UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Frederica Jones
Professor A. Quinn Jones
Interviewer: Joel Buchanan
July 30, 1985
A. QUINN JONES
FIFTH AVENUE BLACKS, ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWER: JOEL BUCHANAN
PLACE OF INTERVIEW: GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA
DATE OF INTERVIEW: JULY 30, 1985
This interview is mostly with Frederica Jones, with only a few pages with
Professor Jones. Mrs. Jones was born in Fernandina, Florida on December 7,
1903. Her parents were Annbel Cooper and Melvin Cooper. Her schooling was
obtained mostly at private schools, except for one year in a public school in
New York City. She attended the old Cookman Institute in Jacksonville, where
she finished high school in 1923. Upon completing Cookman Institute, Mrs.
Jones was certified by examination to teach school, but she later her graduate
courses through correspondence and extension courses at Florida A & M in the
summer. She was a teacher for her entire life until she retired from the
profession in 1966.
This interview discusses Mrs. Jones' experiences in the rural schools and
her experiences in the North. It also relates experiences in Lincoln Hign
School before the days of integration. Professor Jones also explains his
educational experiences during his days at Lincoln, and the efforts he made to
encourage the finest black students to go on to college and then return to
serve their community. He also relates his experiences when he was one of the
first students at Florida A & M, where he graduated in 1915.
B: Mrs. Jones is a retired classroom teacher of forty years. This interview
is for the University of Florida Oral History Project. Good morning, Mrs.
J: Good morning, Mr. Buchanan.
B: How are you this morning?
J: I am fine, thank you.
B: Mrs. Jones, where did you grow up? Where was your family?
J: I was born in Fernandina Beach, Florida, about thirty-seven miles north of
Jacksonville. It was a small town on an island, between the Leary River
and the Atlantic Ocean. My mother, my father, my grandfather, and my
grandmother lived there, and I stayed there with my mother and grandmother
until I was about twelve years old, when we moved to Jacksonville,
B: Will you give me your mother's name, please?
J: My mother's name is Annabel Cooper and my father was Melvin Cooper. My
mother was born in Fernandina, Florida, and my father came from a small
town in South Carolina. I do not know the town's name, because my father
was accidentally killed when I was about eleven years old, and I did not
get to know very much about him. I know he came from South Carolina, but
that is about all I know about him. I did not know any of his people. My
mother was left a widow with four children. I am the eldest, and I have
two sisters and a brother who recently passed. So, there are three of us
B: What are their names?
J: My sisters' names are Margarite and Bernice, and my brother was Melvin.
My sister once taught with me in Gainesville. She taught at Lincoln, but
she later taught in Lake Wales until she retired. Now she lives in
Fernandina Beach with our other sister.
B: You say you moved from Fernandina at the age of twelve to Jacksonville?
B: What school did you attend while you were in Fernandina?
J: I attended private schools most of my life. I think I have had about two
years in public school, but I attended a school that was taught by a lady
who was a missionary to Africa. She was a wonderful person, and she
inspired us because she had gone to teach those boys and girls over there.
I was in that school until the fifth grade. In the sixth grade I went one
year to public school in Fernandina, but that was the only time that I had
to go to public school. I also went to the Catholic convent to study
music, from the time I was about ten years old. I had to go to music at
five o'clock in the morning, believe it or not.
B: Five o'clock in the morning!
J: Five o'clock in the morning. We went to a convent where the sisters
taught both white and black. We all had to go to school, so in order to
get in all the students, some had to go very early and some went late. My
hour was five o'clock every morning, except Saturday and Sunday. My
father took me to the convent. I had a bicycle, and we would go to the
B: Why were you in private schools?
J: Well, I do not know. My parents always wanted us to go there, and they
paid ten or fifteen cents a week for our schooling. I am sure it was not
more than that, because we could not afford any more. But, I do remember
ever having to go to public school except one year.
B: Now, what was the name of the first school you attended, the one where you
had the African teacher? And, what was her name?
J: Her name was Miss Ana Deline. I think they have named a fellowship hall
at one of the churches in Fernandina for her because she was a Baptist.
B: Was this school a very large school?
J: No, I think there were about twenty-five students, but we had grades. It
was a one-teacher school, grades one to six, but she was a very good
teacher. She was a compassionate person like her mother and quite a large
B: After you left Miss Deline's school, you went to the convent. What was
the name of that?
J: St. Joseph's Academy was the name of the convent. Of course the nuns
there taught school too, but I was a Baptist. My mother preferred that I
not attend the Catholic school, but she let me attend the convent for
music instruction. Of course the sisters really wanted us to join the
church but she said, "No, you are going to remain a Baptist." So I had to
stay with the Baptist Church, but I went to the convent for music, and we
attended Catholic Church sometimes.
B: Was your mother a teacher?
J: No, my mother was not a teacher, she was just a housewife until my father
passed. Then she had to work. She did practical nursing.
B: How long were you at the convent in Jacksonville?
J: Oh, the convent was in Fernandina Beach.
B: Oh, it was in Fernandina Beach, excuse me.
J: That was in Fernandina Beach. That was before I got to Jacksonville.
After my father passed I went to live with my mother's sister, but the
other children stayed with my mother. I went to Cookman Institute.
Cookman Institute at that time was a boarding school. Later it merged
into Bethune-Cookman, but at that particular time it was a boarding school
in Jacksonville on Davis Street. I was a day student.
B: What does that mean?
J: That meant that I did not stay in. The boarding students came from
everywhere and had to stay. They even had children there from Gainesville
and Ocala. They were boarding, so they had to stay over night and over
the week. But I was just a day student, so I would just go in the day and
got back home at night.
B: Now you said Cookman Institute? Was that a high school and college?
J: That was just a high school. It went from first grade to twelfth grade.
I started there in the seventh grade, but it went all the way to the
B: Was it a very large facility?
J: You might have seen the building on Baker Street in Jacksonville. Now it
is a public school, known as Don L. Cookman.
B: Oh, that is it.
J: That was a long time ago. Of course, then they had wooden buildings. I
finished high school there in 1923. That was the last year that the
school was located in Jacksonville. It merged with Bethune-Cookman in
Daytona Beach. Mrs. Bethune gave our graduation address. That was the
last year that Cookman existed in Jacksonville. From then on it became
B: Do you recall Mrs. Bethune's address?
J: Oh, it was dynamic. We had heard so much about Mrs. Bethune. Everybody
was so excited since that was the last year that the school would be
there, and all the students would be going down the Daytona. She gave
such a wonderful address. Our commencement exercises were held at a
theatre, because the school's auditorium was small.
B: Did Cookman have black and white students or just black students?
J: It was just black students. We had a few white teachers, and the
president was white because the school was under the auspices of the
Methodist Church. Like Bethune, it was a church school.
B: Did you have to wear uniforms?
J: Yes, the boarding students wore the uniforms, but the day students did
not. The boarding students wore blue skirts with white blouses and black
B: And the day students did not have to wear anything special?
J: They did not have to wear uniforms. We had to pay tuition to go to
school. I worked in a grocery store all during those years on Saturday to
pay my tuition. I do not remember what it was, but it was not very much,
I am sure. I would work every Saturday, and that was how I would pay my
B: You were at Cookman Institute from seventh grade until twelfth grade and
you were also working at a store on Saturdays?
J: That is right. Then, I was also on accompanist for the music teacher at
the school. Of course, I did not get paid, but then noboby had any money.
I have always done that. I guess, I have played for people all my life
B: For free? So you were playing for your teacher when you were in junior
J: I have been playing just like that. Every time they needed somebody to
play, I wanted to play, because I could get out of class. Of course, I
was glad to get out of class sometimes.
B: What was your means of transportation? Did you do a lot of walking?
J: When I first started at Cookman, we were living on Twenty-fourth Street
and Main. Many times I did not have the five cents to ride the trolly,
so we did walk. We had to leave home fairly early because school was
about sixteen blocks away. We had to get to the railroad before the train
got there or else we were held up with all the trains and freight cars
that would make us late for school. So we would leave quite early. Many
times we did have a nickel to ride, but in those times we were poor,
everybody was poor.
B: Was your day a long day?
J: It was because we had to get up so early. School started around eight
thirty, so that meant I had to get up real early, and walk to get to
school, and then go back home. After two or three years we moved, and we
were nearer to school then. I think we only had to walk three or four
blocks, and the store where I worked was just on the corner of Eighth and
Davis, so I did not have to go very far.
B: Why were you so dedicated to attending school at this point?
J: I do not know. There was not anything else for us to do but go to school.
We had no entertainment, we had no places to go except to church, its
social activities. Once in a while we could go to a dance. But my father
and my grandfather were very strict. Grandfather was a deacon of the
church, and if we went to a dance, he would see that we got turned out of
B: So you did not go?
J: Unless you wanted to get put out of the church. Then you had to get back
in. There was not much else for us to do besides church. I was about
eleven or twelve years old when a new minister came to my church. My
church was a huge building even then. It was one of the largest black
churches there. We always had very intelligent ministers, who usually
came from other places. This particular minister I involved the young
people in church and different activities. He inspired us. He even had a
doctor's degree, but it did not mean anything to me. I did not know what
a doctor's degree meant, but I knew that he was different from many people
that I had known. He was an inspiration to me, and I said I would like to
be like him some day. But my main interest was music. I was more
interested in music than anything else, so I studied and studied music.
My husband always said I should have gotten my degree in music.
B: Why didn't you get your degree in music?
J: I do not know. I did not think that I would be able to get a job. I said
if I were a teacher, I would get a job quicker with a combination, of
music and elementary education or secondary education. I was fortunate.
I never was without a job, because I could play, but every time I got a
chance to study music, I did that. Everywhere I went, I found a teacher,
even in Jacksonville. The money that I did not pay to Cookman, I would
spend for music lessons.
B: Were your music lessons always on the piano?
J: Yes, they were always on the piano. When I studied at the convent the
lessons were on the piano. They did not have an organ, but they taught
other instruments. My sister studied violin, and I studied the piano.
B: When did you play your first piece?
J: It seems like I have always been playing, but I must have been around ten
years old. I remember the first song I learned, the Flower Song. I think
I can see every note in my head right now, because the nuns made you play,
play, practice, practice. At five in the morning you got whisked if you
missed a note. They carried little batons, sticks that hit...
B: Right across the knuckles?
J: Right across the knuckles. My home was on the Georgia line where it was
very cold in the wintertime. My hands would be stiff anyway and trying to
limber them up and play those pieces was difficult.
B: Well, five o'clock was kind of early for a young girl to be up. You had
to be there at five?
J: Five-thirty I had to be there, but I had to leave at five.
B: Every day except Saturday and Sunday.
J: The days that I did not take my regular lessons, I had to practice. I did
not have a piano. My grandmother had an organ, one with the pedals. That
was the only thing that I could practice on at home, but I could go to
the convent and use the practice rooms there. I was not actually taking a
lesson. I was practicing.
B: Have you ever given a recital?
J: That is something I have never done.
B: You have not?
J: I have never given a recital even though I have studied music from here to
New York. When I came down here to Gainesville, Dr. Claude Murphy of the
University of Florida came to my house down on the next block to give me
piano lessons. I was living at Mrs. Rosetta Smith's mother's home. I
could not go to the University, so he came to me. I was making forty
dollars a month teaching school, and I was paying him around two or three
dollars a lesson. That was a lot of money for a lesson. Then, I would
go around after school and teach the people the lesson for twenty-five
cents. That is what I did. I walked up and down the streets of
Gainesville, giving lessons for twenty-five cents.
B: Twenty-five cents? And you were paying Dr. Murphy two dollars?
J: Two dollars. Then I think it went up to three dollars. I was using all
my music books that contained sonatas and sonatinas and Bach's
compositions. Tommie Lee, I think her name was Waldo at that time, became
the organist in one of the churches here. I used all of her second-hand
B: Do you think that you deserve to have a recital?
J: I could not have one right now. My hands are going. I have arthritis in
my spine and my fingers are numb. I have not played in about a year. The
piano strings are bad now because I have not played in so long.
B: Well, why did you not have one? Were you ever asked, or did you never
think about it?
J: I never thought about it. I was just studying. I went to Philadelphia,
where I met a young man who was a violinist. I went with him as an
accompanist. He was a wonderful violinist and I played with him, but I
also have played with other people. I have accompanied people who have
sung in recitals but I have never given a recital. I went to New York,
where I studied with Joe Lew Johnson. He was the man who wrote the words
and James Johnson wrote the music. I studied with him in New York. I
have many credits in music, but I just never have given a recital.
B: In the forty years that you were a teacher, did you ever teach music?
J: Oh, I taught music around here a lot here in my home but not...
B: I mean was that ever your job in the school system?
J: No, because I was teaching the elementary grades. They had not music
teachers. What year did we get music teachers?
Q: I do not remember, before we moved over here to the school. It must have
been about 1950. I do not know, maybe 1954 or 1955.
J: That is right. There were not music teachers in the school. The
classroom teachers had to do the playing. Have you heard of Mrs. Bessie
Brown and Mrs. Green. Those ladies were teachers, but they did all the
music work before I came here. There was a Mrs. Thelma Gaines, who was
doing all the playing for the choral classes. Mrs. Gaston Cook and Mrs.
Williams, who was Mrs. Duval then, and I, all came to Gainesville the same
time. All three of us could play so among the three of us we took the
choral class. One would direct and one would play. We did that for
years. All the musical activities that were going on over there, we did
for no extra pay at all.
B: You referred to over there, you were talking about where?
J: The first Lincoln High School.
B: What was that street named when Lincoln High School was built? Twelfth
Street was called what?
J: I do not know. This was Columbia Street, but I do not recall what that
B: Excuse me, what year did you come to Gainesville?
J: I came to Gainesville in 1928.
B: Let us go back one moment. After you finished at Cookman Institute, did
you begin teaching then?
J: I did. During that time we had to take an examination if we did not go to
college. I was not able to go to college. My sister went to college but
I said, "I will work and help her." There is a group of people that comes
and gives examinations in all the subjects, and awards first, second, or
third class certificates. The first time I went to take the test I was
scared to death. I imagine that I could have done better, but I was so
afraid. There I was, just out of high school trying to pass a test, so I
made a third-class certificate. That meant I could teach for one year. I
got a school in Greenland, Florida. It is about fifteen miles from
Jacksonville, going down the East coast towards St. Augustine. There were
no white people down there, just black people known as the Cains in this
little settlement. It was only a one-teacher school, but these people
were very nice. I had to walk out in the woods to the school; it was out
in the pines. Here I was with about fifteen or eighteen children, and the
boys were much taller than I. I had to look up to them. I was about this
big, and I did not weigh 100 pounds at that time. Those people were all
black and were close-knit, and they saw that the children behaved.
Although we were out in the woods, those children were well behaved, and I
did not have any trouble with them.
B: Did you teach all subjects?
J: I had to teach all subjects from first to eighth grade. There was not any
transportation, so we had to walk back and forth. I remember, I had to go
across a trestle to get to the place where I was living. I was frightened
to death, crossing the trestle because I would look down and see the water
under the rails. I did not go back to Jacksonville except every two or
three weeks. The trains would fly past going down the East coast, but
they would never stop unless somebody would wave them down. When I would
get ready to go back to Jacksonville, the ticket agent would get out the
flag and wave the train down. Then I would get on the train.
B: What was your pay?
J: Forty dollars a month. For six months. Two hundred and forty dollars a
B: The school was only for six months. Why?
J: Well, we did not have a longer term. During that time they did not give
black schools any money. It was a long time before we got eight-month
school terms. We taught six months because the black children had to go
and work the rest of the time. White children got longer school terms,
but not the black children. That was for six months, and after I taught
there I decided I would do something else. My godmother lived in
Philadelphia, and I had saved a little money, so I decided to go there.
It was all right with my mother, so I got on a ship to go to Philadelphia.
B: Where did you get on the ship?
J: Jacksonville. The large ships would go from Jacksonville to New York.
Blacks could not ride first class and I did not have the money anyway, so
everybody rode steerage. That was way down there in the bottom of the
ship. It was pretty nasty because we were not used to sea travel. It
took us about four or five days out in the Atlantic to get to
Philadelphia. That is how I got there. Of course I had been to New York
before, because I had gone to public school in New York in the eighth
grade. I told you there were two years that I had attended public school.
Well, one year I attended in Fernandina Beach and the other year in New
York City in the eighth grade.
B: Was there very much difference between the schools in New York and the
schools in Florida?
J: Yes, because they were integrated there. All the girls went to one school
and they boys went to another. I think it was P.S. 119, for the girls,
and the boys went about two blocks away to P.S. 89. I remember they told
me that I could not enter the eighth grade because I did not know how to
diagram a sentence. They had not taught me diagramming so- I had to attend
an opportunity class until I learned how to diagram. I stayed about two
or three weeks until I learned how to diagram a sentence.
B: You were learning to diagram a sentence in the eighth grade?
B: And they put you in an opportunity class. What did they mean by that?
J: Well, I guess that was a class for you to discover how to diagram. You
see it was between the two grades, seventh and eighth. Rather than go
back to seventh grade I took this class. After I learned how to diagram I
went on to my regular grade.
B: Can you still diagram a sentence today?
J: Well as much as diagramming is needed, I do not think they do very much of
it anymore. The new books do not contain much of it. But they did put a
lot of stress on grammar at that particular time. But you were asking
about the differences. I was not used to the integration, and I was not
used to the snow. That is another thing. I would leave school in the
afternoon trying to get home, and other children would be throwing
snowballs. It was not funny. They would hit you with snowballs, and the
boys would put little rocks and things in them. If they hit you they
B: Of course it would.
J: So I was not used to that. And it was very, very cold.
B: Why did you go up there that year?
J: I do not know. I remember my uncle, my mother's brother, lived there, and
he asked if I wanted to stay in New York all winter. I guess everybody
wanted to help my mother look after the children, the four of us. So
somebody would take one of us to help. I stayed that year but I was not
satisfied. I wanted to come back home.
B: The year that you went to New York, how did you travel?
J: I went on the train from Fernandina back home.
B: Oh, on the train. By yourself?
J: No, I went with a teacher, a teacher who would go to New York for the
summer for a vacation. She took me along and brought me to my uncle.
B: Mrs. Jones, may I ask when you were born? I would like a year and date if
J: I do not mind it. My birthday is December 7, 1903.
B: Just for information purpose, the information we just shared, the male
voice you heard was Mrs. Jones' husband, Professor A. Quinn Jones. The A
stands for what please?
J: It stands for Allen.
B: And the Q is for Quinn Jones?
J: That is right.
B: I just wanted to share that information that he shared with us. Now Mrs.
Jones, your first year of teaching was 1928?
J: No, it was 1923 as soon as I finished Bethune-Cookman. Then I went to
Philadelphia and New York. I got married in New York and stayed there
until 1926. I was married to Mr. Simeon Williams. He was my first
B: Did you have a large wedding in New York?
J: No, I was married in the Baptist Church, in the pastor's study. Rev. Dr.
A. Cleveland Powell Sr.--not the son, but senior--married me. We stayed
in New York until 1925, but in 1926 we came back to Jacksonville. I had
to go back for the examination again because I did not have a certificate.
B: You were mentioning about retaking the teacher's examination.
J: By this time, in order to get a second-class certificate, you had to add
algebra to the other exams you were taking. Before I did not take algebra
exam. I took math in high school but it was just plain mathematics. I
had not had algebra, so I thought I would have to brush up on that, and I
did. When I went back, I made a second-grade certificate that time, which
was good for two years. I did not have to go back and take the
examination again, because from then on I went to summer school every
summer. I took correspondence work from the University of Florida and
extension classes from Florida A&M. I went to summer school religiously
until I had gotten my first professional certificate. From then I got the
post-gradute certificate, and then I went to summer school and wrote a
thesis and got my master's degree.
B: Really, now where did you write your thesis?
J: I went back to Florida A&M.
B: So all your graduate work was done through correspondence and extension
J: That is true. Every bit of it. I have never gone to college in my life.
B: Were you working at that time?
J: I worked all the time. I was teaching music and teaching school. Our
salaries were very poor at that time. We did not have very much, and we
could not go to the universities, so we had to go to Florida A&M or
Bethune or Florida Normal.
B: How did you know that you could not go there? Did they tell you that or
was it just understood?
J: It was understood. See, with segregation black people did not go to any
white schools, I mean, not in the South. Black students just did not go
to white schools. Over at Lincoln High School we never had a new desk or
new books. Until we got to the new Lincoln, we used everything that had
first been used by white people. That was segregation.
B: Did that worry you, or did you just accept it because that was the way
J: We knew no other way in the South. The black schools were here, and the
teachers taught the best they could with what they could. They gave us a
few books, so that mean we had to get out and get magazines. We took the
little money that we had to buy crayons, construction paper, any kind of
decorations to make the classroom attractive. Anything you wanted, you
had to get yourself. You had to be resourceful. We were not given
B: What made you do that?
J: Because we wanted to help boys and girls. That was our life. We wanted
to see boys and girls become something so we worked with them. We
followed the children from school to home at PTA's. We were trying to
make something out of them.
B: I see. You started at Lincoln. What year did you begin teaching here in
J: I started teaching here in 1927.
B: Where was that please?
J: I started right over here at Lincoln High School, old Lincoln High School.
B: In 1927. What did you start teaching?
J: I taught second grade. Mr. Jones hired me to be a second grade teacher.
I taught second grade and played for assembly and for all the little
activities that were held in the elementary school. I think I must have
worked at the high school too, I am sure.
B: Now were the schools separate? Did the elementary come at certain times
and the high school at a different time?
J: We were all in the building at the same time. School took place at the
same time for everybody, but the high school people stayed longer.
B: Was there a desire to learn then? More so than there has been in the
later years of teaching?
J: I think so.
B: Why was that?
J: I do not know. People seem to have taken a greater interest in their
children. You see, we had children that came to Lincoln who walked all
the way from over in Pinewood. Some of them walked from Arredondo. The
white children rode in buses, but the black children had to walk. We had
no buses to ride, so they had to walk. Some children would come from
Springhill, from everywhere, and they got to school on time.
B: You were saying that the white children were being bused?
J: Of course, the buses would pass right by us, by the children. We had no
B: Did you ever think then that you would see the day that things would
J: No, we just prayed for a change, but that was all. I guess it took Martin
Luther King to come and help the change to come. All we could do was to
pray for a change. People said that the white people were very nice to us
in Gainesville, but the white people in Gainesville always treated us
nicely because we stayed in our place. We black people stayed in your
place. We attended the black schools, they attended theirs, we had our
black churches, and they had white churches, and that was the way it was.
B: Can you recall what your salary was when you were hired in 1927?
J: I believe it was $240. $495.
B: For the year?
J: For the year, $495. The first year it was for six months and the second
year it was $495. I am sorry, the first year it was $495, and the second
year it was $440. It went down.
B: And was that for six months or for eight months?
J: That was for eight months. We had gotten the eight-month term in the
larger schools. They had an eight-month term; the smaller schools had a
B: Were there any other schools for blacks in Gainesville besides Lincoln?
J: Yes, there, I think.
B: Professor Jones, were there any other schools in Gainesville for black
students in the early 1920s?
Q: I do not know. There were business schools. There was Williams school.
J: Williams Elementary School.
Q: Yes, Williams. I forget the year now.
J: Williams Elementary and Duval Elementary?
Q: Yes, Williams was first and it was followed by Duval.
J: Those were elementary schools.
B: I see. What year did you become the principal of Lincoln, Professor
Q: When I came to Gainesville in 1921, I was principal of the Union Academy.
I was there two years, from 1921-1923, while this building was being
constructed. In August of 1923, we occupied the new Lincoln High School
B: How many faculty members did you have then?
Q: I do not recall, I think it must have been about ten or eleven all
B: Was that a very big day for Gainesville to move into the new brick
Q: Yes, it was. It was really a joyful time. Everybody appreciated the fact
that they were moving into a new school.
B: Who was the superintendent then, Professor Jones?
Q: The superintendent at that time was E. R. Simmons.
B: Was he the one that hired you?
Q: He was superintendent when I became principal, but the Alachua County
School Board hired me at that time. I was recommended by a board of
school trustees, Union Academy's Trustees. It must have been about five
people. I was teaching in Pensacola at that time. I had been over there
for about three or four years. I was contacted by the trustees board
because they were looking for a principal to head up the new high school
which was being built then. I was contacted, and I refused to even
respond. I refused to even come down here at that time. But I was
contacted again in two years, and I decided that I would accept, and come
to Gainesville to become principal of Union Academy and eventually the new
Lincoln High School. They said they were looking for a man who was well
prepared to take the job. So in 1921, I came to Gainesville.
B: How many years were you the principal at Lincoln?
Q: I was principal of Lincoln High School thirty-seven years. No, thirty-
three there, and two at the Union Academy, and one when we moved over to
the new Lincoln.
B: Oh, were you the principal at the new Lincoln?
Q: I was the first principal of the new Lincoln. We all helped. Our faculty
and everybody helped to plan that school. A workshop was developed,
teachers, principals, and the architect of the school, to design the
school that they would like to have. We took about two years to do that,
before we built the school. We helped with the planning.
B: Do you recall the day that you hired Mrs. Cooper as a teacher?
Q: That was in 1928. We were looking for teachers, probably about August, in
fact a little before August, because the school term began in August and
we had to have our faculty ready. So it was back in July of 1928 when I
B: You hired her. How did you get the recommendation for your teachers or
persons that you wanted to hire?
Q: That is a long story. Lincoln High School was one of the leading high
schools in the state. This school here, Lincoln High School, was one of
the first brick high schools for blacks that was built in the state of
Florida, believe it or not. Black high school buildings were not made of
brick at that time. Following Lincoln High School, Duval High School was
probably second, and Booker T. Washington High School, that fine high
school down in Miami, was probably third. School boards did not build
fine brick buildings for blacks during the time that I became principal of
this school. No, they did not do that. We are indebted, it is a long
story, but we had a very liberal, outstanding school board here. Major
W. R. Thomas was chairman of the Alachua County Trustee Board. W. R.
Thomas was chairman, Mr. McKinsey was cashier of the First National Bank
at that time, and they had Mr. Tupper who is the head of the Gainesville
Sun but was in printing back at that time. Those three men were trustees,
and their responsibility was supervising the buildings, namely this high
school, for the county board. We are indebted to Major Thomas, who is
responsible for giving us a building of this type. The Florida -------
authorized the construction of two new schools in the city for blacks, one
was Lincoln High School and the other was Gainesville High School. Both
of those schools were constructed at the same time. The construction
worked on both schools for example, the brick mason over there, the
caretakers, the workers went from Lincoln to Gainesville High School down
the avenue. They built them at the very same time. It was due to Major
Thomas, who was very liberal when it comes to education and especially
liberal toward blacks, not biased at all. Oh, I could go on and tell you
a story about...
B: I need to talk with Mrs. Jones, and Professor we will talk in a minute
B: Thank you. Did you keep a record of your teaching salaries for the years?
J: All the years.
B: When did it jump? When did your salary make a major change?
J: Let me see what you call a major change, because I have one year that I
made three hundred dollars for seven and a half months. And then the year
in 1947 we made $2,300, I thought that was something.
B: That was something. Now was that $2,300 for twelve months, or how many
J: No, that was for ten months. That was the beginning of the ten-month
B: What grade were you teaching then?
J: I was teaching English then, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. I
started with second grade and I taught second grade for about two years.
I taught sixth grade for about twelve years. From sixth grade I went to
junior high, seventh, eighth, and ninth grades teaching English. In 1943,
I went from that to tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades and I stayed with
those grades until 1966, when I retired.
B: It is said that the school, the church, and the family were foundations of
black life. Is that a true statement?
J: That is true, that is really true. We always had a crowd for whatever
activities were held at the school. People came to commencements and to
the baccalaureate sermons. We had what you would call, class night where
the seniors gave a play. The elementary children would also have their
plays and their programs. We also had what they called the PTA, the
Parent-Teachers Association, where the parents would come and talk with
the teachers and find out about their children. So you see, we had a
chance to keep up with the children and the parents kept up with them too.
They knew what was going on. Only in one or two cases did we not have
B: Now you mentioned that there was very little money or supplies for black
schools. How did you do all these activities, baccalaureate,
commencement, and plays for the students? How did you get these things
J: How did we get that ground over there beautified, all those beautiful
shrubs and those things you saw on Lincoln High's campus? The teachers
planted them out there and in put the sidewalk. The county did not give
them to us. They did not give us anything.
B: They just gave you a building.
J: That is all we had. It was a building with some second-hand seats and
some second-hand books.
B: Now did you have less support from your churches?
J: We had support from the parents. We sold things. People would sell pies
and ice cream and cakes and whatever else they could do to raise a little
money. Different classes would have projects, Mr. Jones would assign a
project to this person and a plot to that, and we would get all those
B: That is how you got things done?
J: That is how we got things done.
B: That is interesting to know.
J: And Mr. Jones can tell you how he got a library over there.
B: There was no library when the school first opened?
J: No library, no librarian, and no books.
B: How did you get the library over there, Mr. Jones?
Q: When the building was put there, there was not any provision made for a
library. It was just a large room upstairs, which was really designed for
homemaking. We did not have anything in the way of a library. We had to
buy tables, long tables, and some shelves, every shelf. By the way, when
we moved over here, they did not have any sewer connected. It took about
two weeks or more to run the sewer down Tenth Street from the University
Avenue to connect with the school. We had outdoor privies when we first
moved here and we had to use those outdoor privies for about a month while
we waited for the connection to be made. Those outdoor privies were made
of nice lumber. After the sewer was connected we did not have any use for
the privies. We did not have a library, but we had all that nice lumber
out there. So Issac and I and some of the boys took that lumber from
those privies and made some shelves for that room, to hold the books.
Somehow we collected money to buy a dictionary. A stand there with a
dictionary was the beginning of our library. From that time we collected
enough money to get a set of library books. Gradually, from then on,
donations were made to the library. We did not have a lot of room, so we
used the room for teaching English. We had a lady who was the English
teacher and the librarian also. That was the beginning.
B: It took your initiative to build a library? Who was the librarian? Who
was that teacher?
Q: Miss Lillian Tarper. She was kin to many people. The English teachers
also looked out for the library. But Miss Lillian Tarper was the first
teacher, not a librarian. She and I set up files for the library books
that were numbered on the shelves.
B: I see, the beginning of it. What did the students do for lunch?
J: They sold sandwiches for a long time and children also brought their
B: There was no cafeteria?
J: Not then, the cafeteria was built later. Then we just had one room where
you could get sandwiches. That was it.
B: When did you start teaching music at the school? Did you play for the
J: Oh, yes, I was playing for something from the time I started over there.
After Miss Rainey and Mrs. Brown retired, that left us there. So we had
to do all the playing. We had assemblies then, I do not think children
have that in school now, but we would go to the auditorium where we would
have songs and a prayer, and a program of some sort. Sometimes a speaker
would come in, or certain classes would present a program. It was very
B: Now did you have an assembly on a weekly basis?
J: Yes, we had a regular day for assembly. Every week.
B: Did all the students have to go?
J: Yes, all the students had to go. That is why we had the large auditorium.
They would meet their teachers and the teachers would march them in and
out of assembly. We also used it as a study hall.
B: Were there many behavior problems in the beginning years of your teaching
career? But let me ask you this question before we go on to the behavior.
Were the children grouped in classes according to age or abilities?
J: They were grouped according to age and ability. We had some classes there
that were slow learned. We tried to put them together so we could give
them a little more, much more, consideration. But, on the whole, the
classes were about the same as they are now.
B: So the child that did not come to school very regularly and missed several
year, was he put with his grade or held back?
J: Well, he was put with the grade according to his ability. But we did not
have any children like that. We had some grown people who went to war and
came back, and we had one or two people who were married and came back.
These people were able to get with their classes and graduate.
B: You had graduation and other activities at Lincoln?
J: All the activities were held at Lincoln, because our auditorium was large
enough to take care of many people. We had the balcony and all of that,
and children especially enjoyed the graduation. It was the last week of
school and the seniors had to practice their marching you know those long
marches to "Pomp and Circumstance." I guess that we were more formal than
you are now.
B: You were very formal, weren't you?
J: Yes, because the boys all wore blue suits under those robes with black
shoes, white shirts, and ties. The girls all wore white dresses on under
their gowns, so when they took off their robes they were actually formally
B: Do you happen to have in your collection any programs or things that date
back to the beginning of Lincoln?
J: We have the programs of quite a number of the graduation classes, most of
the graduation classes.
B: Do you? I would like to look at them some time if I may.
J: O.K. I think the first graduating class was in 1923, I do not know if he
has that particular program but he has most of the programs from the time
that he became principal. Except the last one.
B: Do you have other material from school, records or anything of that
J: What do you mean, school records of any kind?
B: No, personal records like anything from your teaching years. I mean
certificates from you extension studies, or any awards that you got during
that early time.
J: I have my certificates left, that is about all. I thought maybe you might
want to see how they looked. I have some of those. I received some of
these before you were born. This one is from 1942, and then I have one,
you say you are thirty-three years old, this is my thirty-two year
certificate. That was in 1935.
B: This was sent to you in the mail?
J: No, I was there. I was in school. I was in school when I received all of
B: I am looking at a Florida A&M program from July 24, 1931. Commencement
session of the Normal Department. What does that mean?
J: That means the people who finished two years of college. That is what
they called it then, a Normal Department, but now they call it an
associate of arts degree.
B: Were you able to teach with a normal degree?
J: Yes. After we completed two years then we received a certified
B: Mrs. Jones, I am reading a program from 1931 and it has your name on here
as presenting an address or how the elementary teacher may help a child
use his leisure time. Did you address the commencement exercise?
J: Yes, I did. I addressed the commencement exercise. Each person with a
high scholastic average represented their department. If you will notice
on the program, you will see one from the normal, one from the college
department, and I think one from the investor of -----
B: Now you made a statement, high scholastic average. Were you a high-
J: Well, I have always treid to maintain a respectable average in all of my
B: Was that a very large exercise?
J: Well, now do you mean attendance?
J: At school? Well, during that time most of the summer school was made up
of teachers who were already in service. There were quite a number of us
who would leave to go to Tallahassee. We would ride up there by train and
stay eight weeks. The train would leave from Jacksonville with twelve,
fifteen, as many as twenty coaches of nothing but negro teachers going to
Tallahassee to summer school. They would come all the way from down the
East coast from as far away as Miami. All along the way the train would
stop and pick up teachers. It was a regular train of teachers going to
B: Was it understood that you had to do this, or did you all make that
J: What did you mean, to go to school?
J: Well, those who had not finished college had to go to school in order to
prepare themselves. Many people had not finished college at that time but
there was not anything else for you to do but teach. Now you have so many
choices, you do not have to depend on teaching. But if you were in
education then, there was not anything else left for you to do but teach.
B: Were you able to get any assistance from the county?
J: For a long time we were not, but finally we were able to get a little help
with our summer school, just enough to help pay our tuition. I think all
of us received a little more because the state said we could not go to any
of the schools here, so they helped send us to the schools up north.
B: Can you recall how much that assistance was?
J: I do not remember whether it was $100 or $200, something like that.
B: So that money was for you to go North to go to school?
J: Yes, we were not allowed to go to the university, so we had to go
somewhere. The people here that lived in Gainesville could go right there
to the university summer school, but we were not allowed to go.
B: Did you ever have a desire to go there?
J: I do not think many of us thought much about it, because we never had
gone. You know at first the university was a men's school. It only
became coed in recent years, but at that time there was not anything but
men there. Nobody ever thought anything about it. We just knew there
were a lot of young men out there attending school but we did not think
anything about it.
B: When you went to Florida A&M in the summer as a teacher, where did you
J: They had dormitories on the campus, and we lived in the dormitories. They
had men's dormitories and women's dormitories. Of course, they were not
anything like they are now. They were wooden buildings, very
uncomfortable; some of them did not even have any indoor bathrooms and the
chinches would eat you up. We had to stay up half the night fighting bed
B: You were able to complete your program within that summer time?
J: No, we could take about six or nine hours during the summer. We were
there for eight weeks. Sometimes they had two terms, and sometimes they
had just one term. We walked from one end of the campus to the other
going from one building to the other attending classes, and even though we
were grown people we had to attend assembly every day.
B: Every day?
J: Every day. In order for them to know that we were there, we were assigned
a number in the auditorium. If a seat was vacant then they would mark
that student absent. The checkers would go up and down the aisles and
look at the seats and see whether that seat was empty. That is what we
had to go through, and we were grown people.
B: What was your number?
J: I do not know. I had so many numbers.
B: Well, what did you do in assembly every day?
J: Well, we would go there and sing, pray or have announcements and talk.
Sometimes we had an organ recital. They always would have something for
us, but we were not very interested after having to walk so far from one
building to another trying to get there. After lunch, then we had to go
back to class again if we had a class on that particular day.
B: When you went to these sessions and came back after the summer, did that
cause your salary to be increased?
J: No, not necessarily, not unless the salaries went up in the county, or
unless you had gotten into a different category. For instance, when I
finished the two-year course or the four-year course, then I would get a
B: Did Professor Jones encourage the teachers to go?
J: Yes, he did. I think that is one thing that made the teachers go. Many
teachers were working, but they were only high school graduates and they
had not gotten very much college education. We were encouraged by
Professor Jones. He was talking about the library in order to have a full
fledged library and a trained librarian. I think you know Miss Camelia
J: She was one that was encouraged to go. She was teaching English, and she
went back and finished her library course. Miss Carrie Lovette also
finished hers, and they became trained librarians and were able to meet
the state's standards.
B: From the incentive from Professor Jones?
J: That is right.
B: Let me ask Professor Jones a question, may I?
B: Did you find it difficult to ask people to go away in the summer to study
when there was very little money for them.
Q: No, that was not difficult. When I was principal we had teachers'
meetings at least once a month. The teachers and I would meet and discuss
problems relating to the class. It was called the Teacher Improvement
Program and was connected to school. It was encouraged by the county and
by the state. In that way teachers began to realize that there was a need
to improve themselves in every area, in math and science and elementary
school teaching. As a consequence, it was not any problem to get them off
to study. That is what it was all about. The school needed a librarian.
When Miss Camelia Smith finished her last year in high school, I
encouraged her to go take special courses in library science, because
there was a need for librarians. There were not that plentiful, not even
in the state. Even if I wanted to get a librarian, I would not know where
to get one. We would have to send our own person to Florida A&M. Out-of-
state, the only library training that was provided at that time was at
Hampton Institute. So there were no librarians available, whether I
wanted one or not. What I had to do was to try to encourage a teacher to
go and study. I encouraged several teachers, Miss Camelia Jones, Miss
Carrie Lovetter. Dr. Parker and I encouraged her to go and several
others. Miss Lovette went to Syracuse University in New York. Even in
other areas I encouraged the teachers to go to school.
B: Because you were the principal, you were able to see the student's
potential. Is this one of the reasons you were able to encourage certain
people to go into certain areas?
Q: Yes, that is right. By the way, when I came to Lincoln High School, I did
not have a teacher prepared to teach science. I did not know where to get
one from, or one to teach history or anything else. After the first
graduating class, there were eight children that graduated in 1925. Now,
one living person I know real well, Mrs. Claronelle Griffin, was a member
of that class. There were two girls and six boys in that class. Miss
Claronelle Griffin was one and Miss Emmett Lundy was another. She was our
neighbor. Miss Griffin went to Clarke College in Atlanta and go a
bachelor's degree. Miss Lundy went to Florida A&M and got a degree in
nursing. Mr. Joe Dennis, Dr. Joe Dennis, went to Clark and got his
bachelor's degree at Clarke and finally went to get his Ph.D in science.
Dr. Daniels, I guess you know Miss Marie Adams, that was her brother, was
in that class. He went to Meharry or Howard and studied medicine and
finished as a doctor of medicine. Mr. Carlos Haile was in that class. By
the way, I think he is the only one living now. He is a teacher down
south in the county, still down there. Another was an accredited
musician. He went to New York. Oh, he was good. And two or three
others. Miss Claronelle Griffin was a faculty member. Dr. Joe Dennis
came back to us after finishing Clarke and coached one year. He was also
the head of the history department.
Q: How is that?
Q: Yes, mathematics.
B: So you had these students in your school and they went away to college and
you gave they jobs when they returned.
Q: Yes, they came back. Teachers, fine teachers, were not that plentiful
then. Whether you wanted them or not, you just could not get them.
B: You could not get them?
Q: No. So, I sent them away to school and asked them to study certain
subjects and they came back to me. I hired them when they came back. As
a consequence, in 1925 Lincoln became a high school, and in 1926, became
the first accredited high school in the state of Florida for blacks.
Lincoln High School and the school in Palatka were the first I cannot
think of the name of the school. Anyway, Lincoln and the black school in
Palatka, those two schools became the first two accredited high schools in
the state of Florida.
B: How did you get that accreditation, Professor Jones?
Q: Well, before a school can be accredited, the state department of education
sends a committee to visit the school. They checked the records, and it
had to meet the specifications and standards that were set up by the state
B: That was also to your credit, to have to be known that you were running a
quality school as early as 1926. Would you say that the boys and girls
that left your school got the basic information that was needed to
Q: They did because the school had to meet certain standards see to become
accredited. The curriculum and everything else had to meet state
standards, and to become accredited the school met those standards. The
state required two years of English, so many years of science, and so many
years of mathematics. We had to meet those special standards.
B: Where were you educated, Professor Jones? Where did you finish college,
Q: I finished Florida A&M college in 1915, under the presidency of Dr. Nathan
B. Young. I have his picture back there now on my desk. Nathan B. Young
B: Were there many persons in your class that year?
Q: Three graduated with a bachelor's degree. Just three, and about twelve or
fifteen finished with what you call the normal degree. That means they
completed two years of college. As time went on, the classes naturally
began to get larger and larger. Dr. Young's son was in class with me. We
were two boys and a young lady from Ocala. We were the three that
received bachelor's degrees.
B: Were you highly in demand?
Q: When I graduated I was the highest ranking student in that class, and the
alumni association awarded the highest-ranking student a ten dollar piece
of gold. I did not have enough money to pay for my diploma. We had to
pay for our diploma, and I did not have enough money. When they gave me
that gold piece, and I had to give that gold piece back to President Young
to sign my diploma. To get my diploma it cost me ten dollars of gold.
B: Do you still have this diploma?
J: He has it, and it is not like the ones that we have now. It was really a
sheepskin. It is so old that it is almost cracking, but it is pure
B: Is it folded or flat?
J: I think he has tried to keep it open.
B: I will have to come back and see that because it is worth having in the
museum. If he finished college in 1915, that means he finished high
school in what year?
J: He went to Florida A&M for high school because Quincy did not have a high
school. He went to Florida A&M High School, and then on into the college.
Q: There were not any high schools back then when I went to Florida A&M.
Quincy did not have one. There were not any high schools here, because
Florida only went as high as the eighth grade. They had a little old wood
building where we went to school. Professor McDaniels from down state was
the principal of the school. He was a graduate of Florida A&M, a two-year
graduate, and he encouraged me to go to Florida A&M after I finished the
eighth grade. There was not any such thing as a high school, so I went to
Florida A&M to get my high school diploma.
B: So you went to Florida A&M in the eighth grade?
Q: Yes, eighth grade. The high schools then were three years. First,
second, and third they called them. So, after I finished the eighth grade
I went the first, second and third year of high school at Florida A&M.
After high school graduation, I just pushed right on through.
B: Oh, there was no graduation?
Q: No, they did not have any graduation exercises. You did not graduate.
There were no graduation exercises. After high school, I went right on
into the college.
B: How could you afford that Professor Jones?
Q: That is
had a bi
I saw th
a long story. My parents did not have any money to send me to
I had to work. I had worked and saved enough money. They said,
if you want to go to school, you save your money. We will not
from you." I worked and saved enough money, sixty-three or sixty-
lars, which was sufficient to pay my way through school for one
ly budget was eight dollars a month. Eight times eight is sixty-
Eight months, sixty-four dollars. So I went up to Tennessee. I
-other that was there the year before that. After I got up there,
ie opportunities for earning money on the job. The second year I
;k, I had a job. I had a job looking out for and cleaning the
:oom. They paid me part of a salary; it was about half of a salary
ek. After that I finally went to the dining service. I became
washing dishes and assisting the girls around the dining room
I held that job until I finished Florida A&M college. I worked in
ing room as a server, cutting the bread and waiting on the tables.
The teachers had a table and I was the head waiter. I waited on the
teachers and for the last two years in college, I got promoted and I did
not have to pay anything.
B: You did not have to pay anything?
Q: All I had to look out for was my books and clothing and things of that
kind for two years.
B: Was that difficult to do? Was it hard working and being in school at the
Q: I did not mind it. And my gratitude goes to my parents first, for
encouragement, and to Dr. Nathan B. Young who gave me that opportunity.
He looked out for me, finding the job and giving me encouragement. I
would never have been able to go to college without their help.
B: I see. Mrs. Jones, how did you know about a job opening here at Lincoln
when you started teaching here?
J: I was married to Mr. Simeon Williams, and he had a job down here with
insurance, Atlanta Life Insurance. He knew Professor Jones who told me to
apply for a job. I did, and I was hired because I put music down on my
application. I told you music was a help to me in many things. That was
the same year I think Mrs. Williams came.
B: You are talking about Mrs. Daphne Duval Williams who came that same year?
B: How interesting. Now were you at Lincoln until you retired?
J: That is right.
B: So you only taught in a negro school. You never were exposed to
J: No, because I retired in 1966, and that was before Lincoln was integrated.
I think the school must have been integrated in the next two or three
B: Did you feel that you were able to give students what was needed to be
J: I tried very hard. I really did. I put forth every effort. Teaching
English gave me a lot of work because I checked children's work, their
writing, their reading. I made them go out and look for things to become
interested in poetry, reading and literature. Everything I could get my
hands on, I would teach them. I would stand up and read poems and teach
them how poetry should be read. I would have children come up to me and
say, "Oh, Mrs. Jones, I remember such and such a thing, and I am so glad
to have learned it when I was in school, because it helped me when I got
to college." It made me feel good to know that we did help them. We were
not working for very much money, but we loved it and we gave our best.
B: So you had to be dedicated, right?
J: We had to be dedicated. I think most of the teachers then were dedicated.
B: Would you be teaching now if you could just turn back the clock?
J: I think I would. Sometimes when I see the way things are, I wonder if I
would want to. But I think I would. It would be challenge, I believe. I
think I would really like to do it again.
B: In negro schools it was known that children were paddled. Did you believe
J: I did not have to do that much, but in some cases it was absolutely
necessary. In order to teach well, you must have discipline. If the
child is not attentive he is not learning anything. When you have all
that disruption going on, you cannot get across what you are trying to
teach. But I did not have to do that very much.
B: You did not.
J: No, even when I was teaching eleventh and twelfth grades, I had some tough
cases, but I just managed to talk to them. We would get together and we
would talk about it. Perhaps we would get angry a little bit, and we had
one or two pretty hard mouths but...
B: But now, was the principal, Professor Jones a paddler? Did he punish?
J: He punished once in awhile. It is very interesting because a lot of
children who are grown come back and laugh about it now. They come by and
tell him about how they had him marching around with his little strap and
how he would clip them with it. It was a strap; it was not a board or
anything, but it was sort of a strap. They tease him very much now about
B: You believed in paddling Professor Jones?
Q: I do.
B: Do you feel that the child benefited by being punished?
Q: Well, you have to think about individuals, differences in individuals. No
two children are alike, no two individuals are alike and that involves
what we call psychology, child psychology. You have to know something
about the differences in children and to chastise them accordingly. Some
you can talk to and get them to recognize their problems. Others you
have to use other methods, like strapping them to get their attention.
That is just the way it is.
B: Did you ever have anyone that rebelled against strapping? Now it is
called child abuse.
Q: Yes, it is called child abuse, you cannot do that now. I had to change my
methods when I first started teaching at my second school in Escambia
County. They did not do that over there, but when I came to this county
it was a little different. When I came down here, you could chastise
them, that is, use a strap with caution they said. And the methods for
punishment changed. Now it is just out of the question. You do not put
your hand on a child.
B: Mrs. Jones, this area that we are in, the Fifth Avenue area, is called the
ghetto of Gainesville, the black ghetto. You said you lived a few houses
down, so you have been in this area for a pretty good while?
B: Has it always been an unpleasant place to live?
J: No, I do not think so. It has not, because most of the people around here
owned their own homes. They were quiet people. Of course, we had Fifth
Avenue, where we had businesses and amusements. But it has not been that
bad, just in later years.
B: What do you think brought about that change?
J: I do not know. I guess the unrest that has developed in most cities,
especially with the civil rights movement. We even had stores in the
neighborhood but they closed the stores, because they threw bricks and did
so many other things, until the people who had stores had to close them
just like they did on Fifth Avenue.
B: Were those stores on Fifth Avenue owned and run by blacks?
J: Yes, there were quite a number of black businesses around there. The
barber shop, every place around there was black except for one or two
places which were white stores. For example, the grocery store. The rest
of them were owned by blacks. It was a thriving section, in fact, most of
our proms were held in what they called Wasbash Hall. That is where we
held all our dances and activities. We would go there and decorate the
upstairs. That place would be beautiful. We would have orchestras come
and the children would have their proms there. We had no trouble. It was
very nice around there.
B: So, it has just been in later years that things have changed?
J: That is true.
B: Do you think it had to do with the people that lived here, or the older
residents moved away and you have more renters coming in.
J: I think so.
B: The area where they built Lincoln, was it very well-developed, or was it
just a woods?
J: This was woods. When I came here all back over there was the woods. The
children went to school over there. Those were pine trees and a stream
called the Branch ran through the back. Do you know in the early years,
boys and girls were not allowed to play together.
B: They were not?
J: No, no. The boys were on this side of the playground and the girls were
on the other side, and the boys could not go over on the other side where
the girls were.
B: So you were segregated within the system?
J: And back over there where Eighth Avenue is, where the doctor's offices
were, there were trees. Pines and the grass ran over there and the
children would always warn each other not to go across the Branch or they
would get in trouble. But that was over on the girls' side anyway. The
boys were supposed to stay around this side.
B: When did you get your first football or basketball team?
J: You will have to ask Mr. Jones about that.
B: When did you get a football team, sir and how did you get it?
Q: We wrote a letter to Mr. Charles Chestnut Sr., who volunteered his
services to coach the basketball team and the football team. He coached
the first football team, when he moved out to Lincoln in 1923. The first
state champions came from Lincoln, and he was the coach of that team. The
team played, what you call it, the Bethune-Cookman, Florida Normal
Industrial School right here in Gainesville at the old Kirby-Smith School
campus there. They played that team out there, and Mr. Chestnut was the
coach. Anyway, they were the first statewide champions.
B: Did you have a hard time convincing the school board of the value of these
ideas or were you allowed to do as you pleased? How did the school
administrators feel about you doing all of this with your school?
Q: Well, believe it or not back then, the school board and the county
superintendent were not concerned with what went on in a school. The
principal was the chief person who saw that certain things were done.
B: So you actually had the freedom to do what you wanted to do.
Q: I had the freedom to do it. I had a free hand when it came to the
selection of teachers. I had a free hand. As a consequence, I tried to
get the best teachers I could find. When the school became accredited, it
was well known through the state, and the president people brought in from
Florida A&M and Florida Normal colleges like that. They knew Lincoln High
School was accredited by the state and those presidents, if they wanted to
recommend teachers, would tell them to write A. Quinn Jones because they
knew about the quality of our school. As a consequence I got the first
chance at the best of fine teachers when they came out of colleges like
Florida A&M. They would write me, and I got first pick at the teachers.
B: Mrs. Jones, what else did you do besides teach? Was church life very
J: Oh, very important. I was a Baptist. I belonged to Friendship, but when
I married Mr. Jones I joined Greater Bethel Church. He was superintendent
of the Sunday School, and I became a Sunday School teacher. I played for
the Sunday School, and when I was not playing for the Sunday School, I
taught music. I had students and I would teach them how to play the
songs, the things that they could, in turn, play for the Sunday school.
Then I started playing for one of the choirs in the church, and I played
for that choir some thirty-odd years. I have my trophy up there now, my
organ that they gave me when my hands got sore and I could not play
anymore. I also had to stay with Mr. Jones.
B: These students taking music from you, did they have pianos in their homes
to practice on?
J: Oh yes, I taught Mr. Rawls and Counselor Blye.
B: Is this Dr. J. C. Rawls?
B: And Counselor Blye?
J: Yes. Let me see who else, I do not know if you know Louise Hills, she was
then. I taught so many people, in fact, a lot of them come to me right
now, and I do not even remember when I taught them.
B: You have taught them.
J: Yes, I taught them music.
B: Was the church very active in the city? In the community?
J: Yes, you know churches have always played a great part in the community.
I know our church has done quite a bit. We have sung and our pastor has
preached. I guess we could do a little more socially for the young
people. I think there is a need now for us to do that. I think we are
striving towards that end.
B: Were you a part of any social clubs?
J: I belonged to the Visionares Club. That is one of the oldest social clubs
in the city. I am a charter member of that club. This is the thirty-
ninth year that the club had been organized. There are only about five
charter members that are still living in that club. We have around
twenty-two people, but there are five of us who were here when we started.
B: Why did you start that club? Where were your first meetings? Tell me
about the first time you all got together.
J: Mrs. Melanie Cook, Mr. Gaston Cook's first wife, came here from Kentucky.
She was one of our teachers at the school and she said it was time for us
to do something besides working all the time. She decided to organize a
club to do some social and civic work. So she got together about five or
six ladies and we started this club. When we first started we would bring
in entertainers, people to give concerts and present them to Gainesville.
We did that for a number of years. Each year we would give a scholarship
to the student in high school who has a good scholastic average we would
go from school to school, encouraging the black students. And we would
contribute to all the civic organizations in the city.
B: Who are those five ladies that are charter members?
J: Miss Florence Lee, Miss Franklin, Miss Cristola Jones, Miss Daphne
Williams and myself. We are the five charter members of the Visionares
B: How did you get the name Visionares?
J: Miss Cook was one of those who said the ladies were going to have a vision
to do something that has not been done. And so we got that name.
B: What year were you organized?
J: Let me see. It must have been around 1938, something like that.
B: Where did you all have your meetings?
J: We hold our meetings in different members' homes. We go alphabetically
from one member to another. Our club has gotten large now, and we have so
many members, a lot of times we have meetings at the Primrose Inn, but
most of the times in members' homes.
B: I guess at that time you had no other place to meet.
J: That is true. There were not so many of us then, and we would go from
house to house where we would have business meetings. Sometimes we would
go to a church for a service, or we always had somebody to give a
B: Have you kept track of the persons that you all have given scholarships
to. Were they always boys and girls or did you just give them to girls or
J: Boys and girls, whoever the county picked to get them. We would send to
the school and get the record of whatever student they would send us. We
had both boys and girls.
B: You organized this. Were all the ladies teachers?
J: No, we were not all teachers. The members we have now are not all
teachers. It is people that we think have done something, and we think
that can be compatible with us and do not mind working. Those are the
B: Who was the first president?
J: Miss Mamie Cook. She was the first president but through the years most
of us have been president.
B: Have you?
J: I have, but I was treasurer much longer. Miss Florence Smith and I, they
gave us each a medal about three years ago for having been the treasurer
and secretary for about twenty-five or thirty years.
B: I am bringing the interview to a close and I want to get into two other
points and we will finish this. In the 1930s and the 1940s, were you able
to freely shop or visit downtown?
J: Yes, we could go down there, we could shop, but we were segregated when it
came to anything else. We could not go to a fountain and drink water.
The fountains were white and colored. They had colored water and white
B: I never heard it put that way before, colored water and white water.
J: Well, that was the way it was. We could not go to the restrooms anywhere,
unless it definitely said colored. I think in the court trials down there
they must have a battle, color or what not. If we went into a store and
wanted to try on a dress or something, there were some stores where we
felt more welcome than others. If we wanted to try on a hat, they would
look at us. They would bring a little net or something to put over our
head so we could try on the hat, so we would not get the grease on the
hat, that would come off our hair. You were treated, you were served all
B: But you knew.
J: That is right.
B: I see. What year did you marry Professor Jones?
J: We were married in 1937.
B: 1937. Do you have any children?
J: No, he has four children, I do not have any.
B: You do not have any children. Have you been here since then?
B: In this area?
J: Right in this area. I was living with Miss Williams in her home on Garden
Street when I married him. I moved from her home at that time.
B: What street?
J: It was Garden Street then, let me see what it is now. It is the street,
what is the street behind Dorsey's?
B: On the other side of Dorsey's?
J: On the other side of Dorsey's next to Main Street.
J: First, well that was Garden Street, and that was where I living.
B: When you moved here this was what?
B: Columbia. And you have been here since then?
B: What statement would you like to share with a young person that you think
will be important to them?
J: I do not know. I think I would say they should do the best they can, and
use whatever ability they have. I used to tell my children sometimes,
that it is strange how much you have to know before you know how little
you know. When you think of that it will keep you going, saying I do not
know anything, because I have a mighty lot to know that I do not know.
B: That is a good statement. Say that again to me now.
J: It is strange how much you have got to know before you know how little you
know. You have got to know a lot to know what you do not know. Most
people do not have anything, they know everything.
B: That is true. If you had to do it all over again, would you do it again?
J: I surely would. Life has been hard, but I would certainly would.
B: What made you successful, Mrs. Jones? Why were you motivated?
J: I told you about that preacher who influenced me when I was a child. When
I looked at other people and read about people who had done things, I said
if there is any possible way for me to do something I will try. That is
what I have been doing.
B: You have been successful. May I come back at some point and look through
some of the items that you have collected over the years?
J: Yes, we would be glad to have you. He has a picture of that football
B: I would love to see it.
J: We kept the picture here for you. Mrs. Griffin or somebody told us you
called. She said that you were coming and wanted to see that picture. I
got that picture down. It was way up on the wall.
B: I sure want to see it. Professor Jones, can I arrange to come back and
talk to you about yourself?
Q: I cannot hear much talking now, and I cannot remember a lot of things.
B: Oh, sir, this morning you have shared a lot with us. It was excellent.
Q: Yes, but I cannot remember a lot of things.
B: Well, I will ask just a few questions. This concludes the interview with
Mrs. Frederica Cooper Jones at her home, 1013 N. W. Seventh Avenue, July
30, 1985. Thank you.