Interviewee: Ellen H. Green
Interviewer: Alan Petigny
Date: August 17, 1993
P: It is August 17, 1993 and it is right now seven minutes after 4:00, this is Alan
Petigny. Sitting beside me is Ellen H. Green, the former head of campus NAACP
[National Association for the Advancement of Colored People]. I am going to
begin by just asking you some questions about your background and then we are
going to go on into other areas if that is okay with you. Could you first tell me,
Ms. Green, Ellen--E-L-L-E-N--what does H. stand for?
G: Haynes, my maiden name.
P: And how do you spell that?
P: And Green of course is G-R-E-E-N. Could you tell me your date of birth and your
place of birth.
G: _-5-1915, and I was born right here in this house.
P: In this very house?
G: This very house.
P: Who were your parents and what do they do?
G: My father's name was Samuel Wesley Haynes and he was a laborer, and my
mother is Mamie Womack Haynes and she was a housewife.
P: Ms. Green, did you have any brothers or sisters?
G: No, I am the only child.
P: And what schools did you attend?
G: Tampa Elementary and the Booker T. Washington Junior and Senior High
P: When did you graduate from Booker T. Washington Senior High School?
G: December 1933.
P: The class of 1933? Do you remember who your principal was back then?
G: Yes, Professor Brant, you caught me unawares, I could have told you what his
initials were, but it was Brant. We will get back to it after a while, but anyway.
He was the principal then.
P: What did you do after you graduated?
G: Got married and had some children.
P: Who did you marry and what did he do?
G: Well, he was a laborer at the oil company, Gulf Oil, down there in the bottom
P: When did you marry him?
G: When did I marry him? Right after I finished school.
P: So, this would have been 1933.
P: I understand you had two children.
G: Yes. I have a son and a daughter. He is retired because of disability and he
lives in Highland Park, Chicago, Illinois, and was a counselor at the high school
there. And my daughter is a registered nurse at Tampa General Hospital.
P: How old are they? Do you remember?
G: Fifty-nine and fifty-seven.
P: And who is the oldest?
G: The son is.
P: What is his name?
G: Carl Davidson Allen and her name is Erma Ervella Allen Truss now.
P: How many grandchildren do you have?
G: Four and three and seven and five is twelve. No, I am adding them all up
together because they hang around here together. She has the four children, my
son has two, that is six. Six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, and
P: You have one great-great-grandchild?
G: Yeah, he is asleep right now.
P: How old is he?
P: A she I assume.
P: He. A great-great-grandchild. What is his name?
G: Roderick Davenport.
P: Now, growing up here in Tampa during the 1920s and the 1930s and the 1940s,
is it correct to say that Tampa was a very segregated city back then?
G: Quite segregated with limited everything for the black people. I did domestic
work and this is what brought about the work of the NAACP, because you could
not buy a sandwich except at a window, you could not go in the stores and drink
water or go to the bathroom unless you used the colored facilities, and all the
comforts of life were not available to us. We had the second-best of everything.
P: Let me ask you, when did you, as a young girl, when did you realize there was a
color line, that you were black and treated differently than little white boys and
G: Well, not at first because this was the normal situation. I mean, when I was born,
this was the normal life. And it was after I got grown and up out trying to find
work because see there was not anything but a few secretarial positions and a
teacher's position that the black folk held. So, you did domestic work, and I did
go back to night classes to take up secretarial work. After that then I decided I
wanted to do something different because I did not feel like I was cut out for that.
P: I know that you later became a secretary with Central Life Insurance, an
adjuster I believe.
G: At first I became an agent for Afro-American Life Insurance Company and I
worked there for approximately four years, two years as an agent and two years
as a clerk. Then I left there and went to what then was the Pallbearers Grand
Union and stayed there for three years and nine months and went to Central Life
for twenty-nine years. Now I am back to Pallbearers Grand Union.
P: I am going to get to that and try to get some of the dates for that a little later.
But, I am going to focus a little bit on your childhood growing up in a segregated
Tampa. Did you have any white friends at that time?
G: No, we did not know anything about that. There were quite a few Spanish people
who lived down in this area here with us, but I did not come in contact with them
too much. We just knew that they were here. Well, I did not do too much playing
outside because my father kept up with me right here in the this yard, me and my
dog, so that I did not get out too much except to go to school and go to church.
But, we did not have any contact with the white people at all.
P: You said that some Spanish people lived in the area. Did they live next door, or
did they live just in the neighborhood.
G: In that next block back there, there were a set of houses, like quarter-houses,
and they were in that block on both sides of the street.
P: Would any blacks live right beside them?
G: Yes. I guess they had more contact with them, because, like I said, I did not get
out too much. I was with my mother wherever she went and so I did not get out
to associate too much with the Spanish people.
P: Do you remember who the first white friend you had, or the first white friendship
that you made?
G: I imagine it had to be after I became involved with the YWCA [Young Women's
Christian Association of the U.S.A.] and working with the local unit of the YWCA,
we were called to have meetings with the white unit and we got along beautifully.
And then after they were desegregated then I was one of the three black people
that were transferred from the black unit to the white unit as a member of the
board of directors and I made quite a few friends during that period of time. Not
as children because, you know, we went to black schools and we passed all by
the white schools and went to black schools and so there was not too many
reasons for us to be involved with white people.
P: When the clubs merged and you were transferred to the previously white club
and some whites might have been transferred to the previously black club,
around what year was this? Can you remember?
G: No, I really do not and that is the material that I am looking for right now because
it belongs over there at USF [University of South Florida] because all of the
records that I had, and I had quite a few of them, but I had put some stuff away
and I have not been able to put my hands on it yet. But, I stayed over there
nearly thirty years with them.
P: I am sorry, with who?
G: With the YWCA. When they changed over to the YMCA then that is when I left.
P: So, I assume, though, even though you are not sure of the date, this would have
been when you well into your twenties at least.
G: Oh, older than that. I must have been in my forties. No, I joined the YWCA in
1949, and I guess I must have stayed in the local branch maybe about twenty-
five years and then over to the central, that is what they called it, it was central, it
was downtown; the YWCA white unit was downtown and we closed down the
black branch and all of us moved over to the [central unit], but I was placed on
the board of directors at that time.
P: To get a little bit more into your own professional career, you indicated that you
worked as a domestic for a while when you graduated from high school in 1933, I
believe, is that right?
P: And then you started taking classes to be [a] secretary. Do you remember when
G: Back in the late 1930s, because my children were very small, I had a mother who
helped me with them so I could go to school at night.
P: I will turn this off for a second.
I just turned it back on.
You said this would have been in 1938 that you would have started going to
school to become a secretary?
G: 1937, 1938.
P: How long were you there training?
G: Oh, not too very long. By the time I got myself sort of situated so that I could
handle it. I did not do the complete course, but I got enough of it to be able
maneuver. I was kind of smart then
P: So, where was this? Was this at the local high school classes or
G: H.W. Blake High School.
P: And from there you went to work for...
G: The Afro-American Life Insurance Company.
P: In the capacity of...
G: First an agent and then a clerk.
P: And what year did you go there, do you remember?
G: 1942, I believe it was 1942. I have not been keeping these dates too well.
P: So you started working there in 1942.
G: Uh-huh. Wait a minute now, the second world war broke out in 1941 and in the
latter part of 1942 I went as an agent. Yeah, and I stayed there until 1945 and
then I went to the Pallbearer's Grand Union.
P: The Pallbearer's Grand Union, is that the same as the Lily White Pallbearer's
G: The Lily White's is a spin-off of the Pallbearer's Grand Union. We were first and
Mr. Andrews was involved in the Pallbearer's Grand Union and then he moved
over and organized his own group.
P: So later the Lily Whites became a competitor of the Pallbearer's Grand Union?
P: Is the Pallbearer's Grand Union still around?
G: I am working there right now.
P: Really, I did not know that? I know the Lily Whites are still around and I have
heard about the Lily Whites because I have read a lot of the Sentinel Bulletin
which is Andrews' paper, so of course, he advertises it. But, I have not heard a
whole lot about the Pallbearer's Grand Union.
G: That is true, because we did not have but one paper, so we did not get too much
publicity. Anything we asked him to publish we got a little line about like that in
there. Yes, it is ninety-five years old.
P: They offered, I believe, what is called industrial insurance?
G: Well, we have core insurance. We have a small barrel that we make a payment
on, and then we have a core insurance with Mackabey Life Insurance
Company of N.L. Norris, and that a very small premium quarterly. It is
called the poor man's insurance, like $2,200 for barrel.
P: So, premiums I assume are pretty low.
G: $19.33 a quarter.
P: Every week or...
G: A quarter.
P: For how long.
G: $19.33 every three months, is that what you want me to say? That is all. It is like
$6 and something a month.
P: $6 a month or so?
G: For $2,200. You do not find that anywhere.
P: Still do not, I do not think.
G: Well, that is what we are doing. And we are not raising any cane, but as I said, it
has managed to survive and it is ninety-five years old. And after I retired from
Central Life, my friend of mine asked me to come help her and then she
disappeared, as such, and left me with the bag to hold, so then I am still holding
it and itching to get away from it as quick as I possibly can.
P: Now how long were you with the Pallbearer's Union, from what years to what
G: From 1945 to 1949 the first time, and from 1980 to now.
P: After 1949 when you left it the first time, I assume you went to work for Central
G: I did.
P: And I believe a fellow by the name of G.D. Rogers was probably the president
G: He had just died when I went to work there.
P: Who headed it up after him?
G: I believe Mr. Martin followed him, then Mr. Broughton, Mr. Henry...
P: Ed Davis?
G: Ed Davis of course, Mr. Martin, Broughton, Ed Davis, Henry, and then Williams.
He was the last president?
P: Is it safe to say that Central Life during the 1950s was the largest black owned
business in Tampa?
G: Yes, it was the only, you know, really large black business in Tampa because the
Afro was a branch, one of the many branches throughout Florida. But Central
Life's home offices [were] right here in Tampa.
P: Were you, during the 1940s and 1950s, were you active in the NAACP?
G: I went into the NAACP between 1954 and 1955, and I started in there as a
committee member, an assistant secretary, then the recording secretary, the
financial secretary, then the vice-president. From there to the president in 1959.
P: A few questions about your work with the NAACP were elites, you know the
teachers and doctors and ministers and so forth, were they very involved with the
NAACP back then?
G: Some ministers, not the elite, it was the common man who was there fighting the
battles. The elites came to the mass meetings, quite a few of them made
contributions that bounced, and that sort of thing. But, it was us there that were
having the fish fries and selling whatever we could that was honest to raise
money to support the organization.
P: Did Central Life support you and support the NAACP?
G: Oh yes, very much so. They stood behind us 100 percent and even the girls that
worked there, they allowed us to participate in whatever activities that were going
on. And they were very well represented because Mr. Ed Davis was the state
board of registration president at that time.
P: Was that for the Progressive Voters League?
G: Yes. So, that is where we got most of our support from, was from them.
P: Question about that, you said that they would let you go to these meetings.
Would this be during work hours?
G: During the time that we were integrating the theaters and the various stores and
such, the eating places, yes, they let us off to go and
P: And paid you?
G: Yes. They certainly did.
P: So, in other words, they partially, not fully, but partially bankrolled some of the
activism that took place in the early 1960s.
G: They did. They were definitely, as I said before, were 100 percent behind
everything that we were doing.
P: Now, in looking at the civil rights movement in Tampa, I know the sit-ins occurred
in 1960 and there were other efforts after that to integrate parks and beaches
and movie theaters and so forth, and I know that a suit, I believe it was the
Manning suit to desegregate the school system was filed in 1958. But, during
the mid 1950s, 1955-56, what sort of things was the NAACP doing at that time?
G: Going through all of the processes. We started with the theaters and the lunch
counters first. The youth council were the activists and each one of us was
assigned to one of the lunch counters, somebody was assigned to the theater
and that sort of thing. Do you want me to stop?
P: I am sorry, go ahead.
G: And we went there and it was lunch and we went to eat our sandwich and
whatever. We went to the theaters to attend the movies and all that. These were
more or less the youth council members and the Central Life employees.
P: This would have been 1960 about.
P: But, in the mid 1950s, the 1955-56 before the sit-ins occurred, what sort of things
was the NAACP in Tampa doing?
G: I guess what they were really doing leading up to this very same thing, because
Robert Saunders whom you have interviewed and various other leaders in the
NAACP were interested in the fact that these things needed to be done, and well
mostly, I guess what we were doing was having meetings and talking about
these things, but nothing actually took place until the magic moment occurred
when we decided that we were going to do it and get it done if possible.
P: Now when the sit-ins happened, was there any significant opposition to the sit-ins
within the ranks of the NAACP?
G: Well, not necessarily. They all did not participate, but then they were all in
accord, you see, and not too much opposition from the white citizens.
P: What did you think of Mayor Julian Lane?
G: Beautiful. He handled it beautifully and it went off as well as it did because he
was the type of man that he was.
P: Did you vote for him?
G: Yes, definitely.
P: I believe he ran against Nick Newtio, the mayor of Tampa before hand and
defeated him in 1959 or 1958. I understand Nick Newtio had a lot of support in
the black community though.
G: Well, there is always a certain segment of us who cater to white people, even
today. And I heard a little joke the other day, they were saying that there were
two ice-men in the community, and they were both selling ice, and the lady said
that she bought the ice from the white man because she thought his was colder
than the black man's. So, we have had this, because even I have experienced
this with insurance, we could walk our heels off out there trying to sell this
insurance, but the white man was more successful, because in spite of all the
things he had done and was still doing, we had more confidence in his
businesses and that sort of thing than we had in ours. Because you know, just
like when the neighborhood stores, as soon as they started putting chain stores
in the area, the black neighborhood stores phased out, because we found all
kinds of fault with the quality of the food stuff that was in our black stores. So, we
catered to the white man's store rather than help to build up our black men and
women who were trying to run businesses.
P: Let me go back a little bit, I still have more questions about the civil rights
movement in Tampa, but back in the 1940s, do you remember watching Joe
Louis fight at all?
G: Oh yes, right down there by the radio, because I did not have a TV then, I had a
radio. And I was right down there on the floor hollering and carrying on. And I
had the pleasure of seeing him when he came to Tampa.
P: Really? When was this?
G: Now you are going to be asking me dates, I am seventy years old and I do not
remember this too clearly now.
P: Did you speak to him?
G: I was out there with the NAACP again, I was his host.
P: Really, so you shook his hand and everything?
G: All those things. All those celebrities who came to town, I was involved in it,
because I worked with the local and worked with the state.
P: Who are some other celebrities that came to Tampa besides Joe Louis?
G: Thurgood Marshall, the minister in Atlanta [Georgia], Reverend Borders, I had
Margaret Belafonte here to do a fashion show for us, Jackie Robinson and
there were quite a few others.
P: With the NAACP back in the 1950s and the early 1960s, you became the first
women president of the Tampa chapter of the NAACP, was there sexism within
the civil rights movement hear in Tampa?
G: I do not recall. The only thing that you might could say. Well, we really
sometimes looking for a special honor to come to us rather than somebody else.
I tell you what, Reverend Lowry was the state president of the NAACP and Bob
Saunders was the state secretary of the NAACP. Now in his [Bob Saunders']
records, [and] this is how the young lady came from the USF to interview me,
because she said she found my name so frequent in Bob Saunders' papers and
stuff. But, they were in the forefront more so than me. Well, I took it for granted
that they were more or less trying to shield me, whether I believed that or not, but
I mean it was okay. But, I was not out front, they were.
P: Then again, these were statewide figures, Reverend Lowry was not the head of
the NAACP in Tampa, but for the whole state of Florida and Bob Saunders was
the secretary for the entire state of Florida.
G: But the only difference was, I mean, I was very seldom mentioned. Everybody
knew that I was the president, but I was very seldom mentioned, you know. You
have a captain, a major, a lieutenant, (or however it goes) so I mean even as the
lieutenant I [did not get much recognition]. But that did not bother me.
P: I also understand you were involved with the ... what is it called?
G: National Council of Negro Women?
P: Yeah, the National Council of Negro Women. Tell me about that.
G: Well, the National Council of Negro Women is an organization organized by Dr.
Mary McCloud Bethune and Washington D.C. through the help of Mrs. Eleanor
Roosevelt [First Lady 1933-1945] and she got together a group of prominent
women to help to bring about better relations for the black women in society and
upgrade their positions in society and to reach down for the little women and help
her to rise up and be what she would like to be, and she especially place
emphasis on the youth of black America. This was done in 1935. A unit was
established in Tampa in 1937. I do not think I joined it in 1937, maybe a couple
of years later, I did not stay in it, then later on I went back but I was not very
active. In 1965, I was already a member but I was not active, the president was
terminally ill and they had elected me as a second vice-president but for some
reason she was constantly using me to chair the meetings, and in 1966 she gave
it up ...
P: What was her name by the way?
G: Lisa Davis. . and so Mrs. Cancerina Martin who was a school teacher was
the first vice-president and so she asked that I would take it rather than she. So,
I agreed and (this was in 1966) they elected me the president of the National
Council of Negro Women, and I remained that president until 1982. I gave it up
under protest, they seemed to have liked me very well, and had worked with me
very well, but I felt like I was not supposed to stay there that long because that
was sixteen years and it was against the law to stay there that long, but every
year they would re-elect me and re-elect me. So, then finally I just decided that I
would beat them to the draw, so I gave it up. And so, I retired from that.
P: Are you still active in it?
G: Very much so.
P: What sorts of things did you do in the 1950s, the 1960s, and today? I am talking
about the National Council of Negro Women.
G: In the National Council, after I assumed the leadership role, I was able to
increase the membership to 120 women, I had a young adult group of ladies from
twenty to thirty-five and there were thirty-five of them who were very energetic
young people who were sponsoring other young people to inspire them to do the
things that Dr. Bethune left in her legacy. Then, I had a youth group, fourteen to
nineteen and they were being trained to grow up to be National Council leaders.
Well, we did such things as we sponsored the girls in the detention home, we
sponsored the children in the projects with like the Easter egg hunts (these were
special things), we supported the NAACP, the Urban League, and the United
Fund [United College Fund?]. We did fashion shows and that money was used
to distribute within the city and to the national to further the projects that were
going on. When we had a member that was very ill, or something happened to
them that was like a tragedy, we went to their rescue and did things for them that
were necessary to be done. And we had programs and invited the public in to let
them know what we were doing and what was our purpose and that sort of thing.
And it was a great relationship that we had with the community and a beautiful
relationship for sixteen years.
P: I want to move to another area. Well, no, I want to ask you a few more questions
about the civil rights movement, then I want to move to another area dealing with
class and elites and so forth within the black community. But, do you remember
the 1967 riot?
G: The 1967 riot? Where, here?
P: Here in Tampa when the Chambers boy was shot in the back and it caused at
least two days of rioting in Tampa.
G: The Chambers boy was not shot because of the rioting, he was shot because he
was trying to run away from the police, which was not the thing that they were
supposed to do, but he was somewhere he was not supposed to be, and he was
P: Yeah, apparently he had stolen something, and he was shot, and that started the
G: Okay, I know the deal. That was not the way that I understood it. I was definitely
here, I have not been anywhere else but here, and those kind of things were
always a tragedy to me, for our benefit. What I am saying is, we destroyed our
own people rather than the people that they were angry with, and that was not
fair, see? Because Central Life has never been Central Life anymore. The
places that they had to go and the things that they had to do, they do not have
P: Do you blame the riot for this?
G: Yes, because they should have turned their anger on the people that they were
angry with, see? But they do not do that, see? Just like Wats in California and
all those other places. They just do the wrong things, I mean, why do they not go
P: Did you have any friends who were hurt or who had property damaged by the
G: Well, I knew quite a few people down in Central Avenue. I knew quite a few of
the people, because as an insurance agent, I was able to know those people.
P: Just for the record, Central Avenue is a street that housed most of the black
businesses in Tampa, it was a black business strip, and they were seriously
injured by the riot.
G: Very much so, because there would be the nightclubs, the good ones and the
bad ones, the theaters, the little business stores, and all the grocery stores, and
the restaurants, and the Masonic Temple, and the dentist's offices, and all of
that was on Central Avenue.
P: What can you tell me about the desegregation of the movie theaters and parks
and so forth?
G: Well, as I said, nothing really happened. We went to the lunch counters and
ordered our sandwiches and there were white people in there looking at us, but
they did not say anything to us or do anything to us. Because I was afraid, but
nothing occurred so I ate my sandwich and left. And so it was with the theaters,
because Mr. Lane had done a beautiful joy of talking to his people to get them to
act civil and accept this situation, and they rallied to his request. And those that
were not too pleased about it, they did not really do anything. I mean, during the
marches and whatnot they threatened Reverend Lowry, but when they came
they found a new black man who had surrounded Reverend Lowry's property and
stuff and they had to turn around and go back home because this was not what
they were accustomed to happening where black people were concerned. They
found about that the blacks were determined to turn this thing around and they
had to do otherwise and accept it. It seemed to have been unstoppable and
they were going to have to live with it. So, it did not turn out badly at all.
P: Do you remember who the sponsor of the NAACP's youth chapter was back in
the late 1950s?
G: Yes, I just left him about four hours ago, Charles Stanford.
P: Charles Stanford?
G: He was the advisor.
P: Who was Charles Stanford? I have not heard of him.
G: He worked for Smith's Brewery I think, yeah. He worked for Smith's Brewery,
but then he was involved with the NAACP and was the advisor for the youth
P: Is he still alive?
G: Yes, I said I just saw him about four hours ago at the funeral I went to.
P: Okay, I was talking about was he the person in the funeral.
G: No, no, no. He was at the funeral.
P: Is it true to say that after the Brown decision that there was a feeling of
excitement here in Tampa over the prospect of segregation ending?
G: Well, we were happy over the fact that it was going to end. Even when they
maneuvered, they did try to maneuver like here in poor Tampa we had a little
Ellen's two-room school house up there on the hill, and after the decision they
were going to bring in portables, promising that they were going to build us a new
school. And of course we marched there and refused to let the children go to
that school that they made. [They would have to] provide us with an all ready
established school for the children to attend and they transferred them for the
first time. When I went to school I had to ride the city streetcar to go to Booker
Washington, and so they saw that we meant business so they had to close that
down [and] take them over to ... I think my grandson went to Dunbar
[Elementary School], and then over to the elementary school behind Jefferson,
and then they brought him back to Westshore [High School] here which has
been sitting right here for a long time.
P: The streetcars, were they segregated during the 1950s?
G: Oh, of course. You always sat in the back.
P: When did that end?
G: After the segregation and they had to move the signs.
P: Was this in the late 1950s or the 1960s.
G: In the 1960s, nothing happened in the 1950s to change anything. It was after all
of the courts decisions and all of that sort of thing. They had to, just like they had
to go through all of the department stores and everywhere and move the signs
that said "colored" and "white" and [in the] theaters [where it was] colored up top.
If a fire got started then you would be up there with the fire and then they would
get out. So, they had to move all of these signs and they had a period of time
that they had to get them down. And the transition was very good compared to a
lot of other cities. Let me go get some water because I do not talk this much
P: Okay, I will turn off the tape recorder.
[End of side Al]
P: Mrs. Ellen Green. Earlier I interviewed Calvin Bexley who used to be a principal
at Blake High School and then later the principal at Blake Junior High School,
and I asked him what sort of things black elites would do to show that they were
black elites. He said that they would often attend a certain kind of church, like
Beuliah Baptist Church or St. Paul AME Church or Allen Temple; that they
would go to a certain kind of bar, like Buddy's bar, but you would not often find
them in other kinds of bars; that they would try to get invited to fraternity and
sorority dances and so forth, is that true from your recollection?
G: Very true, because I was not an elite, but there was just a few places that I would
go on Central Avenue, like Buddy's bar, Henry Joyner's bar, because we would
have fashion shows and teas there and then the Blue Moon bar where they had
dances and stuff like that. That is where the elite, as you say it, went. But,
across the street there was the kind of bar that anybody [could go] straight in and
whatnot, so we did not go there. Well, St. Paul's church is a historic place
anyway, and that is where we held the mass meetings [for] St. Paul's and Beuliah
Baptist. However, it was this Beuliah Baptist that [is here] now, because it is
new, but the Beuliah Baptist then was over somewhere around Central and
Governor street then. But, St. Paul has been sitting there for forever. So when
any of the celebrities came to town they were at either one of those church, but
mostly in St. Paul. St. Paul today is still the church that houses most of the
activities that have to do with the problems that there are in the community.
Usually the meetings are held there.
P: And something that comes to mind is the controversy over the segregated crew
for the Gasparilla Festival, crew, and I understand that they had there
meeting there in the late 1980s when they were protesting it.
G: Right, they did. I could never remember the correct pronunciation for the ship
that they were trying to bring here. They met there for that also.
P: Yeah, that was within the last year.
P: But, back to the question of elites, though, is it safe to say that they tried to
segregate themselves from the ordinary working people?
G: Of course, the doctors and their wives, and the teachers and their husbands, and
whatever other few professional jobs that there were not down to the
secretaries now, we were not elites, we were working people those were the
elites of the community. And because most all of the clubs in Tampa have given
me some kind of award, except one and I am not going to name it, but they are
supposed to be the blue blood of sororities and they did not ever because I was
not in the elite class.
P: Come on, you can tell me what it is.
G: No, I am not going to tell you.
P: It will be a secret between you and me and whoever listens to this tape.
G: Well, that is what I am afraid of--it is one of the leading sororities in Tampa, it is
the leading sorority, I think, everywhere. I am not going to name it.
P: I understand that every year there would be these big sorority dances and
fraternity dances that were invitation only dances. I understand also that this was
a way that elites sort of...
G: They kept themselves segregated by the invitation. That is very true.
P: Are there other examples that you can think of?
G: Well, there was not too much that we have around here except the sororities and
fraternities and the professionals belonged to those things, so those are usually
the things, because there are other organizations who have affairs and they are
elite affairs, but because they are raising funds for some special thing, then you
are privileged to go there. But, at the fraternity dances and sorority dances, well,
then if you did not know somebody who liked you pretty good that would invite
you anyway, then you did not get a chance to go.
P: Did you go to any of these fraternity and sorority dances?
G: I do not really think so.
P: Was there a degree of resentment towards the elites and these dances.
Whenever these invitations started going out, was there resentment among the
masses of people?
G: I really do not know, because, I mean, it did not bother me. There was a very
prominent dance held here in Tampa that was called the "Bellmen and Waiters,"
it was a social group, and everybody was fighting to get an invitation to that
dance. Well, my husband used to be the president of this, so I was there.
P: Question about that, the Bellmen and Waiters, I understand that was one of the
premier dances at the time, your husband, was he a waiter or a bellman?
G: Well he was a waiter. He worked for an oil company, but he was also
moonlighting, he did waiting for a yacht club, and so he was made president of
P: They made pretty good money, did they not, waiters at this time?
G: Yes, that was good money, because I used to moonlight with him [when I was]
Central Life on special occasions and I was always in pretty good shape when
the dances were over like the Gasparilla Ball and all that sort of thing that night.
When they got through having fun, well the help was in pretty shape. So,
anyway, they had this very beautiful dance and everybody was dressed to death
and that sort of thing, and you just knew you were doing all right. Now, I love to
dance and I would dance all night if the song is sad, when I was young, but later
on the years, well I mean, that went away. It did not bother me anymore whether
[I was asked], matter of fact, now if they invited to something I do not want to go.
P: Even thought the black elites set themselves apart--the school teachers and the
professionals that there were--is it correct that they were admired by young
people in the community, that they were role models?
G: Well, they were because they had arrived.
P: I am sorry, could you explain that from the beginning.
G: Well, they had accomplished something with them. Because, as I said, there
was not too much for folks back in my day to do except maybe be a receptionist
in a doctor's office or a secretary to a teacher, a lawyer, and a doctor. So, that is
about all there was.
P: You forgot about a domestic.
G: Well, I mean that was not a professional job. That was what everybody wanted
to get away from, that was why they were happy to be able to learn something
different because there were not too many of those jobs to get even if you were
prepared to get them, see? So, segregation opened the doors for at least that
you can go to Honeywell or IBM or anyplace now. But there were not any such
jobs like that for black people in that day.
P: My question was though, can you relate that point back to the question of
whether elites were widely respected within the community by young people?
G: Yes, I am sure they did. Because a teacher then was a very respected person
anyway. They were more or less like a second parent and you respected what
he or she said and did because they sort of conducted themselves in such a way
that you had to respect them. So, yes, they were role models and inspired what
few others that could follow in their footsteps to do what they did. Very definitely,
they were [respected]. This is why everybody who could would rush off to
medical school or rush off to college to be a teacher or rush off to learn to be a
secretary, because you were up there then.
P: Secretaries were considered elites or was it kind of hazy?
G: Well, you were above the norm, you were not down there in the domestic field
because being a cook or a maid or chauffeur or whatever was not what you really
wanted to do. It was all you could find to do at that time. So, you were one a
pretty good level too. The salary was not as much, but then you were above the
P: I do not want to get too personal, but can you remember how much you were
earning as a secretary for, say, the Afro-American, or for Central Life?
G: When they transferred me from the agent to the clerk there at Afro, my take
home pay was $19.50 a week and I thought I was rich.
P: How about later with Central Life?
G: Well, our salaries were upgraded as you performed from year to year. I think my
first salary there was $33 something per week, and that was in 1951. When I left
the Afro, I went to the Pallbearer's, they offered me $25 a week. I was moving
P: I understand, I looked at some information, and school teachers in Hillsborough
County back in 1950, they were making a little over $3000 a year which would
probably come out to ... I am not sure how much it would come out to every
week, but it would come out to quite a bit more than $25 a week.
G: When I was in school, a teacher's starting salary back there was $50 a month.
They were very happy about that until later years when they found out that they
should have been making more, but that was a starting salary, $50 a month.
P: I understand that they got the salaries up through a suit that I believe Ed Davis ..
G: Ed Davis and ...
P: Ben Griffin..
G: Ben Griffin and what is the lady's name ... She lost her job, Mr. Davis lost his
job, Ben Griffin managed to maneuver around in some kind of way. Oh, what is
the lady's name?
P: I was told by James T. Hargrett that Ben Griffin was told that if he lost his job
because of his efforts for equalization of teacher's salaries, that Central Life
would give him a job.
G: Well, that is very possible. I perhaps might have known, because that appeared
to me that it happened before I became that active. But, I know her very
P: Question about police--I understand that in late 1949 there were quite a few
police officers, I mean, a handful of black police officers who patrolled the black
G: [She must say, "about a half a dozen"]
P: Yeah about half a dozen. Do you remember the relationship that existed
between the community and the white police department, was there tension
G: The black policemen worked under the authority of a white policeman and they
acted accordingly, because we have a policeman who ... I do not know if you
have ever heard it, but the story about Mr. Pughsley.
P: No, tell me about it.
G: He was a very prominent mortician at that time and he was mysteriously
murdered. He was murdered by one of the black policemen on the orders of the
white policemen. You are not going to print that information. But, anyway,
they spirited him away from here because I think the black people were very,
very upset about this, because Mr. Pughsley was a fine man. He had not done
anybody any wrong except that he was progressing, I think, too fast for them.
This particular policeman, if he was on one side of the street, I went on the other
side and I had not done a thing for him to bother me for, but I was definitely afraid
P: And he was a black policeman.
P: What happened to him?
G: Well, they spirited him away and called themselves the imprisonment to the
security and that sort of thing, and they finally let me out into public view towards
his last days. He grew old out there away from his family and everywhere. Then
he came back here, I think, for a short while.
P: Was he imprisoned?
G: Well, they said he was, but we did ever think he was.
P: So there was brutality by the black police officers.
G: The guys that came along a little later, one of those policemen is a minister in
Orlando now and he was quite bigoty, and that sort of thing.
P: Quite what?
G: Bigoty, as they called them back them, those bigoty kind, you know, "Nigger get
off the streets and do this, that and the other." But, the Lord took hold of him and
he is a minister now and quite different. But, there were a few of them, there
were not but about five or six of them, but a couple of them were nice guys and
they were commended for being nice guys. And then the next set that came
along were much, much different. They realized that they were black officers and
they needed to handle the job a little bit differently. There is even now, and we
are hoping the Benny is going to handle it differently to kind of get it straightened
out, because there is still tension in the police department.
P: When you say Benny, you are referring to?
G: The new police chief.
P: And his name is?
G: Benny Holder.
P: Is he a long time resident of Tampa?
G: I do not think so. I kept that paper the other day to read it over again so I could
get the details, but he has performed so well that they chose him for the new
police chief. He is making a good start.
P: Do you remember the election of Reverend Lowry [I think I have it as Lawrie on
71al.], when he became the first black person elected in Hillsborough county, he
ran for the school board. Do you remember that race?
G: Oh, of course. [It was] quite a race. He one it unanimously almost and so
everybody was happy. Reverend Lowry was a fine man.
P: Still is.
G: He still is, he still is, as old as he is he still is a great guy.
P: Did you work in his campaign at all?
G: Yes. I did some of everything that I thought was right, when I was younger and
could get around a lot better. Yes, I worked with him and all the other worthwhile
politicians that were in this area.
P: Do you remember when Francisco Roderiguez ran, I believe he ran in 1955, for
the city council?
G: I was here, I was right there. Our people were trying to do [what] was
worthwhile. I participated [with] it in some manner.
P: Just for the record, Francisco Roderiguez was a black attorney of Spanish
background and he was very active in the civil rights movement.
G: Oh yes, that is right. To work so hard and sell so many fish and stuff to pay his
salary to sent him. They used Tampa's money mostly to send him around
Florida to help with the other cities.
P: Now a couple of time when we have spoken, you have referred to raising money
through fish fries, tell me about that.
G: Well, we would go to various homes and have a fish fry out there and the public
would come in and buy the fish and that sort of thing, and that money was used
to put in the treasury. Because we had quite a bit of stress on our treasurer
because Bob Saunders would come and say, Ellen (now they called me Pat at
Central Life) and he would say, "Pat we need $25 to send Francisco affordium
to such and such a city." And it was our money, but he said it demandingly, so I
gave him the money. So, we had to keep it coming in. Whatever we could do to
raise money to keep the money rolling, we did it.
P: When you say we, we had to keep the money coming in, at these fish fries and at
these various fundraiser were there mainly men involved, women involved, was it
pretty evenly split?
G: Well the members of the chapter would come to the affairs, they would go off and
leave me with the bag to hold after it was over.
P: I am not referring to who would come, I am referring to who would do the grunt
work, who would fry the fish and clean up afterwards, and set up afterwards.
G: The Tampa chapter entertained the southeast region, here in Tampa, and at that
time the ladies were very conscious of being dressed up at all times at affairs and
that sort of thing. And we were going to have this banquet that night at the
Cuban Hall patio with the visiting guests. Everybody went home to get dressed,
and me and another old man had to set up that patio with the tables and table
cloths and everything in there. Everybody comes stepping in all dressed up with
their gloves and that sort of thing, and here I have to go run and wipe my face
and put on my dress to come back to be the president while they were all rested
and dressed up. I was out to Progress Village which is about sixteen miles from
here [her house] to this funeral today and the vice-president to me lived out there
and we would go out there to have fish fries.
P: Vice President of what?
G: The NAACP. Here it is three o'clock in the morning and I would be way over
here, they are gone home and I have to stay there and clean up their mess and
that sort of thing, and come all the way back over here in the dark by myself.
P: Would anyone help you?
G: I am saying, they have gone. That is the kind of stuff that they would do. They
would come but they would leave, leave you with the bag to hold.
P: Who is they?
G: The members of the chapter.
P: How about elites, were they active?
G: When we had mass meetings, they wanted to be ushers dressed in their black
dresses and flowers and stuff. But as for doing any work, no.
P: So who would do the work then?
G: Well the few members of the chapter that I could get to do the work.
P: Were these people elites or were they regular.
G: Most of the time Central Life's clerks and secretaries and stuff.
P: So the doctors and the lawyers they?
G: They wanted seats down front, because when Dr. Martin Luther King came here,
I had worked so hard I was too sick to even go the meeting. And they took over
and took all the honors and everything.
P: Did that ever make you a little disturbed?
G: What do you think? What do you think? No, they were always dressed down
front. He put a they were down front. The sororities were all dressed in
their black dresses with their corsages on and standing in the aisles to usher the
people around to their seats.
P: Let me ask you this, even though a lot of these elites were admired because they
had made it, was there a degree of tension that existed between the regular
working people and these corsage wearing individuals that you referred to?
G: Well, I do not know so much about tension because mostly my group would say,
"They think they are cute" or "They think they are better than anybody else," but
we never bothered about being where they were or that sort of thing because we
accepted the usual thing, their attitudes, and let it go at that.
P: Was there a lot of social interaction between the different classes?
G: Well, we would be at different affairs together, and they were friendly with certain
ones. Maybe if they grew up with somebody in the neighborhood or something
like that, but they accepted their friendship like that, the idea that they were at the
same event and that sort of thing. But, they knew that they were not considered
to be on the same level that they were.
P: Who were some of the outstanding people during the 1950s in the black
community. I know there was James T. Hargrett, there was Reverend Lowry and
Bob Saunders, and Dr. Williams and sort forth. Do you know of a few others?
G: If you had not asked me, maybe I could have told you.
P: How about women? I know Mrs. Stone was pretty prominent.
G: Well, she was there at Central Life.
P: She also had a funeral home.
G: Yes. She was secretary/treasurer of Central Life.
P: Really, Mrs. Stone was secretary/treasurer? And then Mrs. Pughsley was also
pretty prominent. She owned a funeral home.
G: And back there [then], Mr. and Mrs. Ray Williams, they had funeral homes, and
there were not too many of them back there, but there are a whole lot of them
now. But not you had women like, I mentioned a while ago, there was
Cancerina Martin who was a teacher, now she was to earth and in the middle of
P: What was her name again.
G: Cancerina Martin.
P: Do you know how to spell the first name?
G: C-A-N-C-E-R-I-N-A Martin.
P: Who was she married to?
G: I cannot remember his first name, but he was an insurance agent also for Central
Life. There is a Aclemy James who is a retired school teacher, she is in a
nursing home now, she was a down to earth person, my right hand in the
national council. She and Cancerina Martin both were my right hand persons in
the national council. The now deceased Mrs. Beatrice Stewart, we buried her
last week, was a very nice figure in the community.
P: What did she do?
G: Well, she was involved, they referred to her as being like a mother in the
community to the children and her students and she was always looking after
[and] talking to children and trying to inspire them to rise up.
P: Was she a teacher?
G: I said a retired school teacher.
P: What did her husband do, do you remember?
G: Oh yes, he was a first assistant superintendent of the schools.
P: Oh Stewart, Garland Stewart, he is still alive.
G: Yes he is, but they buried her last week.
P: Oh that is too bad.
G: She was eighty-three, so she lived a good life.
P: Now, Garland Stewart, how supportive was he when the integration efforts
G: You know what, there was a bit of fear among the professionals that they were
going to lose their jobs, so they did not really come out front. But there were
those that would support you from behind, like, you know. As I said, I had quite a
few of them whose check bounced when they gave money in the collections and
that sort of thing. But, it was not his. They were all raised there to hear and to
cheer and that sort of thing. But, they were kind of careful because they did not
want to lose their jobs.
P: You are referring mainly to the school teachers.
P: School teachers, it is fair to say, were the majority of the middle class, or the
black upper class.
G: Right. Now the doctor could be more vocal because he was more dependent on
the black folk, but the teacher had to be kind of careful. But, they were in accord,
like I said, they just had to be more careful with what they did, and that it would
not be known that they were so supportive.
P: When did your husband pass away?
G: Mr. Green is not dead.
P: He is not? I am sorry, I assumed that he had.
G: No, he is just passed out of the relationship.
P: I see. Where is he now?
G: Out in a little section on the other side of Tampa called Sephna.
P: How old is he?
G: He must be about eighty-two.
P: He is a great-great grandfather just like you.
P: How would you like to be remembered?
G: How would I like to be remembered? Well, my slogan is, do all the good you can
while you can, I shall not pass this way again. And I am hoping that I will have
made a sufficient contribution to my community, and to the children of the
community, and whomever I have touched. And I think I have done somewhat of
that because I have quite a few adopted children that look to me as a role model.
I have quite a few young people who have gone out into the world that listen to
my teaching in the church and sunday school.
P: Incidentally, what church is that?
G: Mount Zion AME Church, right up the road there. I have doctors, lawyers, and
other professionals that have gone out from here that I am called Mrs. Ellen in
this town, by that set of young people who are in their fifties and early sixties and
P: You reminded me of something. I spoke to Robert Cole of Cole's Barber shop,
and in reflecting about the class structure in the black community during the
fifties, he said that all the teachers and doctors and lawyers and dentists were
called by their professional names, so it would be Doctor Green, or Professor
Green, or... But, if you were not professional, you were just called, you know.
G: Ellen Green.
P: That is true then?
G: Well, I am Mrs. Ellen by those people. I mean, they call me Mrs. Green, even the
professionals call me Mrs. Green. After my contribution for so long a time, I have
the respect of those people now. I got a letter from a lady that knocked me off
my feet. After the USF reception, and she wrote me the sweetest note and I
could not believe my eyes, ears, and nothing else, because she just commended
me to the highest and told me how much she admired me and I had no idea that
she did and how much I deserved all of this and everything. And, you know, so I
know that I must have done something as I passed this way. At the funeral today
I was hugged and kissed by, and I would ask the lady beside me, "Who is that
person, who is that person?" And I do not have any idea who these people are,
but they know me. Well, I said, for years I was up front looking, I was not ever
looking at them, I was looking over them, speaking and that sort of thing, and
they were looking directly at me and they thought I was looking at them. And I
did not have any idea who they were or what. But, those people are at me at all
times. "I know you, I know you." I say, "Oh, yes darling, and it is so good to see
you. (Lord who is that?)"
P: Growing up as a young girl and as a young lady, who are some of your role
models back then, can you remember?
G: Yes. I was telling my grand daughter there, I usually followed behind some
person who was a little older than I was, and the lady who the secretary over at
the Pall-bearers Grand Union, and she was a member of my church, and she
was my role model. She was superintendent of sunday school, when she left, I
became the superintendent of the sunday school. Whatever she had done, I fell
right into that place.
P: Was she your role model as a little girl, though?
G: Well, she was not here as a little girl.
P: As a little girl, who was your role model?
G: I do not know. I told you, my daddy had a fence around this place and me and
the dog were in here. We did not want anything to happen __ And my
mother was a very busy little lady and she was at church almost seven days a
week. So I was there. And she was president of the Pall-bearer's lodge down
here and she was president of Household __ lodge, and the missionary
society at my church is named in her honor, and that sort of thing. So, I imagine
my momma was my role model because I did not get too much chance to get
away too much. And my father was the type of person, well he ran away from
home when he was fourteen to keep from being a farmer, and he came down
here and worked until he bought a business down in Palmetto or somewhere
down up in there.
P: What kind of business?
G: I think it was a bar. I was too little to know or care. Anyway, then when he came
home, then he was one of the employees that helped to build the Gandy Bridge
out there. And he died at an early age, I was fifteen when he died. But,
everyday instead of being able to play, I had a book stuck up under my nose and
poetry to learn. I spelled everybody in poor Tampa, [at] all the spelling bees, I
came home with the prizes. I had the longest speech, and I wanted to kill him,
but I could not do anything about it. And it took me a long, long time to
understand what he was trying to do, because I thought he was the cruelest man
in the world because I could not get out and run out there and play ball and cut
up with the rest of the children. I tried to be a tom-girl, but when the children
would come by and I am wearing patent leather shoes, so he got tired of me
scratching up the patent leather shoes and he stopped me from walking the
fence and climbing the trees. He bought me a pair of boy's brogan shoes with
the buttons on the side. So, all the fun was taking out of that because I did not
like those shoes I had to put on. But, he was very strict and in his mind he
wanted his little girl to be the best. So, he just kept at me, and kept at me, and
pestered me with all these things. So even after he was dead and I realized what
he was really trying to do, I went to his grave as if he could hear me, and thanked
him because so many things had turned around in my life and I was headed in
what I thought was a pretty good direction.
P: What indeed turned out to be a very good direction.
G: But then I became proud of him, and then the role model that my mother was,
because I am the oldest in membership in my church, and I have served in every
capacity but the pastor up there. So, I do not thing I have done so bad.
P: Is there any question I did not ask you that you wished I had asked you.
G: No, but thank you. I hope that there is nobody else behind you that is coming to
ask me these questions.
P: I want to thank you very much for your time.
G: You are quite welcome, dear.
[End of the interview.]