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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 (44 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 6, 1978.
Etta White describes life for African Americans in Tampa during the early 20th century. Particular emphasis is given to the Depression, businesses on Central Avenue, and churches.
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 O ral H istory P roject Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida, Tampa Library Digital Object Identifier: A31 00054 Interviewee: Etta White (EW) Interview ers : Herbert Jones (HJ ) Fred Beaton (FB) Shirley Smith (SS) Interview date: March 6, 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 Be th Isaacson Final Edit date: March 10, 2009 Herbert Jones : Mrs. White what were the conditions how were things in Tampa when first moved here, if you can remember? Etta White : Tampa was a very small place, even Central Avenue. Because when I first came here I went to West Tampa, and lived in West Tampa. And we lived over there quite a few years before we moved over into Tampa, and then when we moved here to Tampa, we moved o n Harrison Street. And they had a little street light across from Harrison see, and that's when we moved over o n that street, but it wasn't far from Harrison I think it was Gladstone Alley that's what it was Gladstone Alley ; we lived there probably a year o r so. Then we moved further up o n Harrison way up by Beulah [Baptist] C hurch ; it was a place up there we had that I always will remember the number of the houses, 611 Harrison Street. HJ: So how old were you ? EW: How old was I then? HJ: Uh h uh. EW: That's hard to tel l. I don't know how old I was. HJ: Were you of school age, were you attending school? EW: No I was married and had my kids yeah I was married and had my kids with me. HJ: How many children do you have? EW: Two, Everett and Olivett, boy and a girl.
2 HJ: Are they both living? EW: No they all dead mother an d father all dead. My mother in law just had a heart attack I have aunts and cousins ; that's all I have. HJ: So what were the conditions in Tampa, things like Jim Crow? How did the Jim Crow era affect you and other b lacks in the Tampa area? EW: Well e verything was al l right you know, but way back then I was ever to anybody w hite see when haven't been long Miss S o and So, just Etta, just plain Etta. My name then long years ago was Etta Lake T hen I got married, then it was Etta Kendrick Etta Kendrick N ow it's Etta White ; see I been married twice. And we moved from somewhere o n the street now is called Constance Street. How long you been in Tampa? HJ : I been here about six years. I went to school here, the University of S outh Florida. EW: Oh you went to the u niversity, oh yeah. Harlem [Academy School] was down there then, was you here when Harlem? Well they tore Harlem down, you was there when Harlem, I was there. I didn't go to school here, I went to school in Bartow, Florida. My uncle he was a past or over there, Rev erend J. B. Lake, he was a pastor in Bartow, and went over there and spent a while with my uncle and aunt, and so they told me I better go to school while I was over there, I say "W ell I ain't going to be here that long ." H e say "W ell if you don't be here but a month you can go to school. I told him "O kay, so I went to school in Bartow while I was there. HJ: Was Harlem one the first b lack schools in Tampa? EW: Yeah, to my knowings yeah that was the first b lack school. HJ: And w hat were the conditions, and ho w did they just have one classroom or separate class rooms and how do you know? EW: Well see now I didn't go to Harlem. I don't know I've been in that place in Harlem, but you see it's all tore down now. I was in there, b ut I don't know. I wasn't in there when they had it as a school ; they had all moved out then. I don't know I went there for something it had some kind of reception I think, and I went in there T hey had turned everythin g around, so I just don't know about that, cause as I say I didn't go to school in Tampa I went to school in Bartow. Fred Beaton : Miss White what can you tel l me about the 1920 s aro und the D epression er a? EW: Twenties [1920s] ? FB: Yes, how was your life during then and what was it lik e here in Tampa during the D epression er a ?
3 EW: Well I tell you, I always have y ou know, those days they claims way everything was cheap Y ou could send to the store and get a quarter worth of bacon that [would] do you a whole week, quarter worth of bacon And you know get flour, eggs, you get ten or fifteen cents worth of flour and things like that. That was when I was here. That was when I was a young lady see I was very young then. I've got so old now I don't remember very back way far back But I d o remember 1908; we left Tampa and went to Port Tampa City. And we moved back here in 1908, the same year the soldiers were here. S ee the soldiers they were here, and they use to come to my house and t hey come around there to see me. I was a young girl t hen; the boys yeah I was a young girl, and there in 1908 they would come around there to see me T hey were generally fine men to o, you know. I told them "Y'a ll do anything nasty around there my daddy that was my step daddy my daddy will scroll shoot you H e ain't going to kill you, but go nna shoot you somewhere. Well then I was telling the truth you know I was telling them the truth, cause if they did anything to mistreat me he would shoot them. B ut they were very generally fine boys, and so the y came around. They come around so regular I would go out to church with them. They say "C an I take you o ut, can I take you to the dance?" I say "N o I don't go to dances ." He say "W here can I take you ?" I say "T o church. He say "W ell I know the chu rch I don't even have to have o n a coat soldiers you know, they was soldiers, so he said "Y ou excuse me I'll take you to church, but it's al l right for us to go without in our uniform ." S o I would go to church with them I didn't live far from the chur ch in Port Tampa City. And I remember we came back t o Tampa, we moved back to Tampa. I think that was in 1908 about the latter part, last of it and it snowed here n o, it didn't snow ; they had ic icles o n Henderson [Boulevard]. T hey had a big tank up th ere, it's not there now thoug h, but they did have it, cause o n Henderson in front of that school you kno w where the school is up there o n Henderson and Jefferson [Street] I think. Well they had a school there and opposite of that school right o n Henderso n Henderson run like this I think and they had a great big tank T he water ran over you know and it was cold and we could look and see the ic i cles hanging down from the tank I t was so cold you see when the water run out it would freeze, and it would ru n down Y ou could go up there, but you couldn't get in that place ; they had it barred out, you couldn't get in there. So I just stayed home and looked up there, because we were living o n Governor not Governor [Street], we were living o n what street was t hat ? I forget what the name of that street Laurel [Street] we were living it's Laurel now, but it wasn't Laurel before It go right o n a cross the bridge, you know to West Tampa, you know where Laurel is. HJ : You talking about Fortune [Street]? EW: Yeah Fortune, that's what it was I t was Fortune Street before, then they changed it to Laurel. So we was living up there over the bar, over Gordon's Bar. H e had a bar down
4 there Mr. Gordon, old Gordon not this Gordon, the daddy of this Gordon boy. His daddy use to run a bar room down there, and we were living up there I don't know what happen I don't hardly remember I don't remember to much now in my old age I'm so forgetful yeah I put things down sometimes and I can't go back and get them. I have to set down and study T hat's what make me think I'm old ; otherwise I don't think I'm old. Shirley Smith : Are you saying things during the D epression er a were cheap here in Tampa? EW: During D epression well no th ey wasn't so cheap, but during Depression I ha d a job. T hen a good while after that, you know after the soldiers left and everything I had a husband too. S ee I had a husband and he was working in Sarasota, and he would send me money back every week, and I was working myself I was getting four doll ars a week, so that was good four dollars and all my tips So some times I have some good dudes on my floor. I did maid work, and I had good dudes o n my floor and when they get ready to go sometimes they would give me ten dollars And I wouldn't have to b other my little four dollars. I just carry that home and give it to my mother and tell her to b u y some groceries, and she would get a dollar fifty worth of groceries that last us a whole week. That was way back in them times things was cheap ; everything was cheap. HJ: So what kind of work was most b lack folks doing, dur ing the time before World War I? W hat w as the main source of work for b lack people? EW: Well I tell you, I really couldn't say because you see, I was just looking out for Etta. And I had a job and I would go to my job, and then my husband he would send me money every week, so we got along just like millionaires you may say. Because you say rent was a dollar fifty a week, groceries a dollar fifty a week, and that would do us good a w hole week. I couldn't do it now. W e 'd get a quarter worth of bacon and have that bacon, fry some of that bacon and eat it all the week and when Saturday come, we ll have more of it. You could get a nickel worth of grits, cause that would be enough ; a nickel wo rth of grits would be plenty for us. HJ: Okay I know you said that you didn't go to dances or anything like that, but do you know what type of things that were going on, what other b lack people were doing for weekend, or for excitement or something like that? EW: Well I went to dances, but I didn't never dance I can't dance now. I would go to dances now I'll tell you when I'll go to dances they have a prize either two fifty in gold or well that was most all the time that I would go I would go to th e dances and girls would say, Miss Etta what you doing here at this dance?" I say I come to win the money. And I would win it to o, every time E very time they would have that they say Lord I hope Miss White don't come, Miss Etta wo n t come to this dance I wasn't a White then "I hope Miss Etta don't come to the dance, cause she wins it every time, I don't see why. So I would go to the dances and s i t around in there and they'll have good dances, and
5 nice places to dance and everything. T hey had the hall there and different places T hey had a hall o n Jef ferson Street and they had one o n Central Avenue they had two o n Central Avenue, two places to go and t hen they had a place called Sunlight I never did go there, cause they never did give away not hing I always go get something and would get it, be lucky enough to get it every time. E very time they give away anything I'll go I would receive it even at the show, they would give away prizes at the show, and if I go I would be lucky enough to win it. FB: Miss White are you familiar with the ship building that took place here in Tampa? EW: No, but I had people living in my home there o n Central when they was building the ship s around here B ut see I didn't talk with them about the shi p building or nothing. I had men living there, living to my house that worked down there, but I don't know where they are now. HJ : Miss Etta can you give us the conditions of business o n Central, like your restaurants or some of your bars or something like this, some information on the business back there in that er a? EW: Well there o n Central Avenue was the Little Savoy and Jonus Place, they stayed there a long time ; they say wh en Lawton Jonus and Little Savo y they stayed there until I left, and then after I left t hen they had to leave. Little Savo y was the last one I think to move out of Central Avenue, but I have gone in both of those bars there. I've gone in there, but they be so dark in there, I'll hurry up and get out. I use d to sell pies in there, and I go i n there and sell the pie, and as I go in there I'll stand to the door, because th ey don't have no light in there. I have to stand to the door till my eyes get use to the darkness, and then I would walk in and sell my pies and come out. Otherwise, I don't k now about the bars and things. HJ: At the restaurant and your EW: The restaurants well let me see T here was Little Boys o n the corner there of Central and Scott [Street] Scott and Central was that right ? Y eah, Scott and Central there that was he's o ut here o n Twenty Second Street now, what 's h is name ? HJ: Solomon. EW: Yeah Solomon and his brother. Y eah they had I use to go in there and buy chicken from them, they buy stuff like that wholesale, and where he knew me if I wanted one sometime and I c ouldn't get to go up town to get one, he let me have it. He let me have one, in plenty of time so he could get it out the freezer, cause they buy them wholesale and sell me one for so much and so much. HJ: During World War I, were there a lot of b lacks fr om Tampa men that went into the service to fight World War I? Were there a lot of them?
6 EW: Well now I really don't know about that I couldn't tell you about that, but I did hear some of them leaving Tampa. I couldn't give you the names of them, but s ome of them went in service. HJ: What about like when they were in service ? W hat type of things did the wom e n have to do ? W ere you directly affect ed by this? M aybe times were harder for women during the time of World War I. EW: Never was hard for me thou gh, no I was really blessed me and my mother yeah we were really blessed me and my mother and my two kids M y husband he went to Sarasota and he worked, and he sent me money back. And so my mother take care of the kids, and so she say "Y ou ain't go t nothing to do, so you can get you a little job. Well I'm going down there and see Mr. Park and them and see can they give me anything S o I w ent o n down there and his wife was fixing to have a baby, and he say "Y eah Etta come o n down here M y wife go ing to have a baby next week, and I would like you to nurse her nurse it, he didn't know; he say nurse her or him ; he didn't know what the baby was going to be So sure enough I went o n down there and I hope around in the kitchen there, till no I didn 't H e told me I'll tell you what you do Y ou go up stairs and help this girl Maude I think her name was name was Maude "Y ou go upstairs and help her to clean up this week N ext week my wife going to have that baby. I say I can't nurse a little bit t y baby." H e say I'll have a trained nurse for the baby until it just so many years old, then I'll get you to come on in." Sure enough, I did. And then after that then I went to work in that's my old age showing up o n me see ; make me forget. The Lord has blessed me t hough; he has blessed me A nd so after that I taken care of the boy and I wouldn't work around there with them you see and they gave me four dollars for that The nurse was getting more than that, but I mean the maid was only getting fou r dollars and so all I got was four dollars, too. HJ: Al l right Miss Etta mainly what we are concerned with now we want a little information about the business aspect, like Solomon Place, like Rogers Din ing Room? EW: I think I went up to Rogers Place twice ; it was someone gave a party, a reception or something like that and I was invited up there, and I went up there twice B ut you know just sit around and we went up there a nd sit around and listen at the conversation and everything, but I didn't ha ve anything to do up there A ll I did was just go up there and enjoy myself I t was very nice up there. HJ: How about Johnnie Gray 's p lace ? EW: Well I don't know. I went down to Johnnie Gray 's place, but I never did go in S ee that was a restaurant th ey had down there. I never di d go in. Because I see Johnnie o n the outside and I would just talk to him, and then I go o n back home, cause I didn't have any business around there C ause you see my mother cook plenty and I wouldn't have to go
7 down none of those places for restaurant to get anything S ometime I go and get a little cool drink some place there o n corner of Scott and Central I go in that i t was a drug store, you know the Palace Drugs tore Y eah I would go in t here before they burn that down ; that was a good place there before they burn it down. And we use to go down pra ctically every Sunday afternoon; people be going, walking out and going somewhere for recreation or something like that, and we would go in there. A bunch of us girls get toge ther and go in there and sit down and order something cold drinks or ice cream or something like that. But into this restaurant place there, what his name? HJ: How about Jo h nnie Gray 's p lace? EW: No not Johnnie Gra y, o n the corner up there. HJ: Solomo n. EW: Solomon yeah Solomon I'll go down there sometime and get something, but I didn't get nothing much down there, cause I always have plenty to eat home. I f I get anything it would be raw and take it home and cook it. HJ: Okay can you think of any other business es that was in that area down there, any other business like barber shops, hairdressers? EW: On Central? Yeah my hairdresser lived o n Central ; her name is Miss York. You don't know her do you? She belongs to Bethel Church and what is her first name ? I forget her first name, but I don't think she was a York then I think she married just a little before she moved from off of Central I just don't remember. I just can't remember people 's names. HJ: Okay I have one more question. Can you de s cribe say the riots that happen in Tampa ? W ere you staying in that little block there? EW: No I don't remember that. I can't go into that, cause I don't remember that. HJ: I 'm talking about the one that burn down the Pal ace Drug store. EW: Those boys t hat cause I didn't know the leader of it you know. I don't know the leader of that I don't know. With what this barber name down there? HJ: Bennie Schulman. EW: Bennie Schulman, yeah I don't know but I know Bennie Schulman had said something to some of them boys and they stopped, cause you know I was near my house I was just knowing my house was going to catch a fire every minute, but it didn't. And I think Bennie Schulman could control those boys I'm not sure was it controlled the n but
8 it was some body told them they stopped that burning you know A nd all at once they had a whole lot of stuff they had stole way down Central ; they stole that there I had a boy staying in the back room there, and he filled that room full of stuff there. And we was tr ying to get out he was moving in W ell the fire was so near us, and it did burn the corner down it didn't burn it down, but it burn it so bad they even fix it up anymore. Yes sir, it was awful, but we was packing it up to get out A nd the funny thing a bout me, everybody was packing up and I wasn't getting nothing but dresses. I was just getting all my dresses and no shoes, no underwear, no sheets, pillow cases, nothing. I was just getting my dresses. And my cousin came over there and I was just throwing them in there I was so nervous he just got them down, and just throwed them in the truck, throwed them in the truck A nd my roomers they was moving out, moving across the street, and some of them say they going to get the house here and get across there to S o they was just I was just sitting down there and telling them "G et that dress, get that dress, get that dress." And so it just finally somebody said they done stopped and say the fire department is coming down. So the fire department came o n down the boys let them have it you know I mean the boys left after the fire was gone there and they let the fire department come in T he fire department couldn't come down there ; them boys shot them, they would they didn't come down there to put the fire ou t. And we was just calling up, calling up I didn't call, but I just had other people call for me I was so nervous I didn't call or anything, but that was awful. And them boys was there running in there packing all that stuff in there. I say "Y ou better be getting some out You bring it here, y' all bring all this stuff here ," and me trying to get out. T hat boy had his room full of everything they done got out the s tore way down there you know. It was a pawn shop way down there in front of Rogers Place and they been down there and done stole everything they wanted and brought it up there. Had more stocking than a little that boy give me stocking I don't know from what ; ain't got some of them stocking T hese stocking they got out of different stores and they brought up there and give them to me Mis s White you can have these stockings ." I say "W ell thank you. HJ: So Mrs. White do you remember the last lynching of a b lack person in Tampa? EW: Yeah, but I don't know his name. HJ: Do you remember wh at year, date or what time it was? EW: N o I don't know. He was living on I know where he lived, he was living o n the corner right behind the school house. Wh at's that street? Morgan Street; he was living o n the corner of Morgan and Constance [Avenue], I believe H e was living in that house, because I went there several times and I use to go there a lady after he after she moved out.
9 Side 1 ends; side 2 begins. EW: Good from where I was the Desot o Hotel I couldn't see from there I don't know where it w as but anyway after they hung him I didn't even go by there going home. HJ: What had he done? What crime had he committed? EW: Well during that time it was a lot of sporting women see there's lots of sporting women round, living around there w h ere I l ived T hese women here they were all mostly brown skin women, and they wouldn't entertain nobody but w hite men H e went there they pay the girls and they told me she said "W e don't go with c olored men ." H e say "Yo u go i n to go with me or else you'll d ie ." A nd she said "N o I'll die then first. I don't know how our Missy let you in and how she let you get in here, because we don't mess with nothing but w hite men, and so. I think he shot one of the girls, but she didn't die, I'm not positiv e. B ut any way they arrested him and put him in jail and kept him in there a good while. And there use to be a lady use to go down there and prayed for prisoners. S he went down there prayed for him and he told her "T hey going to lynch me at such and such a time. She say I can't do you no good All I can do is talk with you and tell you to put your trust in God That's all. I f they going to kill you they'll going to kill you. Y ou didn't take this lady life, but you shot her, and they going to lynch you for that ." A nd so they did ; they hung him. Now what his name I don't know and I did have a clipping of the paper, but now moving around I don't know whether I brought it or what, I don't know. Lots of things that I had when I moved off of Central I moved to thi s man's place what use to run that drug store what 's h is name ? T he drugstore there on Central, you know him. W ell I moved to his house; he lived o n North A, and in the back he had a garage and over the garage he ha d a rooming house all furnished. S o he to ld me I could stay there until I got my apartment. S ee she told me I could stay there and I stayed there about three or four months before I moved over here. I had put in for this apartment, but it wasn't vacant yet and she told me the first one she got vacant she would let me have it. S o that's where I stayed there with him and we called him Doc. I sorry, I do the best I can because y'all wait until I got so old. Oh thank God I can. I remember every once and a while ; some time it come back to me and so me time it go, but I just got like that last year. But every year see I get older and older every year, so I thank God that he let me live this long. I lived longer than my mother and father and all that. FB: Do you remember the first church here in Tamp a? EW: Well yes Beulah and St. Paul [African Methodist Episcopal], they was the two Beulah Baptist and St. Paul church, cause I belong to Beu lah and I use to go to St. Paul; still go there some time now. St. Paul is right where it is, Beulah is right b ehind the where the Co cola planet did you know about that ? Y ou don't know about that do you ? W ell Beulah was right b ehind that co cola plant there; that's o n the corner of Pierce [Street]
10 and Constance not Constance, Laurel now I t was Constance then T hat's where Beulah use to sit. Then Beulah round there where the Longshoremen Hall there, that was the they bought Beulah and then they built back over there o n Pierce Street T he Longshoreman bought old Beulah and then they built a new Beulah. Now they go t another new Beulah over in West Tampa, that only that's St. Paul and Beulah and Borman I t's Tyer Temple [United Methodist Church] n ow ; they use call it Borman church, and it was located o n I forget where Borman was located at. But Beulah, Ty er Temple, a nd another church Bethel. Bethel is right where it's at now ; that's where Bethel is. HJ: Wasn't Ty er Temple o n J efferson? Was it on Jefferson, o n the corner of Jefferson and Scott? EW: Uh huh. I believe it was o n Jefferson, somewhere down there by the j ailhouse i s now yeah that's where it was. Y eah those are the three le ading churches there I know, Ty er Temple, Beulah, and Borman and Bethel. HJ : Were there big turn outs for churches during those days? EW: Oh yeah. Yes, yes, they had good turn out; the y had better services than they do now mostly. People now they are not studying about religion now ; they get it all o n the radio, the television. HJ: Do you remember when first television came to Tampa? EW: Yeah, I remember I didn't have none, we didn t you know I been here a long time Y eah I been in Tampa I came to Tampa I think in 1908, and I came from Ocala from my home, and went to Port Tampa City a nd stayed down there a good bit of years and we moved to Tampa. And I remember cause we couldn't b uy television and a radio ; we thought we could I say it wasn't no men folks around, but my husband he was in Sarasota working down there, and he had him a little radio in his place and batteries S o after my son got a good size boy he went to work, and h e b ought him a radio W e wasn' t able to get the television; then [the price] wasn't so high as they is now, but still we didn't have that kind of money. Cause everything then was cheap and everybody was trying t o work and get something to eat. A s I say I never was in the bread line. I use to wish I've get it. I wanted some of that black flour I don't know why I wanted the black flour when we could buy the white flour, and cook and have nice white biscuits, but them black biscuits look so good, so I use to go to my cousin house and eat some of that flour they got was dark flour. HJ: So would you say that after World War II or before World War II the conditions of b lacks were better or worse? EW: No it was better A fter that it was better during my time because the people could work. M en could work to the shipyard if they wanna good pay there, lots of the men
11 W ell now I think the last time I work, and that was up here I wasn't getting but ah what did I get fifteen dollars I was working at a hotel and my hotel was a cheap hotel, but it was a pretty hotel The Desoto Hotel, they tore it completely down now ; that's where you go down there and get your S ocial S ecurity card now, the Desot o Hotel was right in there. I was sitting up in the window one day when they were buil ding the telephone building; i t must have been along this time in March, cause the wind was going blowing and a storm was predicted and everything T hey had I don't know whether it was rope or cable, but they had it o n all four side s of that building, that telephone building and storms came A strong wind come and those men got out there ; lots of men were holding. I was sitting there in the window and that place was leaning over just like that, and I was sitting there in the window and I said to myself, I better get myself out here ; that thing falls over there they would never find me, until they get all these bricks from over me ." W ell if I go anywhere else I can't see, so I went back to the window and sit up there in the windo w and that place was going just like that A nd a bunch of men was over there kind of holding it back so it wouldn't come over this side ; it was a frame, it wasn't a building, just the frame was going up there. They don't build them like that now, because now they build place most of concrete or something like that bricks or something like that, but this here was just a steel building I t's the same place as it is down there where I go to pay my light bill; now it's that same building right over that side HJ: Okay thank you Mrs. White W e don't want to t i r e you out, cause it's a possibility that we may come back and talk to you some more, so we end for today. end of interview