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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Charlotte Robinson
Interviewer: Joel Buchanan
FIFTH AVENUE BLACKS, ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWER: JOEL BUCHANAN
PLACE OF INTERVIEW: GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA
DATE OF INTERVIEW: MAY 28, 1986
Mrs. Charlotte Webb Robinson was born in Early County, Georgia. Her
parents were Mary Magdalene Mitchell and John Franklin Wiley Webb, the son of
a slave and a schoolteacher. She graduated from Jenkins High School in Perry,
Florida in 1937. She received her bachelor's degree from Florida Normal
College in 1953. She taught at several of the schools in Alachua County,
including at old Lincoln High School until it closed.
This interview discusses Mrs. Robinson's experiences as the daughter of a
schoolteacher and her childhood in Georgia. It tells of her life in the
country, her college days, and her persistent efforts to obtain employment as
a teacher after she had graduated from college. She explains what it was like
at old Lincoln and describes many of the people who worked there with her.
B: Mrs. Robinson was in the education profession for thirty-five years in
Alachua County. Good afternoon, Mrs. Robinson.
R: Good afternoon.
B: How are you today?
B: Tell me what the W stands for in your name.
R: That is my maiden name, Webb.
B: Where was Charlotte Webb from?
R: I was born in Early County, Georgia, in a village about the size of
Alachua. There was the little town that we would go in if I ever needed
supplies, which was called Cedar Springs, Georgia.
B: Tell me about where you were born.
R: I was born on a farm. My father was a teacher, but his family grew so
fast, until he finally had to give up teaching because in those days, they
did not get a salary like teachers get today. He was paid like, this
farmer would bring a ham, this one would probably bring a half bushel of
meal, you know, whatever they had to bring, this is what they would pay
their tuition with. In those days, people did not have salaries like they
have today, but they were paid as best they could by the people in the
community. So, I went to what is called a one-teacher school. But in
this one-teacher school, there was something like about seventy students
from the grades one through eight. The part I like about it was, if you
were smart, you could learn a lot of things you would not have learned
until later in life, because if you were in second grade you probably
could do some fourth grade work because if you paid attention you would
learn right along with the students that were in a higher grade.
B: How did teachers have you all arranged? How did she separate the first
graders from the third graders or from the fourth graders?
R: We all had a certain section of this one-room school to sit in. Like the
first graders all sat maybe over here and then the third graders close by
and the fourth graders close by the third graders, and the fifth, and so
on until they got around. Each grade had a special section of that room
that they studied in.
B: Let us go back for a moment. Your father's name was what, please?
R: My dad's name was John Franklin Wiley Webb. They had long names in those
B: And where was he from?
R: He was born in a place called Cuthbert, Georgia. And my mother, his wife,
was named Mary Magdalene Mitchell, before they married. And her home was
right out from Cedar Springs, about two miles. And of course, they got
B: Do you know what year?
R: I believe they got married at the county seat, Blakely, Georgia. And
out of that marriage there were seven children that lived. There were
others that died early in life, some at childbirth. There were as many as
thirteen children in the family, but only seven of us survived.
B: And what number are you?
R: I believe I am number twelve, because I was way down.
B: You mentioned that your father was a teacher. Did he ever discuss with
you where he got his training to be a teacher?
R: Yes. Albany Normal, that is what they called it back in his day. Now
they call in Albany State University.
B: And how did his family afford to send him to college?
R: They did not. He worked his way through. He would get up early and do
work for the boss man. In those days most black people either
sharecropped or rented from the white man. Not many people could afford
to rent land to someone else. So he would get up early in the morning, do
his chores, walk to school, and later on in the day, maybe two or three
o'clock in the evening, he would go back, change his clothes and work
until he could not see any longer to work. And that is how he went to
B: Was he teaching most of his younger years when you were a child? What was
it like being a daughter of a school teacher?
R: Hard, because he expected us to certainly tow the line. Because if he
could not have children that were going to really obey him and respect him
and do the things that he told them to do, then he would not of had very
much success having the other students to do it. Because they are going
to say you are partial to your own anyway, and just for that reason he
could not be partial at all to us. He was always so firm with us and we
had it hard because we were his children.
B: Did he teach you?
R: Well, I was not old enough for him to teach, but I remember going into the
classroom when I was about three years old. Maybe some special day he
would take me along. The thing that I feel was real good about my dad is
he was principal of the high school in Blakely at one time. Now, my
oldest sister's son was named for my dad. He is the principal of that
same school now, which means history is repeating itself. But right now
the principal of the school is not a Webb. He was my sister's son. If it
had been my brother's son, he would have been a Webb. But his name is
John Rufus Harris. He is named for my dad and for his dad.
B: And what was the name of that school?
R: Early County High School.
B: And your father was the principal there?
R: At one time.
B: He was born in Georgia. Did he ever tell you anything about his family?
B: Where they were from, what they did, and so forth?
R: Right. His father was named Wiley Webb. His father was a slave and they
came up real hard, because they had to work real hard and they did not
have a lot to show for it. And it became a part of him. He said that his
children would never work for someone else. And that is why he owned a
farm, so that his children could work at home. And he provided for them
so they had no reason to go out to earn extra money. My mother did not
have to work either. She stayed home and raised her family until it got
to be so many of us, then she started going along with the older children
to the field to work. During the day while my dad was at school she would
be there supervising. As soon as he got home, then he was there and the
both were there supervising the children. My second oldest sister, who is
living here, is the one they left at home to do the cooking, keep the
house clean, do the washing and take care of the younger children. And I
happened to be one of the younger children. That is why I feel so close
to her. She is more than a sister, she is a second mother.
B: Is the homestead still there where you were born and reared?
R: The homestead that I was born on is still there. He gave it to my oldest
sister and her husband because she married a man who was sharecropping and
he did not want his family to sharecrop. So when he built another house
at a later day he gave her that home where I was born, and sixty acres of
land so they would not have to sharecrop, and they could say that they had
their own. My sister attended school mostly. My dad had her in all his
schools, of course, at Albany State. But she only went there about two
years. I think she got an A.A. degree. Then she got married, but she
went as far as getting her master's after she married.
B: Excellent. So the homestead is still there.
R: Yes. They did some remodeling, and right now it is a nice looking place.
You would not believe it is about 100 years old, but it is a lovely home
B: And do you go there frequently?
R: Not as frequently as I used to, but I try to get there about once a year.
B: Tell me something about your mother.
R: My mother was the luckiest woman in the world because she had a real
husband. I have always talked about my dad and I have always measured all
the other men up to my dad. And it seems to me like I could not find any
that could ever come up to my dad. And my mother, well, he treated her
like she was something very precious. I had the best dad in the world.
B: Did you?
R: And the best mother, because she took all the time with us. She wanted us
to be something worthwhile and she would sacrifice so much to help us do
something. It was pretty hard, you know, trying to clothe seven members
in a family plus the dad and mother. But they always saw that we had
plenty of food. I have never known a day that we did not have food to
eat. We always had clothes to wear, and we had a place called home. I
look back on it now, growing up and my living with pride. It was not
always easy, but it was certainly always a meaningful experience because
they taught me how to live. And you can place me in any type of situation
today and I will survive because of the way I was raised.
B: So you were brought up in a very genuine home. Now was the school that
you attended near your home?
R: Yes. We could get up in the morning and walk down to the school. It was
something like about seven blocks from home. Very close. We could have
run home for lunch if that was permissible, but it was not. So we always
took a lunch. And in those days, who could afford to go to town and buy
lunch pails for all the children? But I had a very resourceful mother.
She would save up her coffee cans, because coffee came in a can. And all
of us had a coffee can with our name on it and we took our lunch to
B: Did you? And what was the name of your school that you went to?
R: Well, the first school that I attended was called Allen Chapel Grade
School. They did not say elementary in those days and all that kind of
stuff. They called the grades from one through eight grade school and
then from nine through twelve high school.
B: Was this a church related school?
R: Yes. It was right beside our church. The church was Allen Chapel, A.M.E.
Methodist Church. And of course the school was built right beside it
because all this land was there. So over here was the place for the
church people to put their wagons and things like that, because in my day
there were no cars. There were cars, but none of my people owned them.
So when you passed my church on a Sunday you would see horses under the
shade tree, tied, maybe eating. They would spread their food out for
them. They had troughs where they could go and drink their water. And
just over on this side was the school and a place there for people to park
when school activities were going on. So that community took a lot of
pride in its school and its church.
B: Did your father teach at this school?
R: My dad never worked at that school. He worked at the high school in
Blakely. He worked at another school at a place called Hilton, Georgia,
and I believe that was called the Friendship Grade School. And then he
moved from there, he was promoted I would say, to the high school. And
that is where he retired from so that he could come home and be with the
family and the children because he had been away so much of the time.
B: Tell me something about your days at Allen Chapel Grade School that stands
out in your mind.
R: I will never forget that. I started to school early.
B: What do you mean when you say early?
R: Because the school actually had nothing lower than a first grade. Like
nowadays they have something like kindergarten and before that they have
Headstart. I had no Headstart, no kindergarten, but I started school when
I was four years old. I started school because they thought I was ready.
And really, I can remember it as though it were yesterday. They had
little books back then called Baby Ruth, maybe someone might have
mentioned it before, but I will never forget it. I was given this book
the first week of school, and from then on I was not reading, I was
singing. I would take this book and I would read so fast the teacher
would have to slow me down. I would be singing it. I would learn it all
from memory. Oh, it was crazy the way I did. I can remember when I was
in second grade, I was like six years old, and people would come along in
those days and sit and observe the classrooms.
B: Oh, would they?
R: Yes. I can remember that this man, I guess he must have been someone
affiliated with the university or something. Anyway, he was a white man,
and he came in there that morning and the teacher always had a place for
visitors to sit when they came in. So he was sitting in this place and he
was observing the children as they performed that morning. And for some
reason, I got up as usual with mine when it was time for me to recite and
I opened my book as I read, and he observed me. And when it was time for
us to have our spelling, and they would call out the words and all the
words the others missed, I would be the one to spell them. And I had to
go home that day for lunch because something had happened where we could
not take lunch to school so the teacher, they sent her a note, and she
excused us to come home because it was not a long way. And when I got
home, my mother was outside washing her clothes. They had something they
called a block for beating the clothes so they could clean them. They
would put the clothes there after they took them out of the pot where they
heated them, and you would take a paddle and paddle them. This causes the
clothes to come clean just like the washer does now.
B: So actually they beat the clothes in the tub in the water?
R: Yes, but it would not be in the water. They would take it out of the
water, place it on a big round block, about this round like where you saw
down a big tree and you just saw up a block maybe two and a half feet
high. That is what we beat our clothes on. And they would come out so
spotless and clean. So he, evidently he asked the teacher or someone
where I lived because he wanted to talk to my parents. My dad was not at
home. He had not retired then, so he only found my mother. And I can
remember when I came home that day for lunch and I saw this same man
again. And the man said, "You have a very intelligent little girl. All
you got to do is push her because she really has the ability." I did not
know what he was talking about, but as I grew older I caught on to what he
was talking about.
B: He came to your house and told your mother that?
R: Right. I was one of the students in that school that he was impressed by.
Now I do not know how many others in the community that he visited. But I
do know he visited my mother and it so happened that I came for lunch and
he pointed me out and said that if they really followed through behind me,
that I had the ability to make it.
B: Did he prove to be correct?
R: Yes, what he said really turned out to be correct because all through my
grade school I received good grades, all through high school I received
good grades, all of the work I have done since I left grade school, like
my B.S. and master's, I received excellent grades. And really, when I lost
my husband, I was not too far away from getting a doctorate in education
degree. But I had a heart attack three months after I lost my husband.
And I think I had it because I would try to keep looking cheerful and hold
up for the family. I only had one daughter and she was very attached to
her daddy and when she would go in and out of the hospital she would break
down. She would be so sad. And then when the two boys came in, they
would break down. So I had to try to hold up.
B: You held it in and it came back to you.
B: Have you given up the idea of completing that doctorate?
R: I gave it up because children have a big effect on their parents and after
I had that heart attack, "No, you are not going to school." The only
schooling I have gotten since then was to keep my certificate alive and
right now my certificate is good until 1999. But the children said no
because it was not worth it for me to do something too overtaxing. And I
would be gone and that piece of paper would still not mean a thing.
B: That is right.
R: So, I kind of listened to my children.
B: Well, that is so good. Were you, in your early school days, one of those
children who was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities?
R: Even though we were in school, back in those days you did not have a lot
of the things you have now, but I can remember it quite well. We always
had those spelling bees and parents came in from all over the community
when we had that special day for the spelling bee. And I will never
forget when I was in sixth grade, they had this spelling bee, for the
first, second, third, and fourth grades together. And then from the fifth
through eighth were together. And I remember the year I was in sixth
grade every one sat down and I was the one left standing and I felt so
good because I wanted to make my parents happy. And that made me feel so
B: And you won the spelling bee?
R: And from that time on, I always won it.
B: Really? How delightful.
R: Now that was one of the activities that they would have. We did not have
such a thing as physical education teachers in those days, so we had a
period called recess. About mid-morning we had something like about
thirty minutes. We could go out and play games, and we had certain games
that we would play. I can remember quite well how I would take a hickory
nut, because those things grew wild, and I would wrap it round and round
with stocking. You know, just keep wrapping it until it got to be about
the size of a softball. And then I would put a cover on it and sew it
down. And that is what we used for our softballs. And we had an
improvised bat because you could always find an old limb that had fallen.
So we would have a round piece of wood that we would use for our bats.
Well, we did enough to say that we really took P.E.
B: Was Allen Chapel a one-teacher school?
R: Sure. This is the school where there were first through eighth grade.
About seventy of us.
B: In one building.
R: And just one teacher. No aides.
B: And who was that teacher?
R: You know they kept a teacher for five or six years when they would get
one, but this particular teacher was named Mrs. Bennie Lee Moore. Now she
was my teacher from first through fifth grade. And guess who was my
teacher after Bennie?
B: I cannot imagine.
R: My oldest sister, Charlie May Webb.
B: Your oldest sister taught you?
R: Yes, and I had to be under her like the older children had to be under my
dad, see I was her sister. So I had to tow the line. I could not get
away with anything.
B: You could not get away with anything because your sister was your teacher.
R: Right. So she taught me through the eighth grade and then I went to the
B: And now what was the name of the high school?
R: Well, by that time, my dad was not as well as he had been and mother not
as strong as she was, so the same sister took me in Perry, Florida. That
is not too far from here. She and her husband were living there so they
took me there. My dad did not think I was old enough to go to town, but
in those days we did not have school buses. They had school buses for the
whites, but the poor blacks had to get their children to and from high
school the best they could.
B: You said to me that if you had stayed in your city after you finished
eighth grade at Allen Chapel School, you had to go to town to school.
R: And get a room with someone.
B: So you would have had to stay in town? And you were young weren't you?
R: Yes, very young. And my dad did not think I was old enough to be away
from home, so my sister took charge of me. And that is where I stayed
all through high school with my sister. I graduated from Jenkins High in
Perry, Florida. Mr. Homer Smith was the principal. He died a few years
B: Did you have a graduation exercise from one grade to another grade or from
one school to the next school?
R: We had a graduation at the end of eighth grade that was very encouraging
because everybody wanted to be one of those people who would graduate one
day. We did not have robes and caps though. Not back in those days when
I finished the eighth grade. If they had them, they did not have them in
my school. But I did have on my church dress and I was all dressed up and
I felt real good.
B: Really? I did not ask you your birth year. Can I ask you your birth date
and year, please?
R: That is something I do not like to tell.
B: It will be for history purposes, it will not go any further than the tape.
R: I finished high school when I was fifteen, but I was sixteen very shortly
after. But I did finish just before I was sixteen.
B: And what year did you finish high school?
B: I read where many black children, after they got an eighth grade education
in black schools or Negro schools, were qualified to teach.
B: Did you start teaching after you finished Allen Chapel?
R: No, my dad let my sister keep me and I went right on through high school.
But guess what?
R: I married that same year that I became sixteen. I married in July and the
man I married was from Florida. And he lived in a place called Shamrock
or Cross City, I guess you are more familiar with Cross City. I moved to
Cross City, and they had a black school and white school there. They only
had two schools there at that time. Dixie High, was the white school, and
then they had Oliver High School, but it started down at grade one and all
the way through grade twelve. So Mr. Oliver, after I had been married I
believe it was the second year, he found out that I had finished high
school. So he came and talked with me and asked would I like to be a
B: What was your husband's name?
R: Shelton Robinson.
B: Where did you meet him?
R: When I was attending high school in Perry. He lived in Cross City.
B: When did you get married?
R: July of 1937. I cannot recall the date, but I know it was the fourth
Sunday in July.
B: Did you have a wedding?
R: Yes, but it was not fancy. I got married on my dad's front porch. Just
some of the neighbors and my relatives were there. But to me it would
call itself a wedding, but not the fancy kind they have today.
B: So you got married in Georgia?
R: Yes, at my father's house.
B: And he gave you away?
B: And then you came back to Florida?
R: I moved back with my husband and we were living in Cross City. And that
is where I first started working with children. My husband would try to
encourage me to go to college and not many young men would do that. They
would not hardly just try to make their wife go away to school. Some of
them would get angry if she wanted to go. But I had a husband who really
encouraged me to go to school. I would never have gone any further. But
he kept saying, he said, "Charlotte, you are younger than I and if
something happens to me I would like for you to be able to have a job that
you would not have to work so hard and yet you could feel kind of proud of
it. And I think you should go." And I said, "Well, that is why I married
you because you can take care of me." And he said, "Well something could
happen to me and I want you to go to school." He almost made me go, I
would say he forced me to go to school. I went to Florida Normal at St.
Augustine. That is where it was located then. I spent eight weeks there,
but guess how many hours I earned in those eight weeks.
B: How many?
B: How is that possible?
R: Because in those eight weeks they had two sessions: Session A and
Session B. Both sessions I got as many hours as I could get. The first
session, I wanted to carry more hours, but I had never been to college
before so they limited me. But the second session, my grades had gone in
and they saw that I was capable of taking more hours and that is why I
managed to get sixteen hours.
B: Were you teaching when you were going to college?
R: I had been substituting. And that is another reason I went. The teachers
would say, "You know, you are so good with children. You ought to go on
and get yourself prepared." And I would say, "Oh, I do not think I want
to work with children." But when I went to college that summer and had
these classes and they were all dealing with how you work with children, I
got very excited. And when I came home that summer I was given a job.
B: After your first summer there you were given a job?
R: Yes. I was given a job in Union County and again I worked in a church
set-up. I worked at St. Johns Baptist Church as a teacher. The children
would come in every morning. We had a table back there in the back where
we had all the books stored. Another table, and what we placed there,
lunch pails and lunches. We had to sit on these regular church seats. We
had no desk. But you know there is something about when you do not have,
you improvise. Those children would get on their knees and take the seat
for their desk. They would sit on the floor and do their work and they
did quite well. They did quite well not to have the right tools they
needed and the right instruments they needed. They did not lack in
B: Did they?
R: So I worked in that school three years.
B: Were you hired by the church or by the county?
R: I was hired by Union County. And my salary was sixty dollars a month.
But I declare, I saved a lot more then than I do now.
B: And about how many children did you have in that school?
R: It was a one-teacher school, but it also was a school that went from one
through eighth. They were still doing that. And I did not have seventy
children like I grew up in. I had forty-three children. From first grade
through eighth grade.
B: How did teachers know if a child could come to school or not come to
school, because I assume they had to walk. Were they required to come to
R: They were required. They were not allowed but so many absences a year,
just like they do now. In fact, they were more limited because I do not
think they were allowed to miss more than six days out of the whole school
B: You were saying that your children in your school did not lack for any
skills. Did you continue to teach during the winter and go to school
during the summer?
R: I did that. That is how I got the little education I got.
B: I see. Now was the school year nine months?
R: When I first started teaching it was only eight months, but it go to be
longer. Now, when I was a child, I only went to school five months out of
a year. That is how long our school year was.
B: Five months.
R: We would be out of school, but I would see the school bus riding past
every day for maybe two months longer. But we got out in five months.
B: What did you all do the other seven months?
R: Farmed. My dad always had plenty for us to do on the farm.
B: Did you finish your four years from Florida Normal School?
B: And you got a four-year degree and not a teacher's certificate.
R: I got a degree. A bachelor's of science degree at Florida Normal College
B: Was all your college in the summertime? Did you ever take off a whole
year and go for a full year?
R: I could not afford it. My husband was a log sawer.
B: He was a what?
R: A log sawer. He was the one that sawed these logs like you see on these
shows, these huge logs that come along. That is the kind of work that he
did. Well, we could live on it, but we did not have a lot of extras. So
when he helped me through the summer, that was a big sacrifice. And not
making a whole lot of money, plus at that time we had two children.
B: Two children. And their names were?
R: Shelton Robinson, Jr. and Angela Robinson
B: When you went to school in the summer you were living in Perry.
R: No, remember I went to high school there, but after I married I went to
B: So you were living in Cross City and you would go to St. Augustine to
school in the summer. Did you live there in the summertime?
R: Yes, I would stay the summer there. My husband would probably come over
to see me about twice during the summer.
B: Were there dormitories to live in or homes?
R: Well, going to school to get my bachelor's degree I always stayed in the
dorm, but when I started school for my master's I had three children then.
By that time I had Daniel, the baby, and of course I always took my
children with me about that time because I did not want to leave them at
home. So I would get an apartment and take my children with me.
B: So you would take your children with you when you went to school in the
R: Yes. I went to school many Saturday mornings. I got up like five o'clock
in the morning, got dressed, and I would fix breakfast for the family, and
hit the road about six o'clock in the morning. And I would end up in
Tallahassee about eight. And I would be in school from about eight-thirty
until one-thirty or two o'clock and drive back home that evening.
B: Really? You were determined. Why were you so determined to get this
R: I realized that I needed it. And I wanted to give the best of service.
If I was going to be a teacher, I wanted to be one of the best, I
sacrificed to get it.
B: Did the children that you taught have very many supplies?
R: Not a whole lot.
B: Were you giving the very best that you had at that time?
R: The best. Ever since I had made up in my mind that I was going to work
with children, I put everything I had in it. Even when I was
substituting. And I think that is why those teachers kept on encouraging
me because they could see that there really was something there. And so
they really felt that I should add to it and really get into it because I
was a concerned person. And I have got my first group of children that I
have worked with to speak positive about being in my room. Most of the
children that I run into that I have had a hand in working with them in
some way, they always tell me that I was one of the best.
B: And that makes you very pleased doesn't it?
R: Yes. I think everyone likes to feel they have helped someone and that
really makes my day. I can tell you one thing, a long time before they
had free lunch in the schools, no child in my room ever went hungry.
Because if that child did not have lunch, I stood for that child to eat.
And I would pay for it when I got my money. And any child that had to
have food at school that ever came through my room will tell you that they
never went hungry the first day in my room. And I never went to the
parent and said I had to do this and you need to do this. I have always
respected my parents. I go to them and I commend them on what they have
done because they were doing the best they could.
B: That is excellent. What grades did you teach after you left this one-room
school where you were teaching first grade through eighth grade? And did
you ever get to the point that you only taught in a certain grade, or was
there a certain grade that you really liked to teach?
R: Well, as long as I was in Union County I was in the one-teacher school.
But I do not regret it because as I look back, a lot of those children who
would probably be studying second and third and fourth grade were actually
capable of doing fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade work. And this
was good for them because as they went on through in life and made it good
when they got in high school. They were able to cope with the situation
because they had been exposed to some of those fields before they ever got
there. So they also expressed that they are glad that they had the
experiences that they had becuase it helped them to do well when they did
get in high school. They had supervisors in those days that would come
out to the school and sit for a half-day and observe. One day, after the
children had been excused for the day and the supervisor and I sat down to
talk about her visit, she said, "You know, every time I come in this
school I look around. I look in all of the places that maybe a switch
might be hidden. Because when I go in a lot of these schools I see
switches hidden in certain little places."
B: Is that what they used for paddling?
R: Yes. They would go out and get a nice limb with a little switch. But she
said, "I never can find one. And I believe if you had a switch around
here somewhere I should have seen it by now." She just looked everywhere.
So I told her that I did not believe in whipping a child all the time.
Most of those children in those days got that home training. And when you
get that home training, when you come to school you are not too much
trouble. So, although I had all these children, I had to work from first
grade to eighth grade, I did not have to paddle. I would maybe have to
three times a year, and I might have held one or two little children that
were very determined to do the wrong thing. But I did not like to do it
then. I probably would have paddled about three times during the year.
Most of the year there was no paddling. The children in eighth grade
would kind of talk to the little fellows. And so that helped a lot.
B: It is almost like a peer type of situation.
R: Right. The eighth graders and the seventh graders, I would say, they
would talk to maybe their little sisters and brothers, who were maybe
eight or nine years old, so that saved me. The six, seven and eight-year-
olds were not as mischievous as they are today because they did not have a
lot of things out there to entice them. Most of them would come to school
and when school was out they would go home. For some reason they did not
ramble like children nowadays.
B: Well, you really did not have that much of where to go because you just
walked to school and walked home. And I guess school was almost like a
fun thing instead of working in the fields.
R: That is right. When they were in school they were really resting and away
from a lot of chores, and when they got home the parents had so much for
them to do they did not have time to get into things. So that is what I
believe is happening today. We do not have enough jobs or chores or
something that we can have there waiting for that child when he gets home
to keep him involved so that he will not have a chance to get out here and
get into something maybe he would not have gotten into.
B: That is true.
R: That is one of the faults I find today. The younger generation, well most
of them, work. And they get home the children have run wild and been all
out in the streets and everywhere else and they could have gotten into
most anything. I still believe that the home plays the greatest role of
all in the shaping of ones life. And for some reason we do not have a lot
of homes now where we have a dad and a mom. Most times they get divorced
and it is a one-parent family and that one parent has to go out and slave
to see that the children have adequate clothing, food, and a place to stay.
They do not hardly have time to keep chores there for the children because
they are not there themselves.
B: Did you have a lot of contact in your early years of teaching with
R: Oh, yes. Yes, I did. I would work from eight in the morning until three-
thirty in the afternoon. Some evenings I went across to Miss Perry's
house. I might have to walk two miles to get there. I did not have a
car at the time. I would walk home with the children and they would be so
delighted for me to go home with them.
R: Yes. And now I do not think that children would want the teacher to
follow them home. And I would go and we would sit down and talk and maybe
the parents would bring me something cool to drink. They were all
excellent cooks. They would give me a slice of pound cake or something
like that. I just enjoyed visiting my parents. And when that year's end
is up I would have visited every child in my room. Every one. And not
only did I do that, I would come home maybe the first Sunday and the third
Sunday, I would stay out there the other Sunday and my husband would come
and be with me the Sunday that I stayed out there.
B: Really, so you actually became a part of the community?
R: Right. And I would go to Sunday School and I would go to church. Not
only have this relationship in the home, but it was nothing for me to be
there teaching a class Sunday morning with the same children. And I
attended church, I worshipped with them, I helped raise money. They had
things that they would call entertainments. Maybe the lady would bring a
box and the man would auction off her box, you know things like that. But
I would go to those kind of activities. I made myself a part of that
community. Because the little bit of income I was getting was coming
because I was in that community. I owed it to them.
B: Yes. That is a very true point. Do you feel that the one-room school
where you had several grades together were better than having grades
R: Yes. And I guess people think I am crazy when I say it. The only way you
can see the advantage of a one-room school was you had to be part of one.
Number one, when you teach one grade all the children have the opportunity
to get something out of it, what you are teaching. So if there was a slow
person in my school, he did not stay slow becuase he was able to listen to
the first graders, the second graders, the third graders, the fourth
graders, the fifth graders, the sixth graders, the seventh graders, the
eighth graders. When you have done that, even if you are slow, you get a
little something that you would not have gotten if you were in a classroom
with maybe thirty children all on the same level. If you do not get it,
have mercy, because you have missed out on it. But in a one-teacher room,
you might miss it on this level but you are going to get it on one of
those other levels. And I do not think we had a whole lot of children in
those schools who came out as slow learners or mentally retarded or
something like that.
B: You did not have that?
R: Not in a school I worked in did I end up with someone like that, and when
they moved up to high school they managed to go on through. Some of them
maybe did not make the honor role, but they came through.
B: How did you determine, was it by age as well as knowledge, if a girl that
was seven years old could be in fourth grade? Could she have read all the
material? Did she have a certain amount of books?
R: The way that we were allowed to go, we had certain levels that they had to
go through, like certain books on this level. If they completed this and
if they could do the skills here, you do not hold them there. You give
them something more challenging. So a seven-year-old who was capable
could very well be in fourth grade. If they had the ability they were
there. And that is one of the other good things about a one-teacher
classroom. You were not held back. If you had the ability to move on you
were sent on.
B: And were students ever allowed to skip a grade?
R: In some instances, yes. There were cases when students actually skipped a
whole grade and they still succeeded in school. So I do not think it was
wrong for them to skip.
B: You do not think so?
R: No, not if they were capable of keeping up. Some people say, "Oh, you do
not let him go on because he will regret it later." But back in those
days they went on and they succeeded in life and they did all right.
B: Now you were in Union County how many years teaching?
R: Nine years.
B: And you left and went where?
R: I was hired by Mr. A. Quinn Jones as a fifth grade teacher at A. Quinn
Jones in 1954.
B: How did he find out about you?
R: Well, we moved to Gainesville in 1947 because, like I said, I was brought
up believing that you should have a place called home. There was no place
to call home in Cross City because we all lived in the company's houses.
My husband was working for that saw mill, one of the most popular saw
mills in the South. But I would always say I would like for us to have a
place called home. And so we bought this little spot of ground here. And
we also, when we got ready to leave Cross City, we bought the house we
were living in, tore it down and moved here. And when we first came here
we had from this wall back to a little past this wall. That is how big
the house was.
B: So you are saying from the south wall to the north wall was the house.
R: And then from this wall back to where you see that second wall from here,
that was the other end of the house.
B: So you had your house brought from Union here?
R: From out in Dixie.
R: It had two bedrooms, because right in there was a bedroom and then right
over there behind it was a bedroom and then a bath. Back here was the
kitchen, very small, and the other part of that room was the dining room.
And this little part over here was our living room. That little porch
like thing was not there then, but then after a while we added that little
porch and as the family grew we added on more rooms. And now look at it.
B: It is huge. What was this are like when you moved in here?
R: Oh, it was oak trees all around, very sandy, no roads, it was horrible.
Then they made this road right out here.
B: What is that?
R: That is Third Avenue. They made that road back in the 1960s, and when
they did they dug up sixteen people that had been buried right there where
that old house is setting. That was given to me by an attorney. Well,
that was a cemetery.
B: Right there?
R: We did not know it until they put that road there. And they dug up, there
is probably some more people in there. That house over there is probably
setting on some more bodies. Everything in here was like a forest. Just
a few houses here.
B: As you started teaching, at that time it was Lincoln High School.
R: Yes, because they named it A. Quinn Jones after Mr. Jones moved to
B: Right. And you started teaching fifth grade. And how did he find out
R: Well, I have always been a nosy person. I was living here and I was
riding out, on some evening I had to ride out to Union County to be ready
to go to work the next morning, and on Friday evening I would come back
home. I did not have enough time with my family. My husband would stay
here, I had the children with me. So every chance I got I would take a
day off, if I was sick or something. But I would take a day off and I
would go around and talk to the principals. I would go around and in
those days you could get an appointment with the superintendent. I would
go and talk with him. And then one of the school board members, Mr. Ralph
Stedmeyer ran a business here and I would buy my gas from his service
station and I bought from him and all. And I would go in and sit down and
tell him that I was a citizen in this county and I was paying taxes in
this county and I would love very much to work in this county. And he
said, "You are so right. You are a citizen. You are the person who helps
the city in many ways and I think you should have a job in this county."
And at that time, they had someone as the supervisor named Rat Jones, they
called him. I have forgotten what his first name was.
B: Was this a black man?
R: Yes. And every year I would go talk to him and he would say, "Oh, yes, I
will try to get you on. Do not worry, I am going to put you on." And he
never did call me. But you know how I got that job? I could never forget
Mr. Norton. I went out to his store one morning.
B: This is C.W. Norton?
R: Yes. He was in Archer at that time. I went out to his school and I
walked in the office and I guess I was so full I just had to let it out.
And when I sat down, after I made myself acquainted with him, I could not
talk for a moment. I just broke down. And you know what? Mr. Norton
broke down also.
B: Did he? You mean crying?
R: For about five minutes we just shed tears. And I had never met him
before, but I had been told that he was a very fine man. And so the Lord
directed me there and I went. I explained to him that I would like to get
a job near home. Some place that I could get up in the morning and go to
work and come back home at night. As it was, on Friday evening I would
come home and on Sunday evening I would be gone again back to my job. And
that was a very limited time at home. I wanted to be home. It did not
matter if I had to get up and drive as far as High Springs, Archer,
Hawthorne, it did not matter as long as I could be home every night. And
so Mr. Norton said that he had all of his positions filled and there was
nothing he could do for me at the time. But he certainly would keep me in
mind. He said, "In the mean time, all the substitute work that I can give
you I will be throwing your way." I came home that same night, Monday
night, I got a call about eight o'clock and it was Mr. Norton. He said,
"Miss Robinson, one of my teachers had to go in the hospital. I will
probably be needing you for the next three weeks." I worked for Mr.
Norton for three weeks and that same weekend that my job came to a close
Mr. Whitfield from Alachua called and said that he had a teacher that was
ill and was going to be out of school for about three weeks and he would
like to use me. From the time I had this encounter with Mr. Norton until
Mr. A. Quinn Jones called me on Sunday night and said that I had been
approved as fifth grade teacher at Lincoln High School and that is when I
got on full time in the county.
B: So actually from the time you talked to Mr. Norton you were able to work
R: Something happened. From that morning when he and I had this encounter
until, in fact when Mr. Jones called me I believe I had to call Mr.
Whitfield out to Alachua and tell him that I would not be able to come in
and substitute the next week. I was supposed to go back the next week,
but I had to go to Jones that Monday morning.
B: Now Whitfield was the principal of what school?
R: I think it was called Mebane High School.
B: It was a black school then. And so you left Union and came to Alachua
County and you have been here since then. And how many years did you give
to Lincoln High School and Jones Elementary?
R: I worked there fifteen years.
B: Fifteen years. Did you teach fifth grade all that time?
R: Oh no. Mrs. Jordan says "Now," to me.
B: Who is this? Mrs. Jordan is what now?
R: She was the principal of A. Quinn Jones. She tells me, "Right now," she
says, "Ever since I have known you Charlotte, you have been a versatile
person. You have been the kind of person that you can take from here and
put you there and you still give all you have got. I could not do that
with all my teachers. But you have been one person that I could move and
it did not make a difference and it always made progress." She tells me
right now and sometimes she talks with me, she says, "You know, I can
never forget you Charlotte. A lot of my teachers that I thought were fond
of me, they hardly come and speak to me. But I can truthfully say that
you always remember me. You come by and you say good things to me when I
really need them because I am at lowest ebb. You have been that way ever
since I met you and that is just the part of it."
B: What was Mrs. Jordan's role before Lincoln High School changed from when
they had the two Lincolns here? When you were hired by Mr. A. Quinn Jones
was she there at that time?
R: She was there but she was his assistant.
B: Oh, she was assistant principal.
R: Yes. She was his assistant, but she was assistant over the elementary
part of it. She was in charge of the activities from first through sixth.
B: After you taught fifth grade what other grade did you teach?
R: I taught fifth grade and then they moved me to fourth and then they moved
me up to sixth and then they moved me down to third and down to second,
back up to third, back up to fourth, back up to fifth, back up to sixth.
They just kind of moved me around because I was that kind. And guess
what? If they had any children that were having problems with reading or
math they always dropped them off in my classroom. And I always helped
her children who could not afford to buy lunch. But it makes me feel good
because some of those children have become farmers, some of them are
doctors, some of them are lawyers, some of them are teachers, some of them
are business people. I just feel so good about them.
B: In the changing of all the classes you taught from first grade to eighth
grade is there any special grade level that you found that you were really
able to give or enjoy the most?
R: It is hard to tell. I cannot truthfully say that I like one better than I
liked the other one. Because each grade I received was a challenge for
me. It was a challenge for me to make the best out of every child's life
that I had to touch. And so I always tried to keep myself ready to be
able to challenge every one in the room. And we always got that
closeness. My classroom was more than a classroom, it was more like a
B: Was it?
R: Yes. Every child in that room, I loved him. They got to be a part of me
and I was concerned about them. And I wanted them to succeed. So I
cannot truthfully say that I had a special grade. All I wanted was
B: What feeling did you accord when Lincoln High School out grew itself and
they built a new Lincoln High School? That is when A. Quinn Jones got to
be A. Quinn Jones. And that there was a faculty there and I guess it was
a close-knit faculty.
R: Very close. Out of all the experiences I had in the other schools that I
happened to work in, there was something about A. Quinn Jones that we
worked as a team. Whatever we put on, we put it on. Can you remember
when we would bring back all those trophies?
B: Oh yes.
R: We would have the best drill team. We would have the best majorettes. We
had the best whatever we sent out was the best.
B: And the faculty there were mostly ladies?
R: Right. We finally got Mr. Jackson and after a long time, just about the
time we were being disassembled, I would call it, Charlie Roberson came
in. But for the most part it was women. But we stood out. Not another
elementary could mark up to us. Bob Jones and all those people that
worked on the high school team they would say, "I can tell you one thing,
that A. Quinn Jones faculty knows it sticks together and the know when
they go out to do something they do it all the way."
B: That is true. I am a product of that school and I do remember in the
activities there was a cohesiveness and a very thorough type situation.
R: We worked together.
B: And I would like to get your input on this. Being a teacher there at A.
Quinn Jones, the children were allowed to have more than a classroom
experience with all of the activities in the auditorium. They were able
to be what you perform. Do you think that that was important in a
R: That was needed. This gave them confidence in themselves and this gave
them the opportunity to share the little things that they could do with
others. This made them stronger. That is the best thing in the world for
B: That is very true. How did you feel when you were told that A. Quinn
Jones was going to be closed?
R: Oh, I was so hurt. I have never felt more despondent, depressed. I had
so many feelings.
B: How did you find out about it? Were you all called together as a faculty
R: Yes, indeed. That old Mr. Talbot came out there.
B: That was the superintendent?
R: Yes. With his old fat self. He is dead and gone on wherever he went.
But he came out there and he told us that that school was not safe for a
school anymore. He said that it was too old and too delapidated and might
fall in and someone might hurt and the county will be sued for lots of
money. So we had to discontinue this school. And he said they would find
a place for us in different schools but they could no longer use that
building because it was unsafe.
B: And they are still using it today.
R: Yes. And that is why I know I am a Christian and I knew I just do not
like it. From that day to this one I know our children have been slipping
backwards. Strong ones like you managed to go on. But there were some
children that needed a little nurturing and they did not get it. And they
are still not getting it. And so it seems to me that we are going
backwards. I retired and nobody was put in my place. They eliminated my
B: Did they?
R: So many of the people who retire now, no black person is replaced by a
black person anymore. And there was a certain percentage, a very small
percentage, like in 1979, it is about half of that percentage now and if
it keeps going like it is, Lord have mercy by 1990....
B: Let me ask you this. When you found out that you all were going to
close the school, where did you go?
R: I was sent to Kirby-Smith under Mr. Hunter.
B: Did you go as a school teacher?
R: Sure, I taught second grade there.
B: How was the reaction of the children and the faculty to receive you that
R: It was not the attitude they had at A. Quinn Jones. They received me,
not too warmly, but they received me. So far as the faculty, it was not
too warm, but I always managed to get along with my parents. So in this
situation, even though I had black and white parents, I got along.
B: No problems.
R: I got along with black and white parents.
B: You did not make home did you?
R: Oh yes, I did. I made home visitations to the blacks and the whites.
That had been a part of me, I could not stop. Because while I was at
A. Quinn Jones I visited homes. And so I knew that if I visited the home
and get the parents' cooperation, my children were going to succeed
wherever they were. And that is just what I did. I made home visits and
I made friends.
B: When they phased A. Quinn Jones out because of integration, were there any
white faculty at A. Quinn Jones?
R: Yes. They had two, they had a reading specialists and a supervisor, Mrs.
Nedra Johnson was the supervisor and Miss Inez Cortney, the same lady that
is retiring from Archer this year, was the reading teacher. Those two
were on our faculty.
B: Did you have any white students there?
R: Yes. There was a group, a family, that lived in Thorton Robertson's
house. I have forgotten the name.
B: In Thorton Robert's house, across from A. Quinn Jones?
R: Yes. That two-story house. I think the family is back in it now. But at
that time there was a white family in it. I believe the father was a
faculty member of the University of Florida and it seems as though they
had five children.
B: And they went to A. Quinn Jones?
B: Being a teacher for more than thirty-five years, and being brought up
with a father who was a teacher, what did integration do to the black
child and the black life?
R: It did a lot. Number one: They did not try to encourage those children
that needed a lot of help with their skills. They did not have a lot of
patience. If the child needed a little more than the ordinary attention,
they did not get it. They began isolating our children. Something that
they were not accustomed to. They also began ignoring them, which is
worse. I think children going into those integrated schools lost out not
because they did not have the ability but because they did not have the
stimulus that they were used to getting. There was no one there to
motivate them when they needed it most and no one there to challenge them.
In my book they have been sliding backwards ever since.
B: So you felt that the black school was important. It played a major role
with that child.
R: It did, and I can say it because I came from way back. From way down
there when they did not have their own books. I can remember when my dad
had to buy our books and the older children took very good care of those
books because we had to use them. They could not get books like children
get them now. My dad paid for every book we had. And I very well
remember he would buy a set of pencils at the beginning of the school
year. He would divide each pencil in half. He would put a little circle
around the top of it. Put a string on it for us to put around our necks
and we wrote with that pencil until it got just enough to hold the tip of
it and still write because he could not afford to buy a lot of pencils to
throw away. So we learned to make those pencils do. I really think we
made those pencils take us through a year. It was not but five months.
B: So the parents had to buy all your supplies. And they were passed down.
R: Handed down, but that is all right. They were used and that is what books
are for and what tools are for, to be used.
B: That is very true. In your teaching, before they closed A. Quinn Jones,
did you have the adequate supplies you needed to teach school?
R: Not always. It was nothing for me to go and buy certain materials that I
wanted to challenge my children with. I delighted in getting things that
I knew that was going to help my class.
B: On your salary?
R: Out of that little salary that I was getting, that is what I did.
B: Why did you do that?
R: Because I was concerned about my children. I told you we have got to be
more than a teacher with a group of children. We have got to be like a
family. Many of those children came home with me on Friday evenings and
went to Sunday School and went to church later on in the day. And they
tease me about it now. "Miss Robinson, I remember when you used to take
us home with you on the weekends and make us go to church on Sunday."
B: So you actually became a family. That learning was put in outside that
building. So it actually was on of those places where you say education
R: Just like the Missionaries and Women's and Home Mission and Educational
Convention. We had last week. I would load my car up as far as they
could get in that car. It was not anything for me to get twelve children
in a car and take them to my convention. And let them get out and say
their little speeches and do their little dramatizations. And they felt
good about themselves and I felt good for them. A dedicated teacher does
not see any color, they do not see any limitations. They see a child. A
child that they can challenge to their full potential, whatever it is.
That is what they are going to do.
B: We have talked about your teaching. You mentioned you had Daniel, and
Angela, and Shelton. And just looking at you and seeing your emotion in
talking about your years of teaching, did you tow the line with them here,
being with you?
R: They will tell you that. They said, "That my mommy was the worse mommy in
the world because she made us do things that we should not of had to do.
But she made us do them because she was a teacher." But then, guess what?
They are trying to make their children do that now.
B: Oh, really? Do you have any teachers?
R: I beg your pardon.
B: Are any of your children teaching?
R: My daughter is the music teacher at Littlewood. And Daniel teaches math
out at Talbot.
B: So they did follow the line of teaching. So this is what, the third
B: Third generation of teachers. You hear quite frequently that black boys
and girls are not doing well in college because they cannot read and
write. When you were teaching, were your children given the basic skills?
R: Yes. Because if they did not get the basics, it would be very difficult
to get those that comes after the basics. And so that was my main
objective. It took some longer than it did others to get those basics.
But just because the majority had gotten the basics did not mean that I
was supposed to leave it. I continued to work with those children that
did not have the basics until they were capable of moving on. Just
because they did not have the basics did not mean that I should brand them
as being a slow learner or a person that would never make it. It takes
more time for some than it does for others. And that is how I felt about
it. And in the long run, they came out. I will never forget, and I am
sure you remember that boy, I believe his name was Earl White. He went
through Mrs. Gaines's class when he was at A. Quinn Jones. When they sent
him to Lincoln, he went through that. But do you know that boy, when he
got out of Lincoln and went on to college he finished cum laude at the
University of Florida. Now, I am not sure whether he is assistant to the
president of dean of the college or whatever, but he is at Stetson
University holding a very prominent position. And yet all through his
young life he was branded a slow learner. And it just burns me up.
Somewhere along the way somebody was wrong.
B: That is right. I was tagged as being a child that I, the term they used
now is that I was a behavior problem. I had a problem with my talking.
R: They said that you were always active.
B: I was hyper-active.
R: You were not being challenged.
B: That is what I was not.
R: And when you are not challenged, you are going to do something to get
back. You are going to get back.
B: I had one teacher tell me, I will never forget, that I will never be
anything. And when I got my first degree from the University of Florida I
went back and brought it to that person. It is not good to put that
label on people because people can change.
R: When she said you were not going to do anything, you did not let it affect
you. But it could have.
B: That is true.
R: If you had not been a strong person, it could have made you go further
into a shell.
B: And I had a teacher that let me know that I could do it and kept it
R: And that meant the best thought.
B: It meant a lot. What do you think it going to happen to the black boys
and girls in school today that are not getting the Charlotte Robinson type
of teaching? The type of closeness that was at the A. Quinn Jones school
when I was there. Where they do not have that identity. Where they are
not able to stand on the stage and recite a poem and know they have got to
recite it correctly because they know you are watching and mom and daddy
is watching and you will do very well. What is going to happen to all the
boys and girls?
R: It is like it is now. Very seldom do our boys and girls get an
opportunity to do those things. So they do not do them so much any more.
And if things go on as they are maybe ten years from now they will not be
doing it at all. Something has to happen.
B: Do you think it is going to happen?
R: It is doubtful.
B: Do you think we are going to go back to the black school/white school?
R: No. I do not think we are going back to black and white schools as such.
But I do think something is going to happen where some people are going to
start working with our children to motivate them, to let them know that
they have something to do. I just could not ever, ever forget what my dad
would always tell me, not only me but he told every one of his children,
"If Sally can do it, so can you. You have the ability to do whatever you
wish to do. And you do not sit back here and say I cannot, because you
B: Oh, did he tell you that?
R: He would always tell us that and it came up in me wherever I went. It was
in me so strong when I would go in a classroom. I challenged. I let the
teacher know who I was from the time I got in there.
B: Did you really?
R: Oh, yes. And then I would act the part. I would be ready to speak out
with my opinion. Let her know that I knew a little something. And I
always made it. And then when I got to be the mother of these three
children, plus my husband and I raised about eight more, so we really
raised about thirteen children. I would tell them the same thing. I
would say, "You can do it. If thus and so can do it, so can you. Because
you have the same ability they have and you can do it. I am counting on
you to do it."
B: And when they would do it, would you say you did it for me.
R: When they would do it, I would go up, I would hug their neck so tight
until they knew that their mother was happy. And then I would say, "I am
so proud of you. I knew you could do it. I told you all the time you
could do it." That is how it was. And right now when my daughter is
doing something special, like the State Backer's Convention, they had 5,000
in the choir. And she was one of the organists. And she said, "Mamma."
And I said, "Well, I do not think I can go because I cannot go and stay
all night from my sister." She said, "Momma, if you go I will come back
as soon as the program is over, because, mommy, you got to be there."
B: Were you there?
R: I was there.
B: And did she do an excellent job?
R: Yes. But it was so beautiful to see so many people playing at one time.
And all of these people praising God at one time. God cannot stand it.
He always gets to be in the middle.
B: That is true.
R: And it was right there.
B: I bet it was. You know, I just so have enjoyed talking to you and I feel
that the chidlren nowadays have lost something because they do have those
teachers that are there. But I want to get to a point before westop
today and go to another point, come back to this later. You did a special
kind of teaching. You were some other type of teacher. What kind of
teacher was that?
R: After twenty-fiveyearsof teaching I was promoted to a home/school
B: What is that?
R: This is where you go out into the community, you work with the different
institutions, organizations, the parents, the teachers, the principals.
You also work with the children. I was not only a counselor for the
children, but I was somewhat like a liason person between the school and
the community. And I talked with and gave advice to parents. Right now,
the reason I stay so busy, is because some of those parents that I used to
work with as a home/school counselor tell other people how helpful I was
to them. They call me now and I still go. I go because it is my desire.
If I can help someone, everyday, I want to. I go because a lot of those
people would not get some of the things they get, but those institutions
know me. They used to not want to see my face, but I would go on in
B: Oh, really? They knew that you were there for some concern.
R: Fighting for someone. But now they tell me, "You know you make our job
easier. If we had five or six more people like you, it would certainly be
good for us." And now they listen to me, because they know that I am
concerned about people. They know when I come in it is a very serious
matter that needs attending to.
B: You were called a home bound counselor?
R: I was called home/school counselor.
B: And was that in this county?
R: Right here in Alachua. That is what I retired from.
B: Where was your office located?
R: At Prairie View. Now the first office that I had was at Gainesville
Housing where they have a little school called Woodland Park. That school
first started out with a name Project Circuit. B.B. Fernside wrote a
grant to teach children from three to four. And it was something. Those
children that were through that program were dynamic.
B: She wrote a project for children?
R: She is a lady that I retired under. Right now she is the direcotr of the
Head Start program. And I am on the board of directors for that program
because they know how concerned I am about children. That was where my
office was for three years. And then I was at Prairie View for three
years and my last four years were at Duval. My office was at Duval. And
most any of them can tell you, that at a certain time of the day I would
be in the office, and at a certain of the day that I went out into the
community. I would make appointments for children that needed physical.
And I would take them to the children's department at Shands. I would
take them. I have forgotten how much insurance, look like I was covered
with something like $500,000 worth of insurance.
B: So you would actually take the children in your car? How were these
children referred to you, or how were you referred to them?
R: They were referred by teachers. Some parents came in and personally
talked to me, the director. And some how they worked it out through the
B: And now did you get students from all the different schools in the county
or when you were at Duval would just get the students from Duval?
R: Yes, that is the way it was. The children coming into Prairie View were
served. But it was a blessing to be in that program. It was a federal
grant. And children attending schools under this grant get all of their
physical. They would get dental services. They would get eye services
and if they needed glasses, they got glasses. They got shoes if they
needed shoes. They got clothing if the needed clothing. I was given
these things called vouchers. Children with problems, I would take them
in, I probably would pick up the mother and she would go along and we
would pick out the things the child needs. And I would have this voucher
that I would sign and we would go to the store.
B: I never heard of that before. Did you enjoy that very much?
R: Very much. And guess what the supervisor would tell you? B.B. Fernside,
is head of the Head Start program, right upstairs at the school board. If
I walked in her office right now and asked her to tell you something about
Charlotte Robinson, you would have to tell her, "I have got to go. I
cannot wait any longer." Because she would be talking about me.
B: And now when you retired, was that position dissolved or was it filled?
R: They discontinued that position, but she now has some similar, but they
are not as good. She tells people right now, if she could find her five
Charlotte Robinsons, she could do wonders. And I have a letter that I
justreceivedinviting me to come in and help select thepersonnel and
help decideon what children. I would help go throughthefiles, the
applications andthings likethis. I would sit withthemasthey
interviewed for positions.
B: Are you still active after you have been retired? Are you still doing a
lot of volunteer work?
R: I am very active. In fact, I work more than I did when I retired.
B: Really? What are some of the things you are doing now?
R: My first priority is the senior citizens who are unable to get out. I do
their business, I tend to their business for them. I go down and fight
for them for food stamps, and I stand in the food line just like the rest
of them and gather up all this stuff I am getting for other people. And I
put it in my car and I bring it to them. That is why I got some little
old beat up little cars now. Because, I had a Cadillac. That is all I
had and I did not have anything else to ride in. I was using it. But
they say over television, "Do you see them coming down there getting out
of the Cadillac, coming in and getting stuff. And they do not deserve it.
How can they drive a Cadillac?" Maybe they saw some people like me going
in and fighting for people.
B: You were going to get it for someone else.
R: And I would fight, too. And those people would say, "I never seen anybody
fight for somebody for something like it was yours." I would say, "Well,
they are not able to fight for themselves." And so that is what I was
doing. Well, I have grandchildren and I am their guardian. So I have to
be in the schools, checking on them and going to things that I have to
represent my grandchildren. And so people already remember me from
working in the school system. And they call on me to come to the school
and do certain things, because I am a part of it. I have got grand kids
in there and they expect me to do certain things.
B: Do you go out and do a lot of things for the school?
R: I am very active. Whenever they need a representative, I always am one of
the persons they send this request to ask me if I would represent them. I
am on a committee called the Historic Committee for Alachua County. And
through this committee, I was the head person in this committee and I gave
my name to a lady who had wrote a grant. Because if they thought that if
they had enough people go in and help these teachers with children who
were having problems or with children who were ot being challenged, then
they felt like it would make a deep impact on children's progress. So the
president of this board, when they called her and asked if there was any
one in her own community she would like to refer to them. They needed
some people. We are called mentors. And mentors means you are post-
teaching children that have been exposed to things but did not get enough.
B: What school are you a mentor for?
R: I work with Duval Elementary School and Rawlings. You heard me telling
Davis how the children were so excited yesterday. And the lady that was
calling me and I took the phone off, I should not have done it because she
might have called me back, but she is trying to get me material because
Friday we are going to put our display out showing what they have learned
on their own about Florida. They had a unit on Florida, but these two
little girls want to learn more about Florida, so for the past six weeks,
this is the sixth week, I have been working with them two mornings a week
for two hours. So Friday we are going to put everything out where other
people can see what they have learned.
B: Would you go back into the classroom today to teach full-time?
R: I would not teach full-time. But Lord knows that I would use four hours
so well that you would think it was full-time.
B: You would?
R: Everyone I take in my hands, I am going to put everything I got with them.
And not only am I going to do that, I am going to push them and motivate
them like they have never been motivated before, because I think that is
what they need.
B: That is true. When you were teaching, were there any programs for your
slow learner, your uneducated, your mentally retarded? Did they have
R: Yes, after I got to be at A. Quinn Jones we had those programs.
B: You did have those programs. There were some children that could not and
they had special teachers for them.
R: Yes, but not one came from mine. Every child in my room got what he
needed. And those that might have been slow, they made it. And some of
those same children that were slow maybe in my grade, by the time they
even got to sixth grade were able to keep up with the class. And I never
referred a child of mine to the committee for getting this help as a slow
learner, because I felt like as a teacher it was my responsibility.
B: To make him a fast learner. I see.
R: Not a child that has been in slow learning classes, ever came from my
room. And I have had them. It was not that they were not branded slow
learners when they came to me. That is why Miss Jordan gave them to me.
B: They could use your help now. Are you not very involved in your
R: Right. We are trying to make this a better neighborhood, a more
beautiful neighborhood, a cleaner neighborhood. And we are succeeding
B: Has the neighborhood gone down over the years? Was it not once upon a
time a very pleasant place to live? Homes, more people living in the
area, stores? Has that not changed a lot in the last years? What is
causing it? Are people moving out or are there other kinds of people
R: It bothers me because some of our people who could have done quite well
right here in this community, they have moved into other communities where
they are not so many blacks. All of their socialization and all of that
is right back over here, but they just did not want to be here anymore.
But we can take what we have and make it what we want it to be.
B: That is true.
R: And that is what I would like to see. I would like to see us take so much
pride in this community until as we ride along you will say, "Well, gosh,
everybody takes care of their yards. I do not see any paper flying around
here or lying here or there." I want our community to stand outbecause
wecan. It only takes all of us working together and we are going to do
it. We are going to do it.
B: That is very good. What church are you affiliated with?
R: Johnson Chapel.
B: Are you very involved there?
B: Have you been a member of that church since you have been in Gainesville?
R: Ever since I moved here and my husband and I joined there and he stayed in
it until he passed thirteen years ago. And I plan to be there until the
Lord calls me.
B: Has that always been named Johnson Chapel?
R: Yes. It is named for a man by the name of Johnson and one pastor of that
church was a relative of the Johnson family. We are going to have our
seventy-ninth anniversary the first Sunday in July. And I would feel
quite honored if I could have you there as my guest.
B: The first Sunday in July, if I am here, I will definitely be your guest.
R: I will tell you when I want you. I want you that evening at three
o'clock, because that is the time that it is going to be the best. That
morning is going to be good, but that evening is going to be fantastic.
B: Really? Well, you put me down. I will be there as one of your guests.
R: I think you know the person who is president of our State Backer's
Convention. Do you not know Henry Limes?
R: He is young, he is not as young as you are, but he is young in my book.
And he has done so well. Oh, the Lord has used that man. And our
convention was just something. Like I told you we were at this convention
in Orlando and this particular night was a Friday night. And we were at
the Tangerine Bowl because there were so many people it could not be any
place else. It was just fantastic. I could never forget it. Oh, it was
B: I have been here long enough and I guess I need to get ready to leave
because I do not want to tire you. But I want to ask you two other
questions before we leave today. Has Charlotte Webb Robinson been
R: Not exactly. I guess I should not say that as old as I am and as many
experiences as I have had, the Lord has been very good to me. But there
are still some things I want to do.
B: What for instance?
R: So many people need help. A lot of these children who get in trouble,
they need a little bit more attention. Sometimes people do things because
they are neglected and they want someone to know that they can do
something that will cause some attention. That is one reason. Another
reason: everyone needs a friend. And a friend is so nice to have. And
when you make a child your friend, you are going to have a friend as long
as you live, because that child is going to still be your friend. There
are so many little children. I mentioned I worked for senior citizens. I
never did get around to all the things I do or why, but I also work with
these mothers who get aid for dependent children. And I fight for them
because they need somebody to help them. So, as long as I am making
somebody happy, that is the only happiness I get. And it looks like I
cannot reach all that needs to be reached. And until these people that I
am concerned about are happy, all my desires will not be fulfilled.
B: If you had to relive your life over, would you do anything differently
that you have not done?
B: Would you be a teacher again?
B: Was there any other profession that you would have liked to have gone in
that you did not go into?
R: When I was a child, I do not know why because I did not go to any movies
to make me want to be a movie star, but I always wanted to be an actor.
R: In my high school, I always did a lot of acting. I really could play the
role of acting when I was young.
B: So you wanted to be an actress? Maybe that was your calling and you just
R: You know, out of all the things that I would have like to have been, I
think I have been them. Because when you play the role of a teacher, you
have been just about everything.
B: I like that statement. When you be a teacher, you have played the role of
everything. So you have actually had the chance to serve in many
R: Because what I did not do myself, I have helped some others to do.
B: Beautiful. Talking with you today, and this interview will be at the
University of Florida Archives for years to come and in the library. If
you had a statement that could be attached to your name, what would you
tell the person that came along behind me that you would share with them.
Something that you might leave with them that could be beneficial to them
or that you would say that they need to do with their lives.
R: If I had the opportunity to speak to someone who is coming on, I would
tell them that there is nothing impossible for them to do, but they must
first believe in themselves. I would tell them that if anyone else can do
it, so can they because they are endowed with the same attributes as
anyone else, because God gave them to them.
B: That is it? I have enjoyed talking to you today.
R: Well, I have enjoyed talking.
B: Thank you. Is there anything that we have not covered that we should
cover about Charlotte Robinson?
R: I have not begun to tell you all the experiences I have had.
B: Well, can I come back and find out about some of those experiences?
B: In your travel?
R: Oh, yes. I have done a lot of traveling and the good part about it, all
those traveling was given to me as gifts from God. I attended six
institutes during the years they paid grants for you to attend nine or ten
weeks in the summer. I told you my husband and I bred children. I did
not tell you anything about all the children that we raised and how they
remember me on days like Easter and Mother's Day and Christmas. Just like
Angela and Danny and Junior. I have a big family.
B: I must come back and talk to you about that big family and about those
trips that you have had.
R: Oh, I had some experiences. I was in the state of Washington in 1968. I
was the only black student and this was a university. There were black
instructors there, but there were no black students. And I was the only
black student that was in that institute. And the first day that I was
there I just cried and cried because the way I looked, I could not see any
black people. But I have never had a better summer. On weekends, my
classmates, some lived in mountain cabins and some lived on lakes and
things like that. Every weekend I was either somewhere in the mountains
or somewhere on a lake at a resort. Given the best attention, they would
not let me spend one dime. And I was the only black.
B: So they were gifts of God?
R: I know they had to be from God. I had some of my friends laughing. They
knew I was catching the plane to come home because my husband got sick.
My sister called and said I need to come home. I was supposed to be there
for ten weeks but I was only there for eight and a half weeks. Everyone
was so sympathetic. They paid me that one and a half weeks that I did not
attend. I was getting seventy-five dollars a week for myself. All my
meals and books, everything was paid for by this grant. And so they find
out I have to come home early. One of them took me home with her to spend
the night, so that she could take me to the airport. And they took me out
todinnerand just made everything as peaceful as they could and then I
tookmy bath and went to bed and rested,they always gave metheguest
room. And about five o'clock that morning we had to get ready to go catch
my plane. Butthe touching thing was when I got out of the car and we
went to walk into the terminal, there sat all of my classmates.
R: Now, you are talking about a touching thing.
B: I know that was touching.
R: That was a touching thing. Here I was in a place I had never been. And
here I was where there was no other blacks and yet no other blacks had
done this for me.
B: So they were all at the airport with you?
R: All my classmates showed up that morning around six o'clock. And when I
went out to get on my plane, they sang Dixie. My friends got angry when I
told them that they sang Dixie because there is something about some of us
in the South that they do not like to hear this song. But you know, it is
different when you know people are not doing it to belittle you, but are
doing it because of this special feeling that we have for each other. So
they thought that this was really an honor to do when I boarded that
plane. And do you know that I accepted it with pride because I know that
they were not doing it in any other way but that.
B: I know you had to. Listen, you really have had some delightful
experiences. I will look forward to coming back and talking to you.
Thank you very kindly for your interview.