mr. Solan there. Mr. Solan is o n a lot of boards downtown. Mr. Solan is o n the Governors Board and when they wrote the charter, Mr. Solan wrote that charter, he sure did. And Mr. Solan is well thought of among the Whites. And when Mr. Broughton was here and Mr. Da vis was o n everything, see downtown, Central Life is rated among any of the White folks in the City of Tampa. And if you say you work for Central Life, [people would say] "O h yeah, I know Cen tral Life. A man used to work there by the name of Broughton and when Mr. Rogers died, there were so many Cadillacs in that funereal, Mr. Cadillac must have passed. We went from Tampa to Bradenton were they buried him. Yeah, Central Life is Mr. Solan i s really somebody downtown, he's somebody. OA: Can you name any other members of the staff? JC: Huh? OA: Can you name any other members of the staff that's there now? JC: Yeah, Ms. Stone. OA: Ms. Stone? JC: Yeah, Ms. Fannie B. Stone. OA: Is she st ill there? JC: Yes, she is still there. She's a member of my church too. I had double things, she served o n the trustee board and I served o n the stewar d board. You see that was the only relations
7 delegated, was me and Dr. Williams. OA: So, what capacity now does Ms. Stone serve now? What capacity? JC: She's treasurer now. At one time she was secretary treasurer, but now she is treasurer. OA: Well, that's about s ide 1 ends; side 2 begins. JC: both the late Alberta and Alfred Collins and the grandda ughter of Rev erend and Mrs. John Allen. OA: So how long have you been in Tampa? JC: I was born here. OA: You been in Tampa all your life? JC: Uh h uh. OA: Okay, when did you first join you're a member of St. Paul [African Methodist Episcopal Church] right? JC: I don't know the month, but I was a member of Mt. Zion [A.M.E. Church] in Hyde Park and then I went over to St. Paul in 1942. OA: In 1942? JC: Uh hu h. OA: Can you tell us briefly something about St. Paul? JC: About St. Paul? Now you want t o know the good things. St. Paul is known as the historic St. Paul, and from St. Paul, one Bishop was elected. H e was our former pastor, Rev. G. N. Collins, he wasn't related to me. And when I join ed St. Paul, I was made church clerk and then from there fr om that time, church secretary under the lea dership of Rev. S. A. Cousins. H e was our pastor at that time. I have served as president of the league when I first joined St. Paul and then from that time they took us to state meeting, to attended the state meeting in Jacksonville. Then after being secretary of the church, being the only woman that was elected o n the stewar d board, the first woman that was elected o n the stewar d board to serve, and I'm still o n the stewar d board. Now, this is St. Paul. W ent t o a general conference twice, two executive years. The first person, a lady could be elected from the church as secretary, not secretarial, as layman to the general conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in Texas.
8 OA: So you have been getting aroun d. JC: That's from my church. I'm president of my layman's organization and I served as president of the missionary society, which I've very much enjoyed. 'Cause coming up I wanted to go to Africa to serve as a missionary, but I didn't get a chance to go to Africa A nd so I was elected president of my missionary society, which I enjoyed very much, because that was my greatest aim, to go to Africa to serve our people. But I didn't get that chance but I still was elected missionary of my church. I sing in the choir, number two. F rom there I was a member of the (inaudible). I have served throughout conference wise and state wise and I was elected o n the board of trustees at Edgewater College for which I enjoyed serving o n that. I was only there one year, b ut I was there. I want to go back, too, as a layman, the highest place you can be elected to, as a delegate to the general conference. I have my badge when I was elected, but I fo und it in my pocketbook today, a very pretty picture, too, it was. And I rece ived many c ertificates, many certificates. I served as pu blic relations for the district layman of the Tampa district. What else you want me to say? OA: Can you name some of the members that was in St. Paul when you first joined? JC: Yeah, Mrs. Bishop, L B. Long, Mrs. G. L. Gardner, Mr. John Olive, Mr. Burney, J. R. Burney he was superintendent of some school out yonder Mr. Wade Perry, Mr. W. M. Caldwell, Dr. White, I think I forgot his initials, Dr. R. R. [Reche Reden] Williams, Mr. E.E. Broughton, all those were fine people. OA: Was the church at that time in other word s, did the c hurch have a greater influence o n Blacks during, say the 1940s? JC: Oh yeah. We had some of the finest pastors serve St. Paul. My father was a member of St. Paul and we wer e member s of Mt. Zion. And the same o ffices I held out here at Mt. Zion, when I was transferred, we went over there to join my father's church after he died. A nd it was it has always has been outstanding, St. Paul's choir, number one, used to broadcast ove r the OA: Was this the first choir to broadcast? JC: First choir that I remember to be broadcast Cecil Mancin was the organist; he's dead. OA: Well, St. Paul A.M.E., that was the first Black choir? JC: First Black choir. OA: In Tampa. JC: Uh huh.
9 OA: Can you think of the year that happened? JC: No. OA: Can you give me the name of the choir again? JC: The number? Choir N umber O ne. OA: Choir N umber O ne. JC: Uh huh, it was outstanding. OA: Can you name some of the member of C hoir N umber O ne? JC: Yeah, at that time, it was Mrs. Ray Williams t he undertaker, his wife, but I can't think of her first name. Mrs. Marzone and there was another ; she c ould go by her husband's name Mrs. Ray Williams, and Floyd Bosman. OA: Can you think of any other mem bers of the choir? JC: Huh? OA: Can you think of any other members of the choir? JC: Not right now. If I had known you wanted them, I could have I got them all. OA: Okay, Ms. Collins, were there any frictions within the church during that time? JC: Huh? OA: Any frictions? JC: Frictions? OA: Yes, were they ever any attempts to separate? JC: They did before I was a member. Some of them left our church and went to Allen Temple [A.M.E. Church] and during my administration you don't want to hear th is, do you? OA: I want to hear everything you JC: During my administration, 300 of them walked out of there one Sunday B ut they came back in six months, and I carried the church for six months, under my leadership, because I was secretary of the church at that time, under Dr. Glover. He laughed, he came from Los Angeles, California and when I reorganized the church that Sunday
10 OA: Do you know what you used this for? JC: That hasn't been too l ong. That's how I got elected, considering Dr. Williams had been going all the time and he passed, and then from then on, with my Christian leadership, and when I went to the layman's meeting I was elected Three of us came out o n the first ballot, 32 and then after three of us, we had to eliminate two people, I got the highest amount of votes. So that made me elected. Dr. Williams was running all the time because he was quite popular, by those three hundred people walking out of the church and leaving me in leadership. And I carried o n the church, from calling th e bishop and he told me what to do ; that's how I got elected, se e. My popularity from carrying o n the church and paying w e weren't able to keep up anything but the local bills. OA: Okay now, around about what year was this? You say it was a couple of year s? JC: No, it's been about eight or ten years. OA: Okay, what JC: Dr. J.L. Glover was the pastor. OA: Right, what did they walk out about? JC: Because they liked the pastor this is what actually when he came here from California, well, he didn't com e to stay anyway, see. And they gave him money at the parsonage and it was suppose to be given inside of the church and when they ca me inside and ask me to put it o n the books I told them I couldn't do that, because that was a meeting they had over at th e parsonage and not in the church. And then from one thing to another, the trustees walked out one Sunday, they resigned. Mr. Broughton, who was president of Central Life Insurance Company, he was o n the trustee board and I asked him not to [do] it. A nd when he found out they had resigned, he sent in his resignation that night and so they put him off too. But I said, Mr. Broughton, the preacher doesn't want you to join them ; he's going to keep you." S o Mr. Broughto n got transferred to the steward board, but the rest of them stayed out there and fought for six months. They stole the piano out of the church and the organ out of the church and every Sunday when they'd come back, I mean every Sunday, I would get up to make my announcements, I would say I w ouldn't say anything. I would say each Sunday that you see who loves the church and who loves the preacher. And when they came back, they took care of me. Actually they're not even see they haven't paid any dues and the bishop was telling me to make a act ive roll and inactive roll. I was getting all my informatio n from the bishop and carrying o n the church through the bishop, but they didn't know that. You wouldn't believe we had such people as that, some business people, too. I could name some of them. O A: If you want to name some.
11 Ms. Collins's Nephew : How y' a ll doing? JC: That's my nephew. OA: Yeah, I know him from FAMU [Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University] Nephew: Right, you were o n the hill? OA: Yeah. Nephew : When? OA: I was o n the hi ll at A&M. JC: That's my nephew. OA: Tell me some of those distinguish ed people, if you would like to, you know? JC: I don't [think] we sh ould put their names in there. D o you think so? Some of them are living but most of them are dead. Some of these pe ople that's living, was in that thing, they are still fighting it right now. C ause see I had them in St. Paul see, I joined the church at age of eleven and I was elected secretary of my Sunday S chool at the age of eleven, and I have never been out of th e church, see. OA: Well, when you first joined it, how many were there. How many Black churches was in the community that you know of? Or what was the oldest Black church in Tampa, that you know of? JC: St. Paul. OA: St. Paul? JC: Uh huh. OA: And was there any other church, say, that came out of St. Paul? JC: Didn't come out of St. Paul, but some of our members left and went to Allen Temple. OA: Okay, was that the time JC: I didn't know anything about that, I just took what they told me. I knew I was right in that what I'm telling you about. 'C ause I reorganized that church that Sunday morning and Mr. Andrews wrote articles, St. Paul's members went o n a strict. And one old l ady said the best service they had wasn't a complete boycott, because all the devils had gone fishing. And we organized that church beautifully and carried it on. And Mr. Griffin called me no I told you I wasn't going to call names because some of those
12 people are living B ut they told me they called me a certain principal, h e works out to the University of South Florida now, called me twelve o'clock and said Ms. Collins, Ms. Collins, this is so and so and so, this is your last chance for you to follow us. I said "L et me tell you one thing, if there are but six people ther e in the morning, I will be there. M e an d my family will be right there." A nd a certain principal came he's catching hell right now came in to look around and my family and one or two more was sitting o n the front seat and I look around and reorganized the choir, we organized everything that morning. We had a be autiful service and we carried o n for six months and they did everything dirty they could do. I don't even like to talk about it and I've been real sick, as you know, and God brought me back. And I w ent back to the number two choir two Sundays ago, and they hugged and kissed me and said you living your second life. Three months ago I had a hear t attack. I went down to 117 I went down to 81 pounds, from 117 to 81 pounds. From one time to the other G od, one morning six o'clock this boy came and prayed for me. I woke up six o'clock saying, "W ho can wash away my sins, who can make me whole again, nothing but the blood of Jesus, just singing that song. And after while I raised I was suppose d to have ano ther operation I raised up out of the bed, and sweat came over my body, just like that, and then the hot chills began to come and that was six o'clock in the morning. I started to call the nurse to stop those chills. I felt all right. That was o n a Wednesd ay and the doctor took me downstairs that Friday and he operated and s aid I will be back in thirty minutes. And I have been doing pretty good ever since. God reconverted me, certainly did, and I told some of them, and they were quite mean to me, and I had my other nephew to tape a story of my life, and he took a story of my life from the hospital, he came in there and I told them different things I knew. I had my nephew tape record some things in there ; he's a preacher. A nd I said "I f you want to pla y it any place, you are big enough to play it. I said they tried to murder me, that meant that I've had it. OA: O kay, what were some of the events, some of the organizations that the church started. In other words, what I'm saying, the church was the so cialization center in the whole community, right? Everybody came to the church to socialize. What programs did the church have for the kids? JC: During the administration of Bishop Collins we had a junior church. He wasn't the b ishop then ; he was our pas tor. They would have the s ervice downstairs from ten to eleven and then they would come upstairs. And then in the basement of the church, they had activities during his administration, during the week. M ost of pastors we had would have similar to that. But Bishop Collins had the best junior church of any pastor we that we had there. Rev. Contee his son is a bishop now ; he's our pastor. H e did a very fine job and Rev. Peck [too] Most of them St. Paul has had some very fine pastors, some of the best pastors that a n AME church have had, the pastors at St. Paul. OA: Can you name the pastor that was there when you first joined? C an you name all of them that have been there?
13 JC: I can name when we joined, when my father was there which was from the beginning OA: From the beginning? JC: Uh huh. B ut when we went there, it was a preacher named R.L. McRail. In one of those book, I think they have those pastors, let's see. OA: Did St. Paul ever carry o n any activities with any other churches in the area? JC: Uh huh. OA: Can you name some of them? JC: What you mean, go to services? OA: Services. JC: Uh huh, they carried o n with Allen Temple. We've gone to Allen Temple ; we've gone to St. Luke [A.M.E. Church]; we've gone to Mt. Olive [A.M.E. Church]; we've g one to if I c an remember, it's a church out o n 34th, we've gone there ; and Pleasant Chapel [A.M.E. Church] They are the big shots ; they don't go to small churches hardly. OA: Mrs. C ollins, I want to ask you something. W hat impact did the church have on t he ordinary Black? What I mean by that, is did they have a great influence o n the majority people in Tampa? J C: They had a better influence o n the professional people. OA: On the professional people? JC: Uh huh, cause we had doctors, w e had a lawyer the re, and at Reverend (inaudible), at his funeral too, most professional people join there and that's where we had most of the trouble. We had about four doctors there, Dr. Hodges, Dr. White, Dr. Williams, and young Dr. Williams. That four that I can rememb er, and they were actively engaged there. A nd then we had who else was a member of St. Paul? On e time they had eighty six teachers as members of St. Paul. OA: Eighty six teachers? JC: Uh huh T hey were mostly professional people. One time St. Paul was kn own as a church if you wasn't what, didn't know somebody, you couldn't operate around there. OA: Oh! JC: But you had to be see by me coming up in the church and coming from a religious background, I had it o n them there. OA: So at the beginning, you sa id, St. Paul was a church with professional people.
14 JC: Uh huh. OA: So it didn't have an impact o n say, the common people? JC: It stayed crowd ed though because the other people weren't allow to do a s that Number O ne choir, still for teachers and profess ional people. OA: A lot of people didn't get a chance to participate in the churches? JC: The only time they got chance, people, when I joined there and see I wasn't use to that I f you were a Christian, you pull in l et me tell you what happened one time I had a young man as my missionary to ask me to let him speak one fifth Sunday and I did. And when I had him to speak, the common people enjoyed him. Mr. Broughton, who was president of Central Life came out to the Central Life and said, Mrs. Collins why did you put that ignorant m an up there to make that speech?" I said, I'm sorry Mr. Broughton, all the other people enjoyed him ; they enjoyed that man and he made maybe he couldn't put those verbs and things, but he made an impression o n the people. This is what they told me when I first their j oin B ible school class with a certain class of people, that I couldn't associate with them I said, "W ell I'm sorry, I wasn't brought up that way. OA: Well, is this the same thing is it like this now or wha t? JC: No, it s not too much. OA: Or it has changed? JC: Well, see what the trouble, if you know what you are doing if you know your church, I know my church. I had a preacher, Rev erend Sanchez he died not too long ago ; you may have heard of Rev erend Sa nchez, M.C. Sanchez. One Sunday he put me o n when I came back from [being] sick, he said M r s. Collins come up here. I didn't know what he was calling. [He said] I want to tell you, you see this woman right here he made me stand up she knows more a bout the AME church than any of you. See, what they don't know, the AME church and I know the AME church because I haven't been out there half of my life and in the church the other half. I've been in the church all my life and I've served in every ca pacity in the church. OA: Well, can you can just tell something tell us as much a bout the AME church as you know? JC: Much as I know? I don't tell you everything, I don't want to tell you, it's been some good and there's been some bad. OA: Well, tell me the good, the bad; tell me as much as you can, Mrs. Collins, because it's important that we know.
15 JC: Well, it's not as stiff as it use d to be. Let me tell you what the b ishop said in Philadelphia, in this $5,000 breakfast. See, people there from all o ver the world, tens of thousands of people from Africa and everywhere. I'm now presenting to you Dr. Walter S. White, candidate for b ishop, and he i s from historic St. Paul, Tampa, o ne of the hardest churches in the AME church to pastor. And I was sittin g with the Ohio [delegation] and they said Jeanette, that's your church. I said I don't know those people ." (laughs) T hat's just what he said, at the general congress Dr. Hatchet, Bishop Hatchet, said that and I came back and told them. OA: Now, t he Walter White you talking about, [is he] the one that was a member of the NAACP? JC: No, he's presiding e l der now in Quincy or Tallahassee, somewhere up in there. He was a chaplain in the Army. But he was pastor. All those were well trained; we have had nothing but well trained ministers A nd they mistreat most of them and I have got along with every one of them. OA: You can say as much as you want about the AME church because we need the information. JC: The first time I went to general congress and I saw so much carrying on, I was somewhat embarrassed. But the laymen of the churches had almost kind of straightened some of that out. The best thing that we have, the meetings that I have attended, was convectional layman meeting in Memphis, Tennessee Now that was well organized. The m ayor of the city came to our meeting and gave us a something you know what I mean, with the city, where we wouldn't have to get no permit to go no other place to have our meeting, and said there was no liquor there and e verybody acted orderly. That's the c onvectional l ayman meeting. OA: What year was this? JC: You know when Martin Luther King, they shot him? Right in that same year , cause we went up to that place, that hotel Lorraine Hotel and see it was during that time. 'C ause we went to tour the city ; we went where they had put this man in jail. Wasn't nothing out there but a purple wreath o n the outside of that Lorraine and this was what we paid a dollar to see, the room he slept in and the bathroom and that' s all that was in there. They had all these picture made of Martin Luther King and s ouvenirs, that's all you could see in the s tore. So if you can figure out what year that was, in Memphis, Tennessee. OA: Can you te ll anything else about the AME c hurch? A ny other outing that you was a part of? JC: Part of? Missionary meetings. I went to when I was quit young, that was a very fine meeting, too. I attended the b ishop council in Jacksonville o n the beach ; I was a hostess there o n the beach Bishop council an d I was a part of that, I was hostess there. I attended all meetings sometimes I was sick though all conferences, everything I would go to [them] o n my own expense. The only thing I was paid to go to was the general conference. OA: What was St. Paul's st and o n integration?
16 JC: Well, I guess most of when they were integrated we had all those principals, all those principals they retired, we had Mr. Griffin T he only person that we had was Mr. John Henry Evans. They have not discussed that because they wor ked with the NAACP, they worked with that, but the integration, I don't think it didn't help those principals because they got rid of all of them. OA: What was St. Paul s you know, how did the members of St. Paul how did St. Paul itself view integration? JC: The members as a whole went for it, because they were able to go into these stores and pay this big money and go where the y want to go, go and eat where ver they like to eat without any interference. C ause that what they a group of people like that. S o they went for that. OA: Well, Mrs. Collins, were you ever confronted with any type of (inaudible)? JC: In Tampa? OA: In Tampa. JC: Well, when I was coming up I was confronted with plenty of end of interview
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Collins, Jeanette L.
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 (52 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 April 14, 1978.
Jeanette Collins discusses St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church and its role in Tampa's African American community.
Collins, Jeanette L.
Saint Paul A.M.E. Church (Tampa, Fla.).
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