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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 (15 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.
Jessie West describes how the Depression affected African Americans in Tampa. She also discusses living conditions in Quincy, Florida during the 1910s, and describes a lynching that took place there between 1917 and 1918.
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 African Americans in Florida O ral H istory P roject Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida, Tampa Library Digital Object Identifier: A31 00053 Interviewee: Jessie West (JW) Interview er : Otis Anthony (OA) Interview date: September 13, 1978 Interview location: Unknown Transcribed by: Unknown Transcription date: Unknown Interview Changes by: Kimberly Nordon Interview Changes date: January 8, 2009 Final Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Final Edit date: March 11, 2009 Jessi e West : My name is Jessie West I came to Tampa in 1925 and it was the Depression o n in 1930. You couldn't get a job; some did n't have no food to eat. Later o n there were places where people could go and get food and that helped out a lot. O tis A nthony : Was this the soup lines? JW: Yeah, the soup lines. And they had something they called the WPA [Works Progress Administration], a nd that was where they would give you groceries and that helped out. And then after they changed presidents things got better and things have been getting better ever since. OA: The question I want to ask you, where were the soup lines located? JW: Well, they had some in West Tampa. You could go up there and get soup course I never did get in lines, but people would go up in West Tampa somewhere. I never did go to get none. My husband was living at the time and we never did go up there. Not that we didn't need it, we needed it, but he wouldn't go. He wouldn't go in. I didn't know how to do it so we didn't get any. OA: Ms West, how was the housing conditions when you came here? JW: Oh, it wasn't hardly no better. We had to get a room, get some people, until we could find a house. We found a house way out in Belmont Heights section out there. Stayed out there a while and t hen moved back over to West Tampa. OA: How was the people treated as far as job are concerned? Where were most of the jobs that blacks had to work? JW: WPA jobs. WPA opened up some jobs far as I can understand. There's not too much
2 I know about Tampa, b ut it was pretty rough for a colored man getting a job. And also white ones too poor class white people, they had a time too. OA: Can you describe the D epression? How was it? JW: People couldn't get no food, couldn't get no jobs. Poor class white peop le couldn't and the rich people, they wouldn't hire you. They had money but they wouldn't hire nobody. They said they would do the work themselves. OA: Do you recall that you was here when the soldiers came right? JW: The soldiers? What soldiers? OA: When the soldiers came here around 1930, 1935. Do you recall the Tampa riot in the 1930s? JW: Oh, yes, I remember. I remember the riots, yes I do. But I can't think what year it was now. A riot o n Central Avenue, one in West Tampa. OA: Can you tell us w hat they were doing during the riots? Anything like that? JW: Breaking store windows and some were stealing and beating up one another. I came to Tampa in 1925. My husband sent for me; he was working down here and he sent for me. I had five children and w e couldn't find a house to live in. We had to get a room with some people. They was very nice. We got along nice together until we found a place in Belmont Heights. We lived in Belmont Heights a while and then we moved back to West Tampa. My husband died in 1949. OA: Do you remember World War I? Can you describe how blacks were treated during this time and what was happening? JW: World War I? Not too much I know about that. I was married already. I was living in Quincy that's my home. I was living there. OA: Can you tell me some of things in Quincy? Particularly about segregation? JW: I can tell you about that. Oh, yes, the white people was mean to the colored people. They would lynch them. There's no need to talk about it. OA: That's important. JW: T hey would lynch the colored people, I guess for nothing. An d they would hang people there o n the gallows. People from far and near would come to town to see the hanging. And they lynched the colored boy that was well known in Quincy and they lynched him fo r nothing, I guess. Everybody said it was for nothing. He was fishing and it was a white lady out fishing too in the woods. They accused this colored man of going
3 with the white lady and they put him in jail and they killed him they electrocuted him and they tied his body to a truck and drug him all around town so everybody could see him. OA: What year this was? JW: I think it was I don't know exactly. OA: Can you estimate? Was it 1917? J W: I believe it was around 1918. I think it was along in there. Wasn't nothing done to them. I don't care what they do to colored people, they didn't do nothing about it. And they worked them in the fields and didn't pay them nothing, gave them a small salary. Didn't have no kind of privilege. They didn't have the priv ilege that people have now, nothing like that. OA: How were the young ladies treated? JW: Oh, they would treat them all right. Treat the colored ladies nice ; it was just the colored men. They'd have to work for nothing, almost. OA: The men and the women had to work in the fields? JW: Yeah, men and women worked in t he fields. Some of them stayed o n the farms. They had little houses buil t for them to live in. Some of them stayed and helped them to farm, helped the white man do all his farming and they st ayed in the little huts and didn't have to pay no rent. But they worked for such small wages they wasn't hardly getting nothing. The salary was very small. OA: This was in 1918? JW: Nineteen seventeen and 1918. It was bad I hate to talk about it. The voting. They used to have meetings. Some man would come there and have a meeting. They didn't want the colored people to vote. And this man would have a meeting at a church and the white people would get o n to it and they would take this man and carry him out somewhere out in the wood and beat him. If not, they would give him so many hours to get out of town. They'd beat them. They beat one preacher almost to death. One man left town ; he had a business there and had a home, and he never did come back. Th ey wanted to vote and the white people said they didn't have no right to vote. So, there was people come in there and he was telling them that they can vote, they have a right to vote and showing them the light and things. The white people, they tried to b reak it up. Now the colored people is voting ; we have our privilege to do things they didn't have no privilege to do way back then.
4 OA: When you came to Tampa did you ever recall anybody being hung or lynched here? JW: No, no, I didn't. If they did, I do n't remember. OA: How would you compare segregation in Quincy as in Tampa? JW: Well, it s better here in Tampa, the segregation is. But the people is waking up in Quincy ; there's a lot of people up there that have as much voice to speak as these people down here, last time I was up there. Things had changed so it was different ; people was more enlightened and they had better privileges. It was almost as good as it is here now, from what I could see then. OA: When you came here in 1925, were there any bl ack schools here? JW: Yes, yes. OA: Can you name any of them? JW: Dunbar. That's the only one I know of. OA: Do you recall anything about the shipyards or railroads? JW: No. OA: Okay, Ms. West. end of interwiew