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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 (30 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 March 16, 1978.
Georgette Gardner discusses her time as principal of several of Tampa's African American schools. Also discussed are Central Avenue and the importance of religion to the 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
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.
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 00021 Interviewee: Georgette Gardner (GG) Interview by: Herbert Jon es (HJ) Interview date: March 16, 1978 Interview location: Unknown Transcribed by: Unknown Transcription date: Unknown Interview changes by: Kimberly Nordon Changes date: December 16, 2008 Final Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Final Edit date: Januar y 21, 2009 Georgette Gardner : I did my high school and college work at F&M College. I got my Master's D egree at Columbia University. I taught in the elementary school about seven yea rs and then I was sent to Middleton [High School] for one year. Then fro m Middleton, I was sent to Robles Park school as principal. I was there five years, and then fr om there I was made C oordinator of Elementary Education for Hillsborough County. I visited the schools in the c ity and out of the city. From there I was sent to Lomax as principal, and I was principal of Lomax Elementary for seven years. And I retired from Lomax, that's about all. Ah, do you want to know my children? Well, I have four boys, two of them are doctors. One is practicing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the other one in Brooklyn, New York. My other son is supervisor of personnel for the Hillsborough County School System. And, of course, I had one that pas sed, and before he passed he was working in a bank in New York City. I think that's about all. Herbert Jones : Okay, what year was it when you came to Tampa? GG: Uh? HJ: What year did you come to Tampa? GG: I came to Tampa, I guess about maybe 1930, something like that. HJ: What were the conditions of Blacks here during the Depression? GG: Yes, very much so, the D epression. HJ: Could you tell us, what was the living conditions, the working conditions, of Blacks here in Tampa at that time?
2 GG: Well, I think that there has been much progress since that time. The living conditions were very poor and, of course, just as now, there were many people who were unemployed. Of course, naturally, discrimination was at the highest at that particular time. And there was much discouragement o n the part of the Black people who really didn't seem to know what it was all about. But they felt and they understood they weren't left out, and even though of course you know, Negroes, for most part, have always been very religious. Even so, that didn't do much to help them come from under that depresse d feeling. But a s the years passed things seemed to get better and the living conditions improved. Evidently employment improved because they began buying homes, renovat ing and fixing up their homes. S eemly they, all at once, got some pride from somewhere. And they began to be very proud that they were Negroes. And, of course, you know how it is now. I think it is much better now than it was during that particular time. And you have progress, slowly but steadily, from that depressive state. Of course too, they have been more politically minded in these last years, which I think has been much for th em because they have become more political minded. There was a time, of course, there was such a long time that the colored was not allow ed to vote. And naturally, there was a n apathy when it came to elections, and be elected in the light, and improvement i n every respect, economically and naturally it got so that they could they became more c oncerned and they felt better, f elt like they were really somebody. A nd I think now th ey even feel it more. Because I think really now, we have made much progress, and I am very proud of the progress we have made thus far. HJ: Mrs. Gardner, what was the conditions of the schools, say when you first started? GG: Well, let me see. When I f irst started to teach, in many instances we had to use old books that were really out of date ; very often that happened. And the salaries were very low, but of course, during that period later on, we were able to achieve equal salaries. Then of course, the schools we not integrated, naturally. But as I said, quite a number of those years were during the D epression and the children did not have many of the things they have now. But the mothers, the parents, in many cases, worked hard to give them what they could give them. There was not the crime among children that there is now. Children, back in those days, were much better behaved than they are now, and what has happen now, much better beha ved. But of course, during the D epression and after the D epressio n, there was many ghetto like sections, but after a while, as I said, they began to improve. And naturally, you know that the children, many of them, because of their parents conditions, were not able to afford, to have the things that they should have, a nd, I say, later on things began to pick up. There's always, I think, in my areas, in my particular categories, a very good relationship between teachers, principals, supervisors and pupils, very g ood relationships. I look back o n those days, there were so me very pleasant memories and they're interesting ones. HJ: Did you participate in the equalization of salaries?
3 GG: Beg you r pardon? HJ: Did you participate in the equalization of salaries? GG: Yes, I did (inaudible). I think practically all of the te achers did, because it was very interesting and it was something that concerned them. Now I remember when Thur g ood Marshall came down here (inaudible) it was about that equal salary situation. And many of us were summoned to go to the courthouse, and we ha d to go before a group. Well at that particular time, I think they had raised some of the salaries and some they had not raised. And I never will forget, when it was my time to go in with Thur g ood Marshall, he wanted to know and I think I happen be one of the ones whos e salaries had been raised a nd he wanted to know what I think about the situations. I'm quite sure he thought I was going to say that I thought it was fine. I never will forget, I said to them, "W ell I tell you what. I would like to the se e the thing done that is best for the greatest number. And I didn't think I had made any great statement, I remember that was just the way I felt. So that night, Mr. Griffin and this one, calls me and say, "O h my, I'm just telling you, they just talked ab out you Thurg ood Marshall just thinks you are great. I said, "W hat you say? He said "Y ou want to see the thing done that is best for the greatest number. I didn't think I had done anything great, but that was just the way I felt about it. I will never forget that particular piece. That's about all. Nothing terrible happen during those days. HJ: Okay, back there during that time, we re there any program designed GG: Beg you r pardon? HJ: For that time period, were there any programs designs particular ly for slow learner s like remedial programs? GG: No, not any particular programs that I know of designed for slow. We did quite a bit of group things in those days, too. And the teachers were impressed to give quite a bit of attention to slow learners, w e did quite a bit grouping, grouping according to their ability. And remember, when I was at Robles Park, I was not only principal, but I taught the fourth grade; it didn't go any further than fourth grade. I had a little group of pupils who were very slow learners. I gave them special attention, and I think practically all the teachers did, and they were impressed to do that. They gave attention to slow learners in those days, in their particular classroom. HJ: How many high schools were there? GG: Uh? HJ: How many high schools was in Tampa, say in 1930? GG: Well, I know Middleton, I know (inaudible), of course, it was Don Thompson a bit
4 later after Middleton, and then from Don Thompson to Blake. You mean senior high schools? There were only two, as I can remember. Middleton and Blake and, of course, Don Thompson, but I say, they moved from Don Thompson to Blake. But when I was a t Middleton, th ere was no Don Thompson. Later o n they had Don Thompson and I think that I you know when the school burned, Mi ddleton High burned, the building, and they moved the senior high school to Carver, to that building. It was there just a short while, while they rebuilt Middleton and that was that one year I taught at Middleton and Ms. Rimer was principal then, and I di dn't know (inaudible). The next year, I don't think they stayed at Middleton, at Carver, but just that one year, they were suppose to go back, go out there to the new school and he wanted me to be the dean. (inaudible) And he had Ms (inaudible) advised to be d ean of g irls, and I like d that very much. And I thought I would have like d it, and I was very disappointed when they made me principal of Robles Park, I was really disappointed and so much so that my husband said to me, "Well, Georgette I'd much r ather you would be over the school, I'd much rather be over a school, you'll be the big horns. I didn't see it that way. O f course I went, but I really didn't want to go to Robles Park. I preferred going to that new school as dean of g irls, I thought I would like that very much because I've always been inclined to be a counselor. I was inclined that way, I used to want to be I thought that I wanted to be a social worker. I thought that I would have a wonderful opportunity to help people. So naturally whe n Mr. Brown spoke with me as to going to Middleton as the dean of g irls, I just thought that would be wonderful. A wonderful way in for me to help people and nobody knows how my heart just really sank when I had to go to Robles Park I really didn't want t o go, but, oh goodness, I didn't think about how it seems to be a principal sounded or something, I didn't even think about that. But I enjoyed it, I did. HJ: Were there any organizations that catered particularly to Black teachers during that time? GG: No, I know while I was a do you mean civic organization? HJ: Civic organizations? It could be civic o rganizations or (inaudible). GG: I don't particularly that was geared especially to Black teachers. I just can't recall at the moment. HJ: So basically, the Black school teachers, to a certain extent, were controlled basically by the School B oard? GG: Say what? HJ: The Black teachers, to a certain extent, were controlled basically by the School B oard?
5 GG: Yes, and you know we had a supervisor, a Wh ite supervisor, and then Mr. Miles, who was supervisor quite a while, S upervisor of Negro Education. That is one thing that I didn't approve of too much. But that was just the way it was. HJ: Can you think of any other Black officials that was in the sch ool system? GG: Say what? HJ: Any other Black officials that was in the school system during this time? GG: Black officials? You mean to say administrators? HJ: Administrations? GG: No, Mr. Stewart became after Mr. Miles passed M r. Stewart became sup ervisor of Negro Education. HJ: Is this G .V. Stewart? GG: Uh huh, yes. HJ: Do you remember the soup lines? GG: Beg you r pardon? HJ: Do you remember the soup lines during the D epression? GG: Depression? I don't really know so much about that. HJ: C an you tell me anything abou t the Black businesses that were o n Central? GG: On Central? HJ: Yes ma'am. GG: W ell, they use to have a Palace Drugstore; that was a Black drug store, they had a lot of drugstores T hey use to have a colored jewelry shop ; th ey h ad the Pyramid Hotel; they had a very wonderful restaurant, the Bird of Paradise, that was heralded all over the state as one of the finest in the state. That was Ms. Avery, Ms. Inez Avery was manager and owner of. Of course, there came later on, Dupr ee's P rinting Press. It is still there. A nd well, we had the Bulletin we had the Bulletin and then later o n it was Sentinel which later on, the Sentinel became the Sentinel Bulletin and the Bulletin owner has a paper that is called the Reporter And le t me see, go out toward ah of course, now we have a drugstore out there o n 22nd, I 've forgotten the name of it, which has come about these later years.
6 HJ: College Hill Pharmacy? GG: Huh? HJ: College Hill Pharmacy? GG: Yes, that just happen these late r years. HJ: Mrs. Gardner, can you tell me what sort of social life in which our history call the middle class Blacks had? What kind of social life did y' a ll have? What sort of activities, entertainment, this type of thing, that middle class and upper mid dle had? GG: Well, there were a number of soci al club, as there are now. And I am trying to think of the names of some of them. I know, when I came to Tampa, one that was very important, was needle craft group, that felt very important a nd was a very outs tanding group; they called themselves the needle craft club. I just don't recall now ; I was never too much of a social butterfly, so therefore I had these four children and that's where I spent my time. I know there were the D ictators there was a club c alled the Di ctators, and they were very anxious for me to become a member. I often think now maybe I should have, but the time that they met in the afternoon was the time I had set aside for my children to study. And I just couldn't see myself being a memb er of that club, and going, and they met every week, it was a very they just felt they were really somebody I t was a nice club, a nice group of people, they were the D ictators. The needle crafts, I say now I just can't recall, but there were other clubs. Since then, of course, you know about the ones now that you are talking about, I guess you say in the dark ages. HJ: Are you in a sorority? GG: No. HJ: You're not. What church do you belong to? GG: St. Paul A.M.E. [African Methodist Episcopal] Church. HJ: Are Blacks today stronger in religion as they were back in the '30s [1930s], e ven as far back as when you were a child? GG: Are the y stronger religiously? Wel l, I don't know how to answer that. That's bec ause, o n most part, there always have been a n umber of Blacks that are very strong religiously, during that time and even now. So I really wouldn't know how to answer if they were stronger then or stronger now. It's according to the communities colored people have always been religious and a great num ber, and of course there is a great number of them that are not religious, and it's the same thing. And you know they might have been stronger because they had so little else but their religion.
7 HJ: Yeah, this is what we were trying get to. GG: Yeah, so little else but their religion. And I think really that, I think they were more attentive to church years ago than they are now. So many other things to go to o n Sundays. Because years ago practically all the churches had a morning service and evening serv ice. It's very few now have that evening service, the churches that I know about, they just don't have that evening service. Yes, I think it was stronger. T hey use to be stronger than they are now b ecause we use d to have class meeting. W e just don't have t hat anymore. I don't know what has happen, but I don't feel that we are as strong religiously as we used to be, even though it is, just as I say, it's always been a group of people who were strong relig iously and it is s ame thing now. They have many other things to take their attention now. They can participate in many other things that they couldn't participate in because of their race, they can now. HJ: So you have always you've been a member of St. Paul since you moved here? GG: Yes, always. HJ: Okay, so are how was the minister there in salaries, over the salaries of ministers in (inaudible). GG: I really don't know what the salaries were, but I think the ministers are paid much more now than they did then. HJ: Can you think of the earliest Black c hurch in Tampa? GG: Huh? HJ: The earliest Black church in Tampa? The earliest, the first Black church in Tampa? GG: The first? HJ: Uh huh, Black church in Tampa, do you know the name of it? GG: No I don't. You know I'm really not from Tampa ; this i sn't my native home. So I really don't know. HJ: Just off the record, I'm from High Springs if you have heard of that ; that's up near by Lake City. GG: Say what? HJ: I'm from High Springs, Florida. GG: Oh yeah, that isn't far from Lake City.
8 HJ: My father is a minister in Lake City GG: You are from up my section. HJ: Right. GG: Your father is a minister? HJ: Yeah. GG: Who was he? HJ: Rev erend Jones, Deacon Jones. He pastors at Grants Chapel A.M.E. Church in Lake City. GG: In Lake City? HJ: Uh huh. GG: Sho 'nough, he's there now, at Grants Chapel A.M.E. Church? Long time. HJ: I need something for my biography Mrs. Gardner, what year were you born, month, date and year? You don't usually tell. GG: Well, I don't usually tell. HJ: Okay. GG: That's my own private business. HJ: Okay, Mrs. Gardner, my name is Herbert Jones. GG: Very nice to meet all of you. Was there anything else end of interview