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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
S: I am Judy Sproles. I am interviewing Minerva Franklin in her home at 408 NE 9th
Street in Gainesville, Florida, for the Oral History program, University of Florida.
Minerva has very graciously agreed to do the interview. Minerva, could you tell us
your full name, please?
F: Minerva Connie Franklin.
S: Could you tell us your date of birth and where you were born?
F: My date of birth is September 6, 1927. I was born right here in Gainesville, Florida.
At the time that I was born, the streets were named. The house was on Grove
Street, which is now 4th Street. They rezoned the town.
S: When did that happen? Do you remember?
F: I am not sure of the year. But most of the streets, except University Avenue [and]
Main Street were named, rather than numbered. They changed it to correspond
with the rest of the United States, in other areas that have street numbers rather
S: That is interesting. You learn something new all the time. So you were born here in
Gainesville. What were your parents' names?
F: My father's was Henry Franklin. My mother [was] Nelsie Franklin.
S: What was her maiden name?
S: Did your father have a middle name?
S: So [he was] Henry Robert.
F: Henry Robert [Franklin], and my mother's name was Nelsie Victoria [Collins].
S: I know that your father worked for the University. Could you tell me what he did
there? Was he working for the University when you were born? Did he have that
F: My father was in World War I. [He] came to Gainesville in the latter part of 1919
[and the beginning of] 1920 after World War I. He was working at the crate mill.
The crate mill was a place where they made boxes out of. well, they looked like
crates. He was working there. Later, he started working at the University. He was
working for SAE [Sigma Alpha Epsilon] fraternity house, which was on the corner of
9th Street and University Avenue, where a filling station is at this time. Now the SAE
house has moved to Fraternity Row.
During that time, my father was what they called the house boy. He pressed the
boys' pants for them to go to class. He cooked. He took care of the house. When
parents would come, they would ask him if he would see after their son.
When I was born, the University was not coed. It was all boys. It had moved from
Lake City to Gainesville. They had house mothers at that time. They do not have
them now. I think they are getting back to that. But they had house mothers. When
he told the boys that he was going to be graciously presented with a child, they
asked if it was a girl, would he name her after the house mother? So I was named
for the house mother of the SAE fraternity house.
S: For Minerva? Or Connie?
F: The house mother's name was Minerva, and I was named for her.
F: Two years later, my sister was born. Her middle name is Louise, and that was for
the lion. [The] SAE mascot is a lion. I guess you see that.
S: Well, that is interesting. He worked for them until he retired?
F: Not until he retired. He got sick and had to stop working for them. In the meantime,
my mother was doing laundry for the boys because she felt like mothers should be
at home. He was sick, so she needed to be at home. Even though she had
children, the most important thing was for her to stay at home and to see after him.
[She would] make sure that his meals were ready on time and his medication [was
taken when it should be].
S: You mentioned one sister. How many sisters and brothers [do you have]?
F: I have two sisters and two brothers. Both my brothers were in World War II. One
was in the navy, and the other was in the army--he was killed in the raid on northern
Italy in 1945, 1 believe. My oldest brother lives in New York right now. His name is
Henry William Franklin. He is named for my grandfather.
S: And [what was the name of] the brother that died in World War II?
F: My brother's name was Alphonso Edward [Franklin]. I have one sister who is dead.
She was a nurse at Alachua General Hospital.
S: [She was] an R.N. [registered nurse]?
F: An L.P.N. [licensed practical nurse]. Her name was Gladys. My sister who lives in
New York--I have one sister who lives in New York who is younger than I am--is
named Roberta Louise. Louise is for the lion. If she had been a boy, it would have
been Leo. The lion is Leo.
S: That is interesting. They called him the house boy, your father?
S: That was the term that they used then?
F: They called him the porter because he did the cleaning, made the beds, [and] all
that kind of thing.
S: So you went to grammar school here in Gainesville?
F: I went to school. I graduated from high school right here in Gainesville. What is
now the A. Quinn Jones Center was Lincoln High School. [It went] from first through
S: Was that the original building?
F: That was the original building. They added a wing, maybe back in the 1950s.
Where the wing is, that was our playground with trees. We had a shot like DZT.
S: I am sorry for interrupting, but what age were you in high school? A teenager?
F: I was there for twelve years.
S: Twelve years? So you went through all twelve grades at Lincoln?
F: I went through all twelve grades at Lincoln. It did not move until just before
integration came. They kept that as an elementary school. At one point it was an
elementary school, and it got its name, A. Quinn Jones, from the man who was
principal when I was in high school. Then they built a new high school, which is now
like a middle school. [A separate Lincoln High School was built in 1956. Lincoln
High School became Lincoln Middle School in 1970 when Eastside High School was
opened. Ed.] They carried the name with the school when they rebuilt the school.
And then they named the old Lincoln High School A. Quinn Jones Elementary
S: We have talked a little bit about Lincoln High School. Did they teach you about
when Lincoln School was first opened up after the Civil War? Did they go into that in
F: They had one-room schoolhouses at that time. In fact, my dad, after coming out of
service, went to what they call an academy. It was an academy for those persons
who wanted to go finish. My parents had little education. My dad went through
eighth grade. My mom did not go any higher than sixth grade. They wanted to be
sure that their children got a good, firm background in high school, and if they
wanted to go to college [to make sure they got the opportunity], even though there
were not any grants or anything [at the time]. You had to have your own money or
borrow money to send your children to school.
S: When did you graduate from Lincoln?
F: I graduated in 1946.
S: Did you then go on to college, or did you work, or get married? What happened
F: I went to college. I went to Florida Memorial Industrial School, which was in St.
Augustine. It is a church school. Now it is Florida Memorial [College] in Miami. It
has moved to Miami. But that is where I went. It was our church school. I got a
little stipend from the church.
S: Which church was it?
F: Mount Carmel Baptist. That is a supporter. The Baptist [schools are] supported by
the Baptist [churches], and in this area, that was the school. I went [only] two years
there because my dad was sick and I could not continue. Then I decided to get
S: Was it someone you met there at school?
F: No. It was somebody I was high school sweethearts [with].
S: So your husband was a Gainesville resident too?
F: Yes. He was a Gainesville resident. I do not know much about his parents, where
they were originally [from]. I understand they were from Alachua, but I am not sure
about that. I will not get into that.
S: That is fine.
F: After I decided I was going to get married, I had one child, and my marriage was
going badly, so I left and went to New York and stayed there for nine years.
S: I did not get his name.
F: Ernest Williams.
S: So your first child was Saundra Williams.
S: That is someone we will talk about a bit later when it comes to her going to school.
Before we get on to that, I would like to follow with what you did then, after you left
for New York.
F: After school, I came back to Gainesville. During the years that we came along,
there were teachers. None of us wanted to be a teacher, not because we did not
want to teach anybody, but we just wanted to follow another career. I wanted to be
a court secretary, but that was impossible in the Deep South.
S: So they said that you could not?
F: No. They did not say I could not, but jobs were not open for blacks in those areas.
S: Did people just know which jobs were available [to blacks and which were not]?
Growing up, did they tell you that those jobs were only for white people?
F: No. They did not tell you. You knew that.
S: You just knew.
F: Yes. You just knew that because we had our own insurance companies and those
kinds of things. We did not have that many black people pursuing other areas of
interest. But we wanted to. My parents tried to help us pursue some kind of
incentive for ourselves. In those years, people knew that the Deep South would
provide but so many jobs for [blacks]. So you found more black people migrating
someplace else, where they could feel free, to be in a better job market. Everybody
cannot be a teacher. Everybody is not cut out to be a teacher. The job market for
teachers was being overcrowded and overflowing. That is why my sister went to
nursing school. It was during the time of World War II when she did this. She
wanted to go to Grady's. But instead she went to New York to Bethel Israel
Hospital. [She went] through school that way.
S: I have heard of that hospital. That is very famous.
F: She went to that school and graduated from there.
S: During World War II. But you went to New York before World War II.
F: I went to school after World War II.
S: Oh, after World War II.
F: Well, see, I graduated in 1946 so it was much after World War II [that I went to New
S: From high school.
F: Yes. That was after World War II.
S: So you were here in Gainesville during World War II.
F: Yes. I was here in Gainesville during World War II.
S: You were rationing and that sort of thing?
F: Yes. The rationing and that kind of thing was prevalent then. The war right now [in
the] Persian Gulf sort of reminds me of World War II because during those times
when everything happened and victory was declared, then they sent troops over to
help clean up in those areas. So it sort of reminds me of what happened then, even
though more casualties [occurred] at that time.
S: Speaking of that, I wanted to ask you about your brother who died in World War II.
You were here in high school [when that happened].
F: I was here in high school when he got killed. In fact, he volunteered to go into the]
service in order to help Mother with his sisters [to] go ahead and get the college
education that we needed for our future.
S: That was a good brother.
F: Both my brothers [were in the war]. One was drafted. He decided he wanted to go
in the navy. The navy was not integrated then.
S: I was going to ask you that.
F: The navy was not integrated. But they asked him for a choice, and he chose the
navy. He was helping my oldest sister go to school. My brother who was in the
army was going to help me because he knew that if he helped me, I would help my
younger sister. So it was like a sister-brother kind of thing. They knew that our
parents, with my dad being sick, would not be able to send us to do what we wanted
S: The brother who went in the navy was drafted and he chose navy. Did they go
ahead and allow him to do something in the navy?
F: Yes. He went through cooks and bakers school, which made him a dietitian.
S: Great. And he is still doing [that?]
F: He is retired now, but he is a dietitian.
S: And the brother who was in the army volunteered? Or was he drafted?
F: He volunteered.
S: Was he in an infantry unit?
F: He was in the 92nd Infantry.
S: So he was fighting. That is how it happened.
S: Was that an all black unit?
S: It was almost fully integrated.
F: It was almost fully integrated at that time, yes. The battle on northern Italy--they
called it a raid on northern Italy--he was the first black casualty, or the first casualty,
not only black, but the first casualty from Gainesville. [He was the first from
Gainesville] to be killed in action in World War II.
S: Well, I want to get back to focusing on you. You graduated. You went to college for
a couple of years. You came back, got married, and had Saundra. Then you
decided to migrate north. Was that [how it happened]?
F: No. I came back and I worked for the Afro-American Life Insurance Company,
which was a black company. Then I got married. I worked for about a year and
then I got married.
S: Do you remember how much you were paid in that first job? I realize it was right
after World War II, but things have really changed.
F: It really was not very much. It was a job that I wanted because of the classes in the
subject area that I took. It was a job that was open at that time that I could do,
because I had classes like accounting and bookkeeping and all that kind of thing.
That was a job in my area, which was rewarding because Afro-American Life
Insurance Company is an all-black company. I believe it is disbanded now. The
home office was in Jacksonville. I am not sure whether they have it anymore or not.
S: I think it was mentioned in class that it may still be operating, but I will check on that
F: I think Central Life [Insurance Company] is still in [business]. But I think Atlanta Life
[Insurance Company] closed its doors. Atlanta Life, Afro-American Life Insurance
Company, and Central Life Insurance Company were three black insurance
companies that were here in Gainesville.
S: So then shortly after that job .
F: Shortly after that job, I got married. Then my marriage did not work out. I went to
New York to visit my brother and decided to stay for a while.
S: Did you work in New York?
F: I worked in New York. I worked for the city of New York.
S: As a secretary?
F: As a secretary in the Housing and Building Department.
S: So it was definitely a change from Gainesville.
F: It was definitely a change from Gainesville--the kind of change that made you feel
like you wanted to come back and see if you could make the difference in your own
S: How long did you stay in New York?
F: Nine years.
S: Nine years.
F: So when I came back to Gainesville.
S: It was just you and Saundra?
F: No. I had one more child, Shondra.
F: Then I was helping my sister with my mom. My mom and my dad were not well, so
she needed some assistance. One of the reasons I came back was because
Saundra has asthma, or had upper respiratory problems, and the doctor suggested
a higher altitude would be better for her than New York. It was not good for her. So
because I had a child here, too, that is the other reason why [I came back to
Gainesville]. For her health purposes, it was suggested that she not live in a high
altitude like that. A lower altitude is better for upper respiratory problems. I was not
working at first, but then there was a family who needed a companion for their
mother. So I did that for a while.
S: That was when you came back to Gainesville?
F: That is when I came back to Gainesville.
S: What year was that?
S: Saundra was around ten or eleven by then.
F: About ten.
S: So she was still in grammar school here.
F: She was in grammar school, and she was at the school that had been changed to A.
Quinn Jones. She was there. That is the school she went to. She started here.
S: So you were working here, getting jobs in Gainesville.
F: Yes. Then I decided, because I did not have any recent Florida experience, I could
not get the job that I would like to have had. They had what they called manpower
training classes. These would help you upgrade yourself, or give you some Florida
experience. I did not have Florida experience when I came back here. So I went to
that school. I took advantage of that.
S: That was one of the job qualifications? Was that just for blacks to have Florida
F: No, not just for blacks.
S: Because nine years as a secretary for the city of New York seems like it is a lot of
F: It is. But I did not have a Florida reference, you see. I do not mean you [do not]
have experience. You have experience but you do not have a Florida reference.
Lots of jobs, even now, do not call back to your old job to see what kind of person
you are. So if this will help you get the Florida reference or the reference for this
state [it is worthwhile]. Just like nurses or doctors--when they come to another
state, they have to get that state's qualification. A teacher has to get that state's
qualification, regardless of who you are, or what color you are.
S: OK. I was just wondering.
F: That is why I needed it. I did not need it for reference, but I needed it for Florida job
reference. The schooling was a help because it did give you the kind of reference
that you needed, plus it gave you more Florida experience-- recent Florida
experience. I did not have recent [Florida experience]. There were a lot of people
around that knew me, that could have given me references for jobs as a trustworthy
person. But you need to know what kind of job you can do. When they do not
check out, or do not want to check out, or cannot check out your reference
someplace else, you need to have something on the books so they can say, "This is
a good worker. She can do this work." [This is] not for the experience part because
you already have that. Just like you. If you go someplace else, and you have
teacher certification, they want you to be certified for that state. So you have to take
a test, right?
F: OK. So that is the same thing. You have to take tests regardless of that but
because they offered this on-the-job training, I took advantage of it.
S: Did you get other jobs from that before you first came to UF?
F: Yes. I worked for that on-the-job training. I worked for [the] Social Security
administration, and I worked through Shands in the dietary office.
S: As a secretary?
F: Yes, at first.
S: So things were beginning to change? From just after World War II, changes were
already beginning to happen?
F: You could say yes. Well, after nine years things had begun to change. You could
see the change because if it had not [happened], some of the things that I just
mentioned about the diversified training would not have happened.
F: And then I worked for the Alachua County Health Department. I worked for them for
almost eight years before I came to the University.
S: So you were at Alachua County Health Department when Saundra went to high
F: No, no. Well, part of the time I was and part of the time I was not. She went to A.
Quinn Jones and then when she got out of A. Quinn Jones, she had to go over to
[what is] middle school now, but it was Lincoln High School at that time. Things that
she wanted to do or classes that she needed to take for what she wanted to do were
not given at that school. So that was one of the challenges that was put before the
[school] board and the teachers. They were not willing to say, "We will have this
class." They wanted to do it on a trial basis, and a trial basis was not good enough.
She needed some classes in speech, speech pathology, drama and all those kinds
of things. That is what she wanted because she had gone to private school in New
York. She knew exactly what she wanted to do. She wanted to get a background in
speech and drama, and they did not have that at Lincoln High School. They did not
have classes toward those so that was one of the things that was talked about and
they were not willing to do anything but put it on a trial basis, so if it did not work, it
would be out. So you would not get but perhaps one year. One year would not do
any good. So she took some classes on Saturday. Some students at the University
had some classes that she went to, to help her.
S: That is while she was at Lincoln?
F: While she was at Lincoln. Then came integration, and some of the persons were
saying, "Why can't you go to school where there are already classes set up, not on a
trial basis, but an ongoing basis?" Like at Gainesville High, they already had speech
and drama and all these kinds of things already in their classrooms. They did not
have that at Lincoln. So it was a challenge to see what would happen. It was a
challenge to know that you were part of the happening. It was a challenge to know
that this could happen without any reservation. The other thing is we lived on NW
5th Avenue. To go almost two miles to school, when you have a school less than a
mile [away seems ridiculous].
S: So it was two things that you and Saundra were thinking about: not only did
Gainesville High have the courses she wanted, but it was a whole lot closer. So it
was a double thing. How did you work it out? What did you decide to do? Just
decide to enroll her? It was already opened up?
F: It was not already opened up.
S: It was not.
S: So Saundra was one of the first to [help] open [it] up.
F: To help open it up--open up the way. They had three persons when they talked
about it. The junior NAACP had backing from the senior NAACP and other
interested persons, not only black but white, saying "Yes, we know you need to do
this." It was measured. There was a measurement to see how far the schools were
from where the students lived. Knowing that that [school] was closer, that was one
of the barriers. In fact, during early years, when I was coming along, that was one of
the reasons why we moved to 5th Avenue, because my older sister and brother had
to walk from the southeast side over to the northwest side to go to school and carry
books. Like I said, my parents did not have much education. But the county gave
the school the books, and you could use them while you were in school. But my
parents sacrificed somehow, as poor as we were, and got us spellers and readers
and arithmetic books so we could study at home. [It was] especially [hard] for my
sister, being a girl, to have to lug the books. [This way] she could leave the books at
school and study at home. With Saundra and with the backing of lots of interested
people knowing that this could happen, they talked about it, had meetings about it.
Then [the students] had to take a test to see if they could pass this test. So they did.
It was done without any incident. It was a real good thing.
S: You mentioned the senior and junior NAACP. Was the junior branch a younger
branch? [Did it consist of] younger people?
F: It was of younger people--the teenagers.
S: So was Saundra a member then?
F: She was a member. My nephew .
S: What was his name?
F: Glenn Webster. [He is] my older sister's son. Carl Webster and there were others.
S: Was Charles Chestnut there?
F: Charles Chestnut was the junior president of the junior department of the NAACP.
So they did things without any incident. They did sit-ins at restaurants and that kind
S: Was Saundra involved in some of the sit-ins, too, as well as the desegregation?
F: Yes. If you are going to be involved, you have to be totally involved, not halfway, if
you expect to get anything out of it.
S: Did she go into the Florida Theater?
F: I do not remember whether that was a part of it. Some of them may have, but I do
not remember whether she was old enough to do that. But they did do lunchroom
S: That was when the stores were still downtown.
F: Woolworth's was where Chesnut's is now, on the corner of Main and University.
S: They had a lunch counter?
F: Yes. They had a lunch counter. They had one of the drugstores, Konover Drug
Store, which is not in existence anymore. Konover Drug Store was right beside
Woolworth's. It was like two doors down. They had a fountain. Then there was
McCrory Five & Ten [at] the sight where the courthouse is [now]. Those were stores
along that way. They did sit-ins [at] some of the places. Where McDonald's is now,
there was a restaurant there.
S: On University?
F: On 13th Street.
S: Over on the other [north] side of the Holiday Inn there?
S: There was a restaurant there?
F: Down in that area.
S: I think Joel Buchanan mentioned that about that restaurant.
F: It was like a McDonald's, but a little bit different. It was like a trailer kind of thing.
S: Like a diner?
F: Yes. A diner. That is what it was. So [like] McDonald's, [the customers] came in.
Well, they did not come right in, but they came in to it just like a sandwich shop.
They served hamburgers and stuff like that. In fact, [in the area of] University
Avenue and 13th Street, there has been a big change over the years. So when she
went over to Gainesville High, there was no problem.
S: So she went on through Gainesville High and finished?
F: She finished Gainesville High.
S: By then, were you working at the University?
F: I was working at the University.
S: Did you try to get her to go to the University here?
F: As parents say, like mine said, "If you would like to go further, I would like to help
you. But if you do not want to go any further, I do not want you wasting money--
mine or anybody else's." So she decided that she was going to get married. But, in
the meantime, she is in school now, pursuing her goal.
S: So she has come back to school later.
F: She has come back. She went to Santa Fe [Community College]. She is done with
Santa Fe. Now she is at the University. She is a junior. She is in speech
S: You are a grandmother, right?
F: I am a great-grandmother.
S: Does Saundra have children?
F: She has two children.
S: So she is raising two children and going to school.
F: Well, they are grown now. She has a daughter who goes to Florida A & M
[University]. She was in the Marching 100, but her classes and studies have gotten
so hard [she had to give that up].
S: What was the Marching 100?
F: A band. The Florida A & M band.
S: Oh, OK. You can see that I was not raised here. I should have known that.
F: The Florida A & M band isthe best band in the land, so they say. My granddaughter
was in that, but her studies have gotten so hard now, her mother wanted her to get
out of school. [laughter] So she has a son and a daughter. She has a grandchild.
She is going to school at the University. Also, she works at the University full time
and she has a part time job.
S: So she is busy.
F: Yes. She is busy.
S: When you first came to the University, what was your first job?
F: The one that I have now working at the teaching center.
S: So you started working as [a] secretary, an accountant, and bookkeeper?
F: Right. Whatever I am doing now, I was doing when I first came in. There have
been some changes in the teaching center. When I first went there, it was known as
Personalized Learning Center. But they changed that because there were some
problems. They preferred to have it as a teaching center because it is a tutoring
[service]. There have been some changes there because they used to do testing
more than we do now. It has been a healthy atmosphere for students. It has helped
a lot of students. I have seen them go and they come back to either graduate
school or if they come back they will come back to say hi to me or see if I am still
there. So it has been rewarding.
S: That is good. What year did you first start with UF?
F: 1974, I believe. Between 1974 and 1975.
S: So the teaching center was already [there]
F: The teaching center was already there, yes. But there was a position open.
S: I was wondering because the center started out to be a minority learning center.
F: What happened is, the way that they are doing now, the students that came in
Summer B were special. They had special classes [taught by] professors that are
TAs (graduate students). They tested through the center. What they did was they
had units. They broke their classes down into units. When they would finish the unit
or the chapter, they would test on it. Those students would come and take the test.
They had a grading criteria. They would come and take the test, and if they did not
do very well on the test, then they would have to go to the tutor. The tutor would
tutor them and then they would come back and take the test again. The professor
had a grading criteria which the student must complete. They must make it. Some
of them made it, but they wanted to [get a] higher [grade]. So they had another
chance. They would have three chances taking the test. We would do a report on it
and give it to the professor. Sometimes they would do their finals there, too.
[Professors] would write the questions and then we would generate tests. The test
questions were sort of mixed up, and then the student would take it and get it
graded. They knew their grade then. They decided to integrate the students into
the mainstream of college because they did not feel like they were getting the
mainstream [level of education]. They felt like they were [taking remedial classes],
which they were not. They really were not because [they were taking] the same
classes that the other students would take. In years to come when students are
better prepared to come to college, then they do not want to be babied. I will put it
that way. They [do not] want to feel like [they are different]. They are special, but
they [want to feel like they] are not. So now today what they do is they only have
those special classes in Summer B.
S: That is the only time.
F: That is the only time. Well, [the students] were followed for two years. They would
do these classes for two years. And then if some of them did well in those classes
before the two years were up, then they would go into the mainstream. So now they
[have] decided that [since] entrance examination scores are higher, they do not
need to do it that way now. So they do it a different way. There are some classes
that some of them do have to take for remediation, but not like it was when I first
S: What I was going to ask you about when you first came to UF [to your] position now
at the teaching center, it was called Personalized Learning Center. So it was
already in existence to help. Was this to help minority students or all students?
F: Minority students.
S: Minority students.
S: And then later, the students helped with the decision to go with the mainstreaming?
F: Yes, because they had rap sessions, help sessions, and they talked about it.
S: They called them rap sessions? Or talking?
F: They called them rap sessions. They do not do that now because some of the
students that were . I do not want to say smarter. I do not know what word I want
to use. They were better students, or "A" students or "B" students. They felt like
they should have these sessions with the professors to say, "Look, I think some of
these students do not need to be in these classes. They need to be in the
mainstream." And they would talk about it until they did something--changed the
program. Some of the students that came through that program (Summer B) make
high [scores] on the entrance examination. One of the stipulations in that program is
they may be the first person in their family to even go to college in the first place.
They may not have the financial backing. They all [do not] have the finance to do it.
It could be a one-parent home, and one-parent homes do not really have enough
money to send their children to college. So that is one thing. The other thing is they
may make too low on their SAT/ACT scores, and that is the other way they get in.
Some of those students--now that they have what they call Upward Bound--are in
that kind of program. That program is integrated now. More or less, that is what it
was. Now it is not that way anymore, except for Summer B. And Summer B is
S: Going back to the earlier times with Saundra back in high school. She was a
sophomore or junior?
F: She was a sophomore.
S: So she was in the tenth grade.
F: She was in the tenth grade.
S: And you said that people were talking, that there were other people interested in the
decision, the challenge, to go to Gainesville High School. Was that the NAACP?
The junior ones?
F: No. [It was] other persons.
S: Other high school age [people]? Or parents?
F: More or less parents. Maybe teachers and other concerned persons that knew that
there should be an equal education. Maybe you did not see or maybe you did [the
television mini-series] "Separate But Equal"?
S: I have heard a lot about it. I have not seen it yet. [laughter]
F: Separate but equal means that you should have an equal education for everybody.
It does not make any difference who they are. You can be separate, but you want
the equality of an education. That is what I meant for myself in my years. The
[schools] had books, but they were used books. I had books at my home, but they
were new books, but the same book. See what I mean?
F: We could not bring those books home, but I had them [at] home. As we got into
higher grades, yes, we could do that, yes, but in the lower grades we could not do it.
The books may have been ragged, but we learned what we learned, and it did not
keep us from trying to learn even more. That is one of the separate but equal
S: So Saundra going to school was a challenge of [the premise] that education was
separate, but it was not equal.
F: Was not equal, right.
S: So that was the challenge. Did it go to court?
F: No. It did not have to go to court.
S: So she just went to school.
F: She just went. The three children just went.
S: That was Saundra, your daughter .
F: My daughter, Joel Buchanan, and Lavonne Wright.
S: And Lavonne Wright is Reverend ..
F: Reverend Wright's daughter. The three of those went to school. At the end of [the]
next year, more kids who wanted to go to that school went.
S: What year was that in the 1960s? I have some notes that say it was like 1964 or
F: I think it was 1964 because she graduated in 1965. So it could not have been
S: So it was the 1963-1964 school year.
F: Right. Somewhere like that.
S: So when that started happening with Gainesville High, and after the lunch counter
sit-ins and that sort of thing, it was mostly peaceful?
F: It was a peaceful desegregationn issue here in Gainesville. I do not remember any
major incident. Nobody got hurt.
S: Do you think that because this is a university town that that was part of it?
F: Could have been. And it could have been because the people were peaceful.
S: Both students and the faculty were helping out then. Or trying to.
F: Trying to help. Maybe the children got some nudges, but I guess they did not pay
them any attention. My daughter [did not have anything bad happen to her], not any
name-calling or that kind of thing. But it was like, "I want to see if you have on clean
underwear," because they were told that black people were dirty. Everybody does
not feel that way. She had long hair and they wanted to see was this her real hair,
was it dirty, was it whatever.
S: So they pulled at her hair or just asked her questions?
F: No. They just asked her questions.
S: Did you and Saundra talk about that, about how ignorant [people are]? Well, I
guess ignorant is a word you could use. People just do not know, being separated
F: Yes, we talked about it. By my parents having been here from 1919, we knew a lot
of people. They knew us by my dad and uncle having been around the University.
It was like everybody knew everybody because this was a small town. Even the
mailman knew you. It was not one of those vicious incidents. My dad, working
around some people, they would say, "You do not want your granddaughter to do
that." I said, "Look. She needs to get a better education so she can do something.
She cannot do anything if she does not have the kind of education that she needs to
have to go where she needs to go. If she wants to be a writer or she wants to be a
speech therapist, she cannot get it if they do not have the background in school.
When she goes to college, then she will not know [the information] and she will flunk
out. It is just that simple." So we did not have any incidents at home. But we had to
talk about it with her. When they would ask her the questions about her hair and
that kind of thing, she would say, "Well, I really have not paid any attention." They
wanted to know about [whether] her underwear was dirty. All in all, it was kind of a
peaceful thing. Maybe it got out of hand later, but when those three persons first
went, it was OK. We did not have any harsh letters or threats of any kind. No, that
did not happen. It was just peaceful.
S: That is good from my perspective because I was ten years old in Birmingham.
Everyone has heard about Birmingham. Of course, I have the perspective of being
a child then, about the same age as Saundra. Is Saundra my age? Is she in her
F: She is 41.
S: Well, I will be 39 in July. We are almost contemporaries. She could have come to
the high school where I was in Birmingham. That is really interesting to me to learn
another perspective--the black person's perspective--because I only knew the white
person's perspective then. I lived through all these changes. Even in Birmingham--I
did not tell you this; this is interesting. My younger brother Johnny was one of the
first white students bused to a formerly all-black school. I think because
Birmingham was so big, and of course [being in] Alabama, led to big, serious
incidents. It is really encouraging to me to know that Gainesville's first early days
F: I think Gainesville integrated with less problems than some of the other places. Like
I said, maybe later they started. There were some incidents that should not have
taken place, but they did. But it was not serious. There was some looting and
burning but that was because they felt like they were not getting equal jobs. We felt
like they were looting and burning in the wrong area--in their own area.
S: It was just like in the larger cities? It was in the black areas?
F: In the black areas.
S: Was it directed against white-owned businesses in the black areas?
F: Yes. More or less.
S: I was wondering because in the black area here in Gainesville there is, or was,
residential segregation. [There] probably still is in Gainesville. I think maybe [it is
due to] economic reasons, too. Was it what they called the fourth .?
F: Fifth Avenue.
S: Fifth Avenue district. Was that the area that was involved with that?
F: After awhile. I lived there. There were stores that were there for years and years.
Sometimes people get hot-headed [laughter] and they do things that may not be
conducive to [their best interest]. That is how we felt. People tried to talk to them
and say, "Look. If you burn this place down, it is not only taking that man's job
away--he already has money--but it is taking money away from your people." That
was not bad, but it was bad enough that some of the places got burned.
S: What year was that? Was that in the early 1970s?
F: Yes. Probably somewhere around the 1970s that those things started happening.
S: I do not remember. I have looked at the Gainesville Sun [from] the early 1960s .
F: 1960s and 1970s.
S: I did not look in the 1970syet, so I will go check that, just to have that as a reference
to check against the dates so that we can have it for the tape. Well, I really
appreciate you talking to me on the tape. I think it is going to be a very, very
productive addition to the Oral History archives to have your history on the tape
there and your views about what happened with the Gainesville desegregation.
F: The University itself has changed a lot. The University is heavy in agriculture--or
used to be--and along where Beatty Towers [is] was farmland. All people had to do
for milk [was] bring your own container. They had cows and they had gardens.
Norman Hall was P.K. Yonge at that time. It is the laboratory school to the
University of Florida. They may not use it that much now, but they did in those days.
If you went to the laboratory school, you were expected to go to university.
S: Is there anything else? I think we have covered most of the names and everything.
Is there anything else that you want to add that we may have left out about the high
school desegregation or anything that you remember that you have not said that you
would want said?
F: No, I do not believe so. I think that is all, unless you have some more questions you
need to ask that I can answer.
S: I was just curious. I think you answered most of them about how you as a black
woman in those times worked and raised children. I appreciate you talking to me.
Thank you very much.
F: You are welcome.