Mathew Gregory

Citation
Mathew Gregory

Material Information

Title:
Mathew Gregory
Series Title:
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Creator:
Gregory, Mathew
Anthony, Otis R
Black History Research Project of Tampa
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publisher:
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
1 sound file (54 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Civil rights workers -- Interviews ( lcsh )
Civil rights workers -- Florida ( lcsh )
African Americans -- Politics and government ( lcsh )
African Americans -- Florida ( lcsh )
African Americans -- History -- Florida ( lcsh )
Genre:
Oral history. ( local )
Online audio. ( local )
interview ( marcgt )
Oral history ( local )
Online audio ( local )

Notes

Summary:
Mathew Gregory, former president of Tampa's NAACP chapter, discusses African American political candidates and businesses, and describes some of his experiences as a civil rights worker.
Venue:
Interview conducted March 30, 1978.
General Note:
Other interviewers for the Black History Research Project of Tampa were Fred Beaton, Joyce Dyer, Herbert Jones, and Shirley Smith.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Otis R. Anthony and members of the Black History Research Project of Tampa.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
020799234 ( ALEPH )
436227684 ( OCLC )
A31-00079 ( USFLDC DOI )
a31.79 ( USFLDC Handle )

Postcard Information

Format:
Audio

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This item has the following downloads:


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segment idx 0time text length 91 Fred Beaton: Mr. Gregory, can you tell me a little about yourself, like where you was born?
1142 Mathew Gregory: Oh, well, let me see. (inaudible) in 1903. I think I got it here. It was December the seventh. You want to get it off of here?
250 FB: Well, you can tell-read it to me, if you like.
3264 MG: You see, I got all kind of trouble. I had a stroke last year, and I ain't never got over it, see, and you know somethin', when I start to readin', my eyes start to doin' this. I'm gonna see (inaudible) here. December 7, 1903, Waynesboro, Georgia, Burke County.
489 FB: If you would like, I could take that to the office and Xerox and bring it back. Okay.
5125 Pertaining to politics, Mr. Gregory, what is the biggest problem, you think, facing a black candidate being elected in Tampa?
613 (phone rings)
787 MG: The basic problem is the negroes can't get elected in Tampa- (phone rings) Oh, boy!
818 Pause in recording
9171 [The tape appears to have missed some of Mr. Gregory's comments, and a previously recorded voice speaks for a few moments. Mr. Gregory begins speaking again mid-sentence.]
10312 MG: -with negroes in Hillsborough County. And white people ain't gonna vote for negroes. We'd just as well as to forget that. Some people think they will, but they ain't gonna vote for you. One or two, that's all. This one vote county-wide would keep the-if that's is out the way, then negroes could get elected.
11108 FB: So, are you saying that if we go back to the ward system of politics that we'll get more blacks elected?
12272 MG: That's right. Now, they use the ward system to bring these other system in effect. But negroes was not playin' a part in politics at that time, because they wasn't allowed to vote. And so how could you be accused of being a part of a thing when you wasn't in politics?
1382 FB: When did blacks get a chance to vote in Hillsborough County, that you know of?
14372 MG: Well, I can't- It really didn't happen until the civil rights era, forty-in the forties [1940s]. I would say in the forties [1940s]. But that's really the hold up. Because if you have to run city-wide, you know as well as I [that] white people will not support you. It's a few, but not enough to count. And so the ward system is the best thing for Hillsborough County.
15170 FB: Well, some polit-well, not politicians, but political scientists-say that if we implement the ward system that it will bring about corruption. Do you agree with that?
16224 MG: No. If men who-put men in there who believe in fair dealin' with everybody, it won't bring about corruption. But now, the reason that corruption was brought about, people was in there stealin' votes and doin' everything.
17150 FB: When you was at the Urban League, can you remember any particular, say, fights or battles that you had dealin' with voting in Hillsborough County?
18866 MG: Well, you know, I haven't ever had too much local problem. I was one of the men that filed suit against the Democratic Party. You don't find that in your record nowhere, do you? (laughs) Eno Molasie and Dan Millard and myself filed the first suit against the Democratic Party, because we were denied the right to register and vote. See? And the old Tampa Bulletin [was] the only paper I know that had that record. And of course, when he died, his records were destroyed. And by me movin' so much I got rid of-I lost the Tampa Times what wrote the story. Now, wherever records might be now in some archive somewhere-the morning Tribune might have it, but this I don't know. But a man by the name of Dan Millard, Eno Molasie and Mathew Gregory filed the first suit against the voter registration-Democratic Party here-because it was lily white up until that point.
1942 FB: What was that the outcome of the suit?
208 MG: Hmm?
2137 FB: What was the outcome of the suit?
22489 MG: Oh. Well, the outcome of that suit: we lost the suit in the higher court in Tallahassee. Then at that time Thurgood Marshall was our chief counselor in the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People]. And they had a case comin' out of Texas at the same time. He wrote us and advised us to send our funds we raised for the suit to New York. And this case, when it's won, would be decided by the United States Supreme [Court] (inaudible). And that's what happened.
23FB: Historically, looking at the black candidates that have run for office in Hillsborough County, can you name the reasons why they didn't receive as much of the black vote they probably would have had they run (inaudible)?
24435 MG: Well, I'm afraid to answer that, seeing I know why. Because, knowing the conditions, people wasn't so concerned because so many of us thought he wasn't gonna win anyway. I voted for everyone what run, as far as that's concerned. But I did it with reservations. Said, "I'm gonna vote because he's a black man." But I didn't have much faith that he was gonna win, because the odds was against him. And the odds are still against him.
25246 FB: Well, do you think that the black community as a whole has come of age, voting? Have they reached voter maturity, or do you think that there's time yet for the majority of the blacks in Tampa to really be concerned about the voting procedure?
26516 MG: They should be really concerned. But here's what-some of the things- You see, people- All right, we was denied the right, for many years, to register and vote. Back in the year when Senator [Claude] Pepper was running, I went all over this town talking about getting people to register and vote. And I would talk with people and they would tell me that there's no need, the white man gonna do what he want to do anyhow. This was the thinking of a lot of us. It wasn't all right. There wasn't no need to register.
27411 But I have always believed that registration and voting is an important issue for the negroes, because in order to be recognized as a first class citizen you must go down, register, and vote. You must go-you should go to the city hall when issues come up and have your own say. But if you don't do those things, the other man ain't gonna do it for you. And can't nobody recommend you, or represent you, but you.
28308 FB: That's right. Okay. Through talking with several of the social scientists and even political scientists, they have come up with the assumption that if we have a black candidate that can appeal to the Latin sect and has a pretty good program that there's a possibility of a chance that he will be elected.
2926 MG: You mean as it is now?
3017 FB: As it is now.
3111 MG: No way.
3230 FB: Can you elaborate on that?
33612 MG: I just don't believe it'll happen. Because the white-ain't no white gonna vote for him. The only negro the white man gonna vote for, he got to be a man well known and a man they got a lot of confidence in. Take up me, I've been in this town fifty years, and never been arrested, never been in jail. Only time I ever had a conversation with a police, he stopped me for speeding. But you think I could get elected some way? I joined (inaudible) in 1925-you think I could get elected somewhere? Mm-mm [no]. I have worked for candidates-they wouldn't think about electing me, because I'm an eighth grade scholar.
34168 FB: Well, what are your opinions on-what do you think the coming election will bring, say, if we have two or three candidates running, particularly in the mayor's race?
3554 MG: If we-and then when you say "we," you mean blacks?
36FB: Blacks, right.
3734 MG: Running for mayor of the city?
3814 FB: Well, yes.
3957 MG: Two or three? We don't need that many; only need one.
40105 FB: Right. But I mean, what would you think a black's chance of running for mayor in the coming election?
41112 MG: He'd have a chance. But if he don't get elected in the first-what do you call it?-in the primary, he's lost.
427 FB: So-
43166 MG: If negroes gonna get a black man elected in Tampa in the present condition, he got to win in the primary and get all these votes, because when-man to man, no way.
4493 FB: So it is your opinion that Tampa has not yet reached political maturity for black people.
4551 MG: It will not, as long as it's set up like it is.
469 FB: Okay.
47529 MG: See, there's nothing there to make the average guy really want to vote-register to vote. You've got to beg 'em to do that, because there's nothing to make him do it because he know he ain't gonna get elected for nothing. I think-I'm not sure now, but I'm gonna say it. I think it was 1940 when this thing was fixed. And I predicted in the presence of the late Perry Harvey [Senior], in his office, that it would be fifty years before we get a negro elected to anything in Tampa, and it's been twenty-five since then. (laughs)
48380 FB: As we look at the politics of the political arena in Tampa, we see many things in the political arena. For instance, we see blacks that have run for office and haven't gotten elected, and through conversation with many of them, they say that-the reason why they wasn't elected they say, one, it was apathy on the part of blacks. They didn't feel that a black could be elected.
49325 Number two, they had to sponsor their own elections through their own funds. And number three, they stated that if they would run again that it would only be if they have, say, the support of the Latin community. So, historically in Tampa, have blacks gotten along with the Latin community as a whole when it comes to voting?
50MG: Well, how long you live in Tampa?
5155 FB: I've been livin' in Tampa about twenty-three years.
52650 MG: Twenty-three years. You see, when you start to thinking like that, I think the-as far as race relations it would be-for me, I would-I haven't had any trouble with anybody, as far as that's concerned. And I believe that as long as this thing stands as is it's no need of makin' too much fuss. Got to live with it until we get it stopped. You see, I have raise-helped raised-money to carry this thing to court and get rid of it. Because once you go to-it costs a lot of money, but you can knock it out. But negroes don't want to pay the price. NAACP spent, two or three years ago, a lot of money on it, I won't quote how much-I've forgot-to get it.
5365 FB: And what-did they incur problems in trying to get it changed?
54MG: They couldn't get it changed; they didn't have enough money to carry it to courts and do all the footwork that needed to be did. That's what the attorney told us.
55FB: Okay, in order to get the system changed, we have to get consent from the legislature in Tallahassee, right?
56262 MG: It's two things. I mean, one of two things. You can carry it to court-now, I don't know of a single case went to court and went on up to the highest court and lost. It could have happened, but I don't know of a case. But I do know some cases [have] been won.
57260 FB: Gettin' into business, Mr. Gregory, since you've been here a long time, can you name some of the distinguished businessmen-or businessmen that was prevalent during the, say, the twenties [1920s], the thirties [1930s]-that had some impact on Tampa business?
5856 MG: Like the late Cole business? He had a good business.
5910 FB: Right.
60MG: He did have a good business, Cole did, a good business to have. The (inaudible) business had; you've got a record on that. Tampa (inaudible)-you've got that record somewhere, I know. That went through the wall, because negroes failed to support the business.
61FB: Failed to support the business? That was the market over there in (inaudible)?
6268 MG: Yeah. Selling-prices was right and everything. I don't know why.
6380 FB: So, your opinion is that blacks, as a whole, don't support black businesses?
64MG: That's right.
65140 FB: Did businessmen of this area-have they ever gotten together to make a stand, or like create a chamber of commerce or anything like this?
66198 MG: This I don't know. They got together to open up that store I was just telling you about. I used to know 'em all by name, but I can't think of 'em now. And it was a nice store. Was you here then?
6738 FB: Oh, yeah. I was here at the store.
6820 MG: You saw it, huh?
69FB: Right.
7062 MG: I used to travel from here over there to buy my groceries.
71208 FB: Can you name some of the business that was prevalent, that flourished during, say, the twenties [1920s], the thirties [1930s], the forties [1940s] in Tampa? And where was most of the business confined at?
72345 MG: Well, now, Cole's business was on Thirty-Fourth [Street] and Buffalo [Street]. It wasn't there in the thirties [1930s]. It was later this way. Of course, you know Lee Davis on Central Avenue. (inaudible) barrooms down there. Johnny Gray had a nice caf down there, even had a bar in there. That was in the forties [1940s]. Do you want that?
7340 FB: Right. As far back as you can think.
74319 MG: That was in the forties [1940s]. Johnny Gray. What's the other guy's name? Watts Sanderson. In the forties [1940s], Charlie Moon, the Silver Moon. He started out selling bolita, way back in the thirties [1930s]. And he had business in this town, Charlie Moon did. But you see, that was racketeer business. You know?
75FB: I see.
76576 MG: But of course, when they come up with the tavern, supposed to be open in the day. Gamblin' houses and all that stuff. But of course, I happened to not be a fellow concerned about racketeers. I never wanted racketeering, because I want to live peaceable. And you knock on that door, I can say to you, "Come in." So I never was involved in any racketeer business, because I want to-when I go to bed at night, I want to go to bed to rest in peace. So in order to do this, I knew I had to stay out of any kind of unfair doings. And that's all bolita and that kind of stuff is.
77FB: So the majority of the black businesses were located in a particular region?
78404 MG: Yeah, on Central Avenue. Yeah, we were. The majority of black business in the thirties [1930s] and the twenties [1920s] was on Central Avenue. So now they wiped it out all together. Negroes had more business scattered around, like grocery stores, the Larkin Grocery Store; I can't tell exactly where it was now. Negroes had more groceries scattered around than they do now. Negroes had more business.
7966 FB: What do you attribute this to? It's more expensive now to own?
80177 MG: Some of what it is, the negro is less trained how to operate business. And the more these big chain stores appear on the scene, the less chance a small business have to run.
81205 FB: Mr. Gregory, could you describe, briefly, your career and some of the issues you had, [that] you were involved in? Some important issues you're involved in, the high points, or some of your low points?
8286 MG: Well, see, I was a Pullman porter all my-forty-two years. Plus the NAACP subjects-
83FB: Yeah, that's what it was. Because we have heard so much information on this.
84484 MG: Well, I guess the reason you hear about it is because of the fact that I was the president of the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters from 1930 until they fold up April the first of this year. And of course, I had fifty men here in Tampa. Today, there's not a-Pullman porters are non-existent today. April the first, the organization merged with another organization. And out of eighteen thousand Pullman porters in 1940, when they merged April the first, it was one thousand.
85553 See, that's how jobs-in one time, that was an all-black job, but today they're working white and black, men and women. And so, if you don't have much higher education than I had when I come along, you will not be able to get any of those jobs, because of the fact that I worked in Pullman's storeroom for two, three years, storing stock in the storeroom, with an eighth grade education. But in order to get that job before the storerooms closed up, you had to have a high school education. So it's definite that you must have an education to go forward.
86579 Now, I traveled extensively all over this country. Pullman porters served some of the best people in the country, because that's who ride Pullman cars, dining cars. And I got along well with all of these people. But when you get ready to raise sand with 'em, you must know what you're doing. If you think the company's treating you wrong, you got a legitimate complaint, make it. Because the average person-when you're right, just keep on doing the thing that you know is right; you'll win your case. But you must be sure they're right. And you can get support when you're right.
87FB: That's true. Well, can you tell us something about your career in the NAACP?
88MG: Well, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is an organization I think that negroes should support. Negroes have attempted to destroy that organization many, many times, and they failed. And they failed because of the fact-some of the reason they failed because they were wrong. And of course, when you're wrong and you just keep going, you just fade out. And this is what happened. Here in Tampa, a group of men attempted to start a new organization one time.
8963 FB: Can you tell me what year this was, if you can think of it?
9028 MG: No, I can't think of it.
91FB: What, they wanted to break away from the NAACP?
9245 MG: No, they wanted to start another chapter.
9324 FB: Oh, another chapter.
94MG: But you see, when you start another chapter, you're gonna weaken the one you already got.
95FB: Right.
96677 MG: The way the bylaws and things read, in order for you to start a chapter you have to have twenty-five members. Okay, the chapter that's already in the city have to report once every month, when they report-remember, now, this report to the national office every month. As long as they're doing that, they're not gonna give 'em a permit to set up a new chapter here. So this is the reason they-I never was worried about setting up a new chapter, because I know what the organization was doing. But they wanted to set up a new chapter, because they didn't like some of the local things that was going on. And yet they wouldn't come in and work with the chapter we already had.
97FB: What were some of the important issues that you all worked on?
98569 MG: Okay, we went to (inaudible) the police headquarters, once or twice or three times, on brutality of the police. Now, what year? The chief of police there now, in my book, he is a more reasonable man to talk to. The police before that-I can't even think of his name-he was the head of that. He was plus prejudicially; he just didn't want to talk to you because you're black. I had two or three (inaudible) with him. I guess it was in the thirties [1930s]. The police got involved with the-in the project-shot after a man, and the bullet-what you call it? Ricocheted?
9921 FB: Ricocheted, yeah.
100231 MG: Yeah. And went in the door by another man's head or something, I've forgotten now. Anyway, we got involved in that. And you see, it's pretty hard now for me to go back and tell you these things, because I just can't think well.
101132 FB: Okay. Well, just tell us as much as you can. We understand. Were there any other cases that brought tension to the organization?
102298 MG: Oh, yeah. This case-not this case. The case out here at the tomato farm. We had-see, I can't call that man's name now. We looked into that. But we thought it wasn't a good case to handle, because he's married to a white girl, and that's against you twice. So we couldn't do much with that case.
10329 FB: What was this case about?
10484 MG: The case was about-they accused this man of being rude to his workers out there.
105FB: Oh.
10643 MG: That's right, that's what it was about.
107285 FB: Can you tell us what were you concerned with this-some of the things that the NAACP had to go through, and what part did you play in it? See, we need a part that you played. And we have a whole lot of information on you, but we would like to know how you feel about it, personally.
108552 MG: Well, you see, I was president of the organization for seven years. I played-back being the president. When you're president you've got other people working and all you do is say, "Why, we'll-" When it comes to the branch and the branch discuss it and decide this is the case, and decide they want to-we're gonna look into it. And lots of times, as far at the president is concerned, he never go on the ground where the case is handled at, because the committees are doing it. Most of the NAACP work is done by committees. You know that, don't you?
109163 FB: Right. Okay, can you name some of the important people that helped you or that were influential when you was president in the organization on particular cases?
110344 MG: Well, in the early days-you see there, there you go again. Eno Molasie was a good worker, and he was well- read. Perry Harvey. Mr. Broaden, who has passed away. Ann Milloy, who passed away in New York City-this was before [Robert W.] Saunders appeared on the scene, these people that I'm talking about. In later years, I'll put it that way.
11147 FB: This group you mentioned, was this in-what-
11246 MG: About thirty [1930] to thirty-five [1935].
113FB: Thirties [1930s]?
114270 MG: Yeah. Tillis, in the forties [1940s], Miss Tillis. I guess Bob Gilder worked in the forties [1940s]. But you see, it's hard for me to call all these people. Fellow by the name of Big William, he worked in the forties [1940s]. Common name-common called "Big William."
115899 We was in the city hall one night, four of us-I can't think of the other two people. That's when they had the police department-the guy on the stand in the city hall. And a guy had been released out of the city hall-stockade is what we called it at that time. Anyway, he come upstairs and drunk water out of the water fountain which was marked for whites, and the police saw him and slapped him. Fortunately we didn't have no riot, but Big William told 'em, "We want a fountain in here tomorrow for negroes, or either take that one out." So this-the things happened sometimes just like that, see. Now we was up there for a meeting. But this is what happened, because this negro come in there and drunk water out of that fountain that was marked for whites. The police hit him. Now, see, these kind of things, I don't know whether they've got any record of it or not, but I was there and it happened.
116104 FB: See, this is what we need. See, a whole lot of situations that happened we don't have no records of.
117MG: Mm-mm. No. No. No. No.
11848 FB: How did the Jim Crow affect blacks in Tampa?
119751 MG: (laughs) Just as-you know, I have heard a lot of people-not a lot-say Jim Crow ain't so bad, but Jim Crow was just as bad in Tampa as it was any place else. The only difference I find is some other places, just like when Tampa had a little small sign and the motorman would control that sign. In Alabama, he had something like a headboard-you couldn't hardly see around it-to ride the buses and the streetcars. Alabama buses, they had a big sign, like a headboard, between you and the white passengers. But discrimination otherwise was just as rigid in Tampa, unless you get out in the Latin quarters somewhere, it wasn't so bad. But they, too, had discrimination because they didn't want to be called negro lovers, and so they had their rule too.
120304 You see, now, I was involved in-I was deadheading south, Charleston, South Carolina. I walked out a gate that was marked for whites only, a railroad gate. The man cussed me out and called me a nigger and told me get back in there. He said, "Where you come from? You must be one of them New York negroes."
121And I said, "No. I'm trying to get back to Tampa, Florida. I'm sorry I walked out that gate."
122130 "You don't need to apologize to me. Get on back in there." See? So I went on back in the gate. He had a big .45 stuck on his side.
123When I was telling it one day, a man said to me, "You took that?" I said, "You see me here?" I was telling him that if I hadn't have taken it, I might have not been here.
12416 FB: That's true.
125180 MG: See? But you had to learn how to live with the system at that time. And all these places had different rules of discrimination. Yet, it ended up the same thing, discrimination.
126FB: Was Tampa-you say it was the same in Tampa, right?
127MG: Yeah.
128FB: Can you think of any major problems, like any race riots or anything, that broke out in the thirties [1930s], forties [1940s], fifties [1950s], somethin' pertaining to this?
129497 MG: No. Not the thirties [1930s]. I saw a man got beat up because he went out the wrong gate one time, years ago-in the thirties [1930s]-at the railroad station down there. That's right. He went out the wrong gate. I don't know what happened. He say something to one of the white men on the gate and the man say something back at him, and the next thing I know he was knocked down. So I don't know what could be any more racist than that. That just happened to be a case where the man got beat up.
130FB: Were blacks constantly harassed in Tampa during this time?
131385 MG: A certain period of time, I think. Now, I couldn't tell too much about harassment because I don't know what happened, but I guess I learned how to live with it. Because I wasn't out in the street. I didn't go around to these-what you call 'em, (inaudible)?-at night. But I never was bothered. But I just know it was-I'd get on a streetcar and go on to the back like everybody else.
132Oh, did you want to see this?
133223 FB: Yes, sir. I want to see that, too. Mr. Gregory, can you think of- We have heard that there were several lynchings in Tampa. Can you think of any that you might have heard, of any black or anybody being lynched in Tampa?
134MG: Yeah. Yeah. But there wasn't no lynchings in my knowing, since I've lived in Tampa. I come to Tampa in 1925.
135FB: So as far as you know, there wasn't a lynching.
136165 MG: Since that time, no lynchings. Several beat ups, negroes. Several negroes got beat up because of messing with white women. But whether it was true, I don't know.
137FB: How did the Depression affect you?
138439 MG: I had a job during the Depression. The Depression was hard, but I had a job, a family. You never knew whether you were going to be working the next day or not. During the Depression, I was makin' sixty-eight dollars a month, I believe it was. I was workin' on the train from Tampa, the Southland-they called it the Southland-from Tampa to Chicago, or either to Detroit. So many trips I'd go to Chicago, so many trips I'd go to Detroit.
13970 FB: Are you familiar with the soup lines during the Depression period?
140MG: I saw the soup line. Never did get in a soup line.
141FB: Can you tell me somethin' briefly about them, what they were?
142373 MG: Well, people would go there and get something to eat. I know they had a soup line on the corner of Central Avenue and Scott [Street]. And I believe-I'm not sure-that Greek Stand or somebody was feedin' the people. A lot of people were standing up there in line. They had a soup line there, I know. I had a fifteen-cent job, so I never inquired about it. I just saw 'em.
143164 FB: We have covered the Depression a lot, and we couldn't find too much information on the effect of the Depression in Hillsborough County and Tampa, in particular.
144261 MG: No? Well, I guess one reason, Tampa had a certain amount of people working at that time, and the guy who was working worked for something like the soup line, and most of 'em are already gone. That's right. So you all haven't found much about the soup lines?
145117 FB: We haven't found too much about it. Not enough to really give a big picture of. How about the ships or shipyards?
146MG: Well, the-what you mean? When the shipyard was open?
14731 FB: When the shipyard was open.
148503 MG: It was discriminating. See, during the time of the war, the last-what, in the forties [1940s]? Discrimination in Hillsborough County was bad. They had in the morning paper, "We need carpenters." They sent twenty-five or thirty carpenters down to Tampa from Charleston, South Carolina to work as carpenters. The white union in this town wouldn't let them work. Paid 'em a week's salary and sent 'em back to Charleston, South Carolina. Now, I know that happened. Now, if that ain't bad discrimination-
149382 One morning they had a recruiter; you know what a recruiter is? Recruiting men to work overtime when they get off the train, to work three or four hours a day overtime. Now, I'm not a mechanic and never was, but this recruiter said to me-he told me who he was, I told him what my name was. He said, "We would like to get you to go out to the shipyard and work, give us a few hours "
150146 And I said, "Yeah. I'm a mechanic by trade. I can't work as a mechanic out there, have to do common labor. If I can't do my trade, I'm not going."
151He said, "Well, I can't use you. You're not patriotic enough."
152And I said to him, "What you mean I'm not patriotic enough? I'm here and ready to go to work, but I'm not going to work as a common laborer." I bluffed the guy, because I never was a mechanic by trade. He told me he couldn't use me and walked on off. Now, if that ain't the height of pushin' the rules and regulations, I don't know what is. Now, that happened at the Tampa Union Station. See? But you wouldn't never see that nowhere, because that man didn't tell it, unless I tell it.
153FB: That's right.
154MG: See?
15579 FB: So this was the common element going along with blacks doing the shipyards?
156MG: That's right. That's right.
15758 FB: No matter what kind of skill that a black had, he was-
158MG: Discriminated against [at] the shipyard. That's right.
15964 FB: Was there a difference in pay for doing the same jobs, also?
16067 MG: Now, let me get you straight. See, they have a union out there.
161FB: Okay.
162MG: And the union at that time was doing certain things out there. See? But, when this-the time I'm talking about, I don't know where the union, what was the union doing-
163Side 1 ends; side 2 begins
164326 FB: They've been going over the shipyard and everything, and we have had several interviews. We were told that there was discrimination, was told that some of the men would hire you out for one day, on the assumption that he had to hire somebody the next day and you couldn't come to work. Was that prevalent during that time?
16541 MG: See, I never did go to the shipyards.
166FB: Okay. Mr. Gregory, how about education? Did you ever have any problem when you was president of the NAACP involving education?
167MG: We had an educating committee set up.
16899 FB: And were they that instrumental in, say, eradicating some of the problems of the school system?
169MG: They looked into it and they didn't clear up that much of it. Nothing much.
170FB: Well, what is your opinion on the school system during the period of the forties [1940s]? Was the school meeting the need of the black students during that time?
171399 MG: Why, they discriminated, and we were getting-you know, anything separate, because separate but equal, you can forget it. So there wasn't no-there's no such thing as separate but equal. That was what you call it? It was just something to get by. And Tampa been getting by for many, many years, and still getting by today. But we had a school. We had schools. Our school system was very, very bad.
17278 FB: Can you think of some of the schools that were here when you came in 1925?
173186 MG: When I came to Tampa in twenty-five [1925]? Yeah. Meacham [Elementary School]. Lomax [Elementary School]. And what's the other school's name out there, in the middle of the projects?
174FB: (inaudible)
175432 MG: No. Meacham was here. Lomax was here. And I can't think of that other school, because I went there one night to make application to be a tailor, but they wasn't teachin' that at night in that school. And I never did go to another school, because I-you know, I didn't have but such money, no transportation. Streetcars was a problem to get around on. Of course, public transportation was much better than it is now, at that time.
17697 FB: So on the whole, education was just-they were barely meeting the needs of the black students.
177MG: That's right.
17859 FB: The teachers were discriminated against and everything?
179MG: Oh, yeah. Oh, they were discriminated; black and white schools strictly at that time.
180106 FB: During the latter years, what do you think about this new literacy test that we have now for students?
181161 MG: Well, I don't know. I don't know enough about the school system to say whether it's good or bad. But there's some passing it. So I won't go into that at all.
182FB: Can you give us anything else about your career? Some important point that you would like brought out?
183601 MG: Well, I would say this: if a man in the low income bracket can go out and find him a job, he should try to find a job that he like. And if he likes the job, he should do what he's supposed to do on that job. If the job is paying a small wage scale and he accepts the job, he should do it, or quit and get him another job. Because I strongly think if you like what you're doing, you're gonna do a better job, as long as you got to work for a living. See? And I always had to work for a living; for all of my days I had to work for a living. Ain't never been a time in my life I didn't need to work.
184463 But I liked my job. I stayed in it forty-two years. I liked it. When it was time to go to work, I liked to go. Ready to go all the time. I never was put on the carpet for something I did wrong. Now, I'm not gonna say I didn't do something wrong. (laughs) But I didn't get caught. Such a thing as going to sleep on the job. Sometime you've got a stretch, the train don't stop for two hours, regular going. Now, any man'll set up and go to sleep sometimes. (laughs)
185133 FB: So as a whole, you say during the twenties [1920s], the thirties [1930s], the forties [1940s], blacks were discriminated against.
186MG: Yeah.
187138 FB: The problem-the little-our freedom that we did have were somehow curtailed by certain laws. We had to do certain things a certain way.
188MG: That's right.
18949 FB: Is there anything else you would like to say?
190MG: No. You gonna get me those books back?
191FB: Yes, I'll get your books back, both of them.
19252 MG: Okay. Because I don't have another one of those.
193End of interview
unicode usage 2-byte sequence starting at 17213 [195 169 (c3 a9 ) {"\u00e9"} ]. [ Johnny Gray had a nice caf down there, even had a bar in ther].



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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.

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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 D igital O bject I dentifier : A31 000 7 9 Interviewee: Mathew Gregory (MG) Interviewer: Fred Beaton (FB ) Interview date: March 30, 1978 Interview location: Tampa, Florida Transcribed by: Unknown Transcription date: Unknown Interview changes by: Mary Beth Isaacson Interview changes date: December 2, 2008 Final edit by: Maria Kreiser Final edit date: February 19, 2009 Fred Beaton: Mr. Gregory, can you tell me a little about your sel f, like where you was born ? Mathew Gregory : Oh, well, let me see. ( inaudible ) in 1903. I think I got it here. It was December the seventh. You want to get it off of here? FB: Well, you can tell read it to me if you like. MG: You see I got all kind of trouble I had a stroke last year and I ain't never got over it, s ee and you know somethin' when I start to readin' my eyes sta rt to doin' this. I'm gonna see ( inaudibl e ) here. December 7, 1903, Waynesboro, Georgia, Burke C ounty. FB: If you would like I could take that to the office and Xerox and bring it back. Okay Pertaining to politics, Mr. Gregory, what is the biggest problem, you think, facing a black candidate being elected in Tampa? (phone rings) MG: The basic problem is the negroes can't get elected in Tampa (phone rings) Oh, boy! Pause in recording [ The tape appears to have missed some of Mr. Gregory's comments and a previously recorded voice speaks fo r a few moments. Mr. Gregory begins speaking again mid sentence. ] MG: with n egroes in Hillsborough C ounty. And white people ain't gonna vote for

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2 negroes. We 'd just as well as to forget that. Some people think they will, but they ain't gonna vote for you. One or two, that's all. This one vote county wide would keep the i f that's is out the way then negroes could get elected. FB: So, are you saying that if we go back to the ward system of politics that we'll get more blacks elected? MG: That's right. Now they use the ward system to bring these other system in effect. But negroes was not playin' a part in politics at that time because they wasn't allowed to vote. And so how could you be accused of being a part of a thing when you wasn't in politics? FB: When did blacks get a chance to vote in Hillsborough C ounty that you know of? MG: Well, I can't It really didn't happen until the civil right s era for ty in the fortie s [1940s] I would say in the fortie s [1940s] But that's really the hold up. Because if you have to run city wide, you know as well as I [that] white people will not support you. It's a few but not enough to count. And so the ward system is t he best thing for Hillsborough C ounty. FB: Well some polit well, not politicians, but political scientists say that if we implement the ward system that it will bring about corruption. Do you agree with that? MG: No. If men who put men in there who believe in fair dealin' with everybody it won't bring about corruption. But now the reason that cor ruption was brought about, people was in there stealin' votes and doin' everything. FB: When you was at the Urban League can you remember any particular, say, fights or battles that you had dealin' with voting in Hillsborough C ounty? MG: Well, you know, I haven't ever had too m uch local problem. I was one of the men that filed suit against the Democratic Party. You don't find that in your record nowhere do you? (laughs) Eno Molasie and Dan Millard and myself filed the first suit against the Democratic P arty because we w ere denied the right to register and vote. See? And the old Tampa Bulletin [was] the only paper I know that had that record. And of course, when he died his records were destroyed. And by m e movin' so much I got rid of I lost the Tampa T imes what wrote the story. Now, wherever records might be now in some archive somewhere the morning Tribune might have it, but this I don't know. But a man by the na m e of Dan Millard, Eno Molasie and Mathew Gregory filed the first suit against the voter re gistration Democr atic Party here because it was lily white up until that point. FB: What was that the outcome of the suit? MG: Hmm ?

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3 FB: What was the outcome of the suit? MG: Oh. W ell the outcome of that suit: we lost the suit in the higher court in T allahassee. Then at that time Thurgood Marshall was our chief counselor in the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] And they had a case comin' out of Texas at the same time. H e wrote us and advised us to send our funds we rai sed for the suit to New York. And this case when it's wo n, would be decided by the United States Supreme [Court] (inaudible). And that's what happened. FB: Historically, lookin g at the black candidates that have run for office in Hillsborough C ounty can you name the reasons why they didn't receive as much of the black vote they probably would have had they run ( inaudible ) ? MG: Well, I'm afraid to answer that, seeing I know why. Because, knowing the conditions, people wasn't so concerned because so many of us thought he wasn't gonna win anyway. I voted for everyone what run as far as that's concerned. But I did it with reservations. Said, I'm gonna vote because he's a black man. But I didn't have much faith that he was gonna win because the odds was a gainst him. And the odds are still against him. FB: Well, do you think that the black community as a whole has come of age, voting? Have they reached voter maturity or do you think that there's time yet for the majority of the blacks in Tampa to really b e concerned about the voting procedure? MG: They should be really concerned. But here's w hat some of the things You s ee people All right, we was denied the right for many years, to register and vote. Back in the year when Senator [Claude] Pepper was r unning I went all over this town talking about gettin g people to register and vote. And I would talk with people and they would tell me that there's no need, the white man gonna do what he want to do anyhow. This was the thinkin g of a lot of us It wasn't all right. There wasn't no need to register. But I have always believed that registration and voting is an important issue for the negroes because in order to be recognized as a first class citizen you must go down, register, and vote. You m ust go y ou should go to the city hall when issues come u p and have your own say. But if you don't do those things the other man ain't gonna do it for you. And can't nobody recommend you, or represent you but you. FB: That's right. Okay. Through talkin g with severa l of the social scientists and even political scientists they have come up with the assumption that if we have a blac k candidate that can appeal to the Latin sect and has a pretty good program that there's a possibility of a chance that he will be elected MG: You mean as it is now? FB: As it is now.

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4 MG: No way. FB: Can you elaborate o n that? MG: I just don't believe it'll happen Because the white ain't no white gonna vote for him. The only negro the white man gonna vote for, he got to be a man well known and a man they got a lot of confidence in. Take up me, I've been in this town fifty years and never been arrested, ne ver been in jail. Only time I ever had a conversation with a police he stopped me for speedin g But you think I could get elected s ome way? I joined (inaudible) in 1925 y ou think I could get elected somewhere? M m mm [no]. I have worked for candidates t hey wouldn't think a bout electin g me because I'm a n eigh th grade scholar. FB: Well, what are your opinions on what do you think the c oming electi on will bring, say, if we have two or three candidates runnin g particularly in the mayor's race? MG: If we a nd then when you say "we you mean blacks? FB: Blacks, r ight. MG: Runnin g for mayor of the city? FB: Well, yes. MG: Two or thre e? We don't need that many ; only need one. FB: Right. But I mean, what wou l d you think a black's chance of runnin g for mayor in the coming election? MG: He' d have a chance. But if he don't get elected in the first what do you call it? i n the primary he 's lost. FB: So MG: If negro es gonna get a black man elected in Tampa in the present condition he got to win in the primary and get all these votes because when man to man, no way. FB: So it is your opinion that Tampa has not yet reached poli tical m aturity for black people. MG: It will not as long as it's set up like it is. FB: Okay. MG: See there's nothin g there to make the average guy really want to vote register to vote. You've got to beg 'em to do that because there's nothin g to make him d o it because

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5 he know he ain't gonna get elected for nothin g I think I'm not sure now, but I'm gonna say it. I think it was 1940 when this thing was fixed. And I predicted in the presence of the late Perry Harvey [Senior] in his office, that it would be f ifty years before we get a negro elected to anything in Tampa and it's been twenty five since then. (laughs) FB: As we look at the politics of the political arena in Tampa we see many things in the polit ical arena. For instance, w e see blacks that have run for o ffice and haven't gotten elected and through conversation with many of them they say that the reason why they wasn't elected they say, one, it was apathy o n the part of blacks. They didn't feel that a black cou ld be elected. Number two they h ad to sponsor their own elections throu gh their own funds. And number three they stated that if they would run again that it would only be if they have, say, the support of the La tin community. So, historically in Tampa have blacks gotten along with the Latin community as a whole when it comes to voting? MG: Well, how long you live in Tampa? FB: I' ve been livin' in Tampa about twenty three years. MG: Twenty three years. You see when you start to thinkin g like that I think the as far as race relations it would be for me, I would I haven't had any trouble with anybody, as far as that's concerned. And I believe that as long as this thing stand s as is it's no need of makin' too much fuss G ot to live with it until we get it stopped. You see, I have raise helped raised money to carry this thing to court and get rid of it. Because once you go to it costs a lot of money, but you can knock it out. But negroes don't want to p ay the price. NAACP spent, two or three years ago, a lot of money o n it I won't quote how much I've forgot to get it. FB: And what did they incur problems in trying to get it changed? MG: They couldn't get it changed ; they didn't have enough money to carry i t to courts and do all the footwork that needed to be did. T hat's what the attorne y told us. FB: Okay, in order to get the system changed we have to get consent from the legislature in Tallahassee, right? MG: It's two things. I mean one of two things Y ou can carry it to court n ow I don't know of a single case went to court and wen t o n up to the highest court and lost It could have happened, but I don't know of a case. But I do know some cases [have] been won. FB: Gettin' into business, Mr. Gregory, since you've been here a long time can you name some of the distinguished busines smen or businessmen that was p revalent during the, say, the twentie s [1920s] the thirtie s [1930s] that had some impact o n Tampa business? MG: Like the late Cole business ? H e had a good business.

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6 FB: Right. MG: He did have a good business, Cole did a g ood business to have. The ( inaudible ) b usiness had; y ou've got a record o n that. Tampa ( inaudible ) you've got that record somewhere I know. That went through the wall because negroes failed to support the business. FB: Failed to support the business? Th at was the market over the re in (inaudible) ? MG: Yeah. Sellin g p rices was right and everything. I don't know why. FB: So your opinion is that blacks as a whole don't support black businesses? MG: That's right. FB: Did businessmen of this area have t hey ever gotten together to make a stand or like create a chamber of commerce or anything like this? MG: This I don't know. T hey got together to open up that store I was just tellin g you about. I used to know 'em all by name, but I can't think of 'em now And it was a nice store. Was you here then? FB: Oh, yeah. I was here at the store. MG: You saw it, huh? FB: Right. MG: I used to travel from here over there to buy my groceries. FB: Can you name some of the business that was prevalent that fl ouris hed durin g say, the twenties [1920s] the thirties [1930s] the fortie s [1940s] in Tampa? And where was most of the business confined at? MG: Well, now Cole's business was o n Thirty Fourth [Street] and Bu ffalo [Street] It wasn't there in the thirtie s [ 1930s] It was later this way. Of course, you know Lee Davis o n Central Avenue. ( inaudible ) barrooms down there Johnny Gray had a nice cafÂŽ down there, e ven had a bar in there. That was in the fortie s [1940s] Do you want that? FB: Right. As far back as you can think. MG: That was in the fortie s [1940s] Johnny Gray. What's the other guy's nam e? Watts Sanders on In the fortie s [1940s] Charlie Moon, t he Silver Moon. H e started out sellin g boli ta way back in the thirtie s [1930s] And he had business in t his town, Charlie Moon did. But you see, that was racketeer business. You know?

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7 FB: I see. MG: But of cour se, when they come up with the t avern supposed to be open in the day. Gamblin' houses and all that stuff. But of course, I happened to not be a fel low concerned about racketeer s I never wanted racketeering b ecause I want to live peaceable. And you knock o n that door I can say to you, "Come in." So I never was involved in any racketeer business because I want to when I go to bed at night I want t o go to bed to rest in peace. So i n order to do this I kn e w I had to stay out of any kind of unfair doin gs And that's all boli ta and that kind of stuff is. FB: So the majority of the black businesses were located in a particular region? MG: Yeah, o n Ce ntral Avenue. Yeah, we were. The majo rity of black business in the thirties [1930s] and the twentie s [1920s] was o n Central Avenue. So now they wiped it out all together. Negroes had more business scattered around like grocery stores the Larkin Grocery S tore ; I can't tell exactly where it was now. Negroes had more groceries scattered around than they do now. Negroes had more business. FB: What do you attribute this to ? I t's more expensive now to own? MG: S ome of what it is, the negro is less trained how to operate business. And the more these big chain stores appear o n the scene the less chance a small business ha ve to run. FB: Mr. Gregory could you describe, briefly, your career and some of the issues you had [that] you were involved in? S ome import ant issues you're involved i n the high points, or some of you r low points? MG: Well, see I was a Pullman porter all my forty two years. P lus the NAACP subjects FB: Yeah, that's what it was. Because we have heard so much information o n this. MG: Well, I guess the reason you hear about it is because of the fact that I was the president of the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters from 1930 until they fold up April the first of thi s year. And of course, I had fifty men here in Tampa. Today there's not a Pullman p orter s are non existent today. April the first the organization merged with another organization. And out of eighteen thousand Pullman porters in 1940, when they merged April the fir st it was one thousand See that's how j obs in one time that was a n all black job, but today the y're workin g white and black men and women. And so if you don't have much higher education than I had when I come along you will not be able to get any of those jobs because of the fact that I worked in Pullman's storeroom for two, three years storin g stock in the storeroom, with a n eigh th grade educatio n. But in order to get that job before the storerooms closed up, you had to have a high school education. So it's definite that you must have an

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8 education to go f orward. Now, I traveled extensively all over this country. Pullman porters served some of the best people in the country because that's who ride Pu l lman cars, d ining cars. And I got along well with all of these people. But when you get ready to raise sa nd with 'em you must know what you're doing. If you think the company's treatin g you wrong, you got a legitimate complaint, make it. Because the average person when you're right, just keep o n doin g t he thing that you know is right; you' ll win your case. B ut you must be sure they're right. And you can get support when you're right. FB: That's true. Well, can you tell us something about your career in the NAACP? MG: Well, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is an organization I t hink that negroes should support. Negroes have attempted to destroy that organization many, many times and they failed. And they failed because of the fact some of the reason they failed because they were wrong. And of course, when you're wrong and you ju st keep going, you just fade out. And this is what happened. H ere in Tampa a group of men attempt ed to start a new organization one time. FB: Can you tell me what year this was, if you can think of it? MG: No, I can't think of it. FB: What, they wanted to break away from the NAACP? MG: No, they wanted to start another chapter. FB: Oh, another chapter. MG: But you see when you start another chapter you're gonna weaken the one you already got. FB: Right. MG: The way the bylaws and things read i n order for you to sta rt a chapter you have to have twenty five members. Okay, the chapter that's already in the c ity have to report once every month whe n they report remember, now, this report to t he national office every month. A s long as they're doin g that they're not gonna give 'em a permit to set up a new chapter here. So this is the reason they I never was worried about settin g up a new chapter because I know what the organization was doing. But they wanted to set up a new chapter because they did n't like some of the local things that was goin g on. And yet they wouldn't come in and work with the chapter we already had. FB: What w ere some of the important issues that you all worked on? MG: Okay, we went to ( inaudible ) the police headquarte rs once or twice or three time s,

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9 o n brutality of the police. Now, what year? The chief of police there now, in my book, he is a more reasonable man to talk to. The police before that I can't even think of his name he was the head of that. He was plus prejudiciall y ; he just didn't want to talk to y ou because you're black. I had two or three ( inaudible ) with him. I guess it was in the thirtie s [1930s]. T he police got involved with the in the project shot after a man and the bullet what you call it? R icocheted ? FB: Ricocheted yeah. MG: Yeah. And went in the door by another man's head or something I've forgotten now Anyway, we got involved in that. And you see it's pretty hard now for me to go back and tell you these things because I just can't think well. FB: Okay. Well, just tell us as much as you can. We understand. Were there any other cases that brought tension to the organization? MG: Oh, yeah. This case n ot this case. The case out here at the tomato farm. We had s ee I can't call that man's name now. We looked into that. But we thought it wasn't a good case to handle because he's married to a white girl and that's against you twice. So we couldn't do much with that case. FB: What was this case about? MG: The case was about they accused this man of be ing rude to his workers out there. FB: Oh. MG: That's right, that's what it was about. FB: Can you tell us what were you concerned with this some of the things that the NAACP had to go through and what part did you play in it? See we need a part that you played. And we have a whole lot of information o n you, but we would like to know how you feel about it, personal ly. MG: Well, you see, I was pre sident of the organization for seven years. I played b ack being the president When you're president you'v e got other people working and all you do is say, "W hy we'll When it comes to the branch and the branch discuss it and decide this is the case and decide they want to we're gonna look into it. A nd lots of times as far at the president is concerned he never go o n the ground where the case is handled at because the committees are doing it. Most of the NAACP work is done by committees. You know that don't you? FB: Right. Okay, can you name some of the important people that helped you or that were infl uential when you was president in the organization on particular cases? MG: Well, in the early days you see there, there you go again Eno Molasie was a good

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10 worker and he was well read. Perry Harvey Mr. Broaden, who has passed away. Ann Milloy, who pa ssed away in New York City t his was before [Robert W.] Saunders appeared o n the scene, these people that I'm talking about. In later years, I 'll put it that way. FB: This group you mentioned, was this in what MG: About thirty [1930] to thirty five [1935 ] FB: Thirties [1930s] ? MG: Yeah. Tillis, in the fortie s [1940s] Miss Tillis. I g uess Bob Gild er worked in the fortie s [1940s] But you see it's hard for m e to call all these people. Fellow by the name of Big William he worked in the fortie s [1940s] Common name common called "Big William." We was in the c i ty h all one night, four of us I can't think of the other two people T hat's when they had th e police department the guy o n the stand in the c ity h all A nd a guy had been released out of the c ity h all stockade is what we call ed it at that time. A nyway he come up stairs and drunk water out of the water fountain which was marked for white s, a nd the police saw him and slapped him. Fortunat ely we didn't have no riot, but Big William told 'em, "We want a fountain in here tomorrow for negroes or either take that one out." So this t he things happened sometimes just like that, see. Now we was up there for a meeting. But this is what happened because this negro come in there and drunk water out of that foun tain that was marked for white s The police hit him. Now see these kind of things, I don't know whether they've got any record of it or not, but I was there and it happened. FB: See, this is what we need. See, a whole lot of situations that happened we don't have no records of. MG: Mm m m. No. No. No. No. FB: How did the Jim Crow affect blacks in Tampa? MG: (laughs) Just as y ou know, I have heard a lot of people not a lot say Jim Crow ain't so bad but Jim Crow was just as bad in Tampa as it was any p lace else. The only difference I find is some other places just like when Tampa had a little small sign and the motorman would control that sign. In Alabama, he had something like a headboard you couldn't hardly see around it to ride the buses and the str eetcars. Alabama buses they had a big sign like a headboard between you and the white passengers. But discrimination otherwise was just as rigid in Tampa unless you get out in the Latin quarters somewhere, it wasn't so bad. But they too had discrimin ation becaus e they didn't want to be called negro lovers and so they had their rule too. You see, now, I was involved in I was deadheading south Charleston, South Carolina I

PAGE 12

11 wal ked out a gate that was marked for white s only a railroad gate. The man c ussed me out and called me a nigger and told me get back in there. He said, "Where you come from? You must be one of them New York negroes." And I said, "No. I'm trying to get back to Tampa, Florida. I'm sorry I walked out that gate." "You don't need t o apologize to me. Get o n back in there." See? So I went o n back in the gate. He had a big 45 stuck o n his side. When I was tellin g it one day a man said to me, "You took that?" I said, "You see me here?" I was tellin g him that if I hadn't have taken i t I might have not been here. FB: That's true. MG: See? But you ha d to learn how to live with the system at that time. And all these places had different rules of discrimination. Yet, it ended up the same thing, d iscrimination. FB: Was Tampa y ou say it was the same in Tampa, right? MG: Yeah. FB: Can you think of any majo r problems, like any race riots or anything, t hat broke out in the thirties [1930s] forties [1940s] fiftie s [1950s] somethin' pertaining to this? MG: No. N ot the thirtie s [1930s] I saw a man got b eat up because he went out the wrong ga te one time, years ago in the thirtie s [1930s] at the railroad station down there. That's right. He went out the wrong gate. I don't know what happened H e say som ething to one of the white men o n th e gate and the man say something back at him and the next thing I know he was knocked down. So I don't know what could be any more racist than that. That just happened to be a case where the man got beat up. FB: Were blacks constantly harassed in Tampa d uring this time? MG: A certai n period of time I think. Now, I couldn't tell too much about harassment because I don't know what happened, but I guess I learned how to live with it. Because I wasn't out in the stree t. I didn't go around to these what you call 'em, ( inaudible ) ? at night. But I never was both ered. But I just know it was I'd get o n a streetcar and go o n to the back like everybody else. Oh, did you want to see this? FB: Yes, sir. I want to see that too. Mr. Gregory, can you think of W e ha ve heard that there were several lynchings in Tampa. Can you think of any that you might have heard of any black or anybody being lynched in Tampa?

PAGE 13

12 MG: Yeah. Yeah. But there wasn't no lynchings in my knowing since I've lived in Tampa. I come to Tampa in 1925. FB: So as far as you know there wasn't a lynching MG: Since that time n o lynchings. Several beat ups, negroes. Several negroes got beat up because of messing wit h white women. But whether it was true I don't know. FB: How did the Depression a ffect you? MG: I had a job during the Depression. The Depression was hard, but I had a job, a family. You never knew whether you were going to be working the next day or not. Duri ng the Depression I was makin' sixty eight dollars a month, I believe it wa s. I was workin' o n the train from Tampa, the Southland they called it the Southland from Tampa to Chicago or either to Detroit. So many trips I'd go to Chicago s o many trips I'd go to Detroit. FB: Are you familiar with the soup lines during the Depress ion period? MG: I saw the soup line. Never did get in a soup line. FB: Can you tell m e somethin' briefly about them, what they were? MG: Well, p eople would go there and get somethin g to eat. I know t hey had a soup line o n the corner of Central Avenue an d Scott [Street] And I bel ieve I'm not sure that Greek S tand or somebody was feedin' the people. A lot of people were standing up there in line. They had a so up line there I know. I had a fifteen cent job so I never inquired about it I just saw 'em. F B: We have covered the Depression a lot and we couldn't find too m uch information o n the e ffect of the Depression in Hillsborough C ounty and Tampa in particular. MG: No? Well I guess one reason Tampa had a certain amount of people working at that time and the guy who was working worked for something like the soup line and most of 'em a re already gone. That's right. So you all haven't found much about the soup lines? FB: We haven't fou nd too much about it. Not enough to really give a big picture of. How about the ships o r shipyards? MG: Well, the w hat you mean? When the shipyard was open? FB: When the shipyard was open. MG: It was discriminat ing See d uring the time of the war, the last what in the fortie s

PAGE 14

13 [1940s] ? Discrimination in Hillsborough C ounty was bad. They had in the morning paper, W e need carpenters." They sent twenty five or thirty carpenters down to Tampa from Charleston, South Carolina to work as carpenters. The white u nion in this town wouldn't let them work. Paid 'em a week's sala ry and sent 'em back to Charleston, South Carolina. Now I know that happened. Now if that ain't bad discrimination One morning they had a recruiter ; y ou know what a recruiter is? R ecruitin g men to work overtime when t hey get off the train, to work thr ee or four hours a day overtime. Now, I'm not a mechanic and never was but this recruiter said to me he told me who he was, I told him what my name was H e said "W e would like to get you to go out to the shipyard and work give us a f ew hour s work. And I said, "Y eah. I'm a mechanic by trade. I can't work as a mechanic out there have to do common labor. I f I can't do my trade I'm not going. He said, "W ell, I can't use you. You're not patriotic enough." And I said to h im, "W hat you mean I'm not patriotic enough? I'm here and ready to go to work but I'm not goin g to work as a common laborer. I bluffed the guy b ecause I never was a mechanic by trade. He told me he couldn't use me and walked o n off. Now, if that ain't t he height of pushin' the rules and regulations I don't know what is. Now that happened at the Tampa Union S tation. See? But you wouldn't never se e that no where because that man didn't tell it unless I tell it. FB: That's right. MG: See? FB: So this was the common element goin g along with blacks doin g the shipyards? MG: That's right. That's right. FB: No matter what kind of skill that a black had he was MG: Discriminated against [at] the shipyard That's right. FB: Was there a difference in pay for doin g the s ame jobs also? MG: Now, let me get you straight. See, they have a u nion out there. FB: Okay. MG: And the union at that time was doin g certain things out there. See? But, when this the time I'm talkin g about I don't know where the union what was the u nion doing Side 1 ends; side 2 begins

PAGE 15

14 FB: They've been goin g over the shipyard and everything and we have had several interviews W e were told that there was discrimination, was told that some of the men would hire you out for one day o n the assumption that he had to hire somebody the next day and you couldn't come to work. Was that prevalent during that time? MG: See, I never did go to the shipyards. FB: Okay. M r. Gregory, how about education? Did you ever have any problem when you w as president of the NAACP involving education? MG: We had an educati ng committee set up. FB: And were they that instrumental in, say, eradicating some of the problems of the school system? MG: They looked into it and they didn't clear up that much of i t. Nothing much. FB: Well, what is your opinion o n the school system during the period of the fortie s [1940s] ? Was the school meetin g the need of the black students during that time? MG: Why, they discriminated and we were gettin g you know, anything sep arate because separate but equal you can forget it. So there wasn't no t here's no such thing as separate but equal. That was what you call it? I t was just somethin g to get by. And Tampa been gettin g by for many many years, and still getting by today. Bu t w e had a school. We had schools. Our school system was very very bad. FB: Can you think of some of the schools that were here when you came in 1925? MG: Whe n I came to Tampa in twenty five [19 25 ] ? Yeah. Me a cham [Elementary School] Lomax [Elementary S chool] And what's the other school's name out there in the middle of the projects? FB: (inaudible) MG: No. Me a cham was here. Lomax was here. And I can't think of that other school because I went there one night to make application to be a tailor but they wasn't teachin' that at night in that school. And I never did go to another school because I you know, I didn't have but such money, no transportation. Streetcars was a problem to get around on. Of course, public transportation was much better than i t is now, at that time. FB: So o n the whole, education was just they were barely meetin g the needs of the black students. MG: That's right. FB: The teachers were discriminated against and everything?

PAGE 16

15 MG: Oh, yeah. Oh, they were discrim inated; bl ack an d white schools strictly at that time. FB: During the latter years, what do you think about this new literacy test that we have now for students? MG: Well I don't know. I don't know enough about the school system to say whether it's good or bad. But the re's some passin g it. So I won't go into that at all. FB: C an you give us anything else about your career? Some important point that you wou l d like brought out? MG: Well I would say this : if a man in the low income bracket can go out and find him a job he should try to find a job that he like. And if he likes the job he shou ld do what he's supposed to do o n that job. If the job is payin g a s mall wage scale and he accepts the job he should do it or quit and get him another job. Because I strongly thin k if you like what you're doing you're gonna do a better job as long as you got to work for a livin g. See? And I always had to work for a livin g ; for all of my days I had to work for a livin g Ain't never been a time in my life I didn't need to work. Bu t I liked my job. I stayed in it forty two years. I liked it. When it was time to go to work, I like d to go. Ready to go all the time. I never was put o n the carpet for something I did wrong. Now, I'm not gonna say I didn't do something wrong (laughs) But I didn't get caught. Such a thing as goin g to sleep o n the job. S ometime you 've got a str etch, the train don't stop for two hours, regular going. Now, any man'l l set up and go to sleep sometimes. (laughs) FB: S o a s a whole, you say during the twenties [1 920s] the thirties [1930s] the fortie s [1940s], blacks were discriminated against. MG: Yeah. FB: The problem t he little o ur freedom that we did have were somehow curtailed by certain laws. We had to do certain things a certain way. MG: That's right. FB: Is there anything else you would like to say? MG: No. You gonna get me those books back? FB: Yes, I'll get your books back, both of them. MG: Okay. Because I don't have another one of those End of interview


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