This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
A~ooIZ .0 o
TO TELL THE STORY
August 8, 1997
(Ms. Wanza): This is Stephanie Wanza, I'm here at the
home Mrs. Wilhelmenia Jennings and we will be beginning our
interview. Today's date is August 8, 1997.
The first set of questions I'm going to be asking are
regarding family life. Where were your parents born?
(Mrs. Jennings): My mother was born in Key West, Florida and
my father was born in Green Turtle Key in the Bahamas. She came
here to Miami in 1894 with mother and father and they lived in the
area called Lemon City at that time, it was called Lemon City and
he worked on a grove. I think it was a lemon grove, that's what it
was because not any of this was here at that time because not any
of this was here at that time. This was just wilderness, this part
of Miami and he worked with the Fowlers. The Fowlers had a boat
that they would go from here to Key West and take people and I
think that's how my grandfather got in contact with him and he
brought his family up here.
There were three children, my mother was the oldest and she
had a brother and a sister.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, the next question is did they ever live in
Overtown, did your parents ever live in Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): Oh yes. I was born in Overtown on Tenth
Street, it was called "H" Street or some letter...they had letters
at that time. The streets were not numbered, they had letters. I
think it was "H".
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, what years did they live in Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): From record of the sale, well I guess from
1907. See my mother and father got married in 1907 and they lived
over there because my sister was born in 1910...was born on Ninth
Street and another sister of mine were born over there on Tenth
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, what sought of jobs did they have?
(Mrs. Jennings): As I told you, my father was a fisherman and
captain of the boat and he owned houses, we had five houses over
there. My mother did domestic work when she did work, she didn't
work all the time but she did, she did domestic work.
(Ms. Wanza): Where were your grandparents born?
(Mrs. Jennings): My grandmother was born in Key West but her
family came from St. Kit one of the islands in south. Now my
grandfather was born in Green Turtle Key also like my father.
(Ms. Wanza): Did they ever live in Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): Yes, yes, they lived in Overtown.
(Ms. Wanza): What years did they live in Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): Now, I'm going to make a rough guess at
this...from the time my father met my mother must have been in 1903
or '04. That's when he met... he came over here and he met her and
from that time on until both of them died.
(Ms. Wanza): What sought of jobs did your grandparents have?
(Mrs. Jennings): My grandfather was a mason and my
grandmother just was a housewife.
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe what it was like growing up
in your parents' household?
(Mrs. Jennings): Yeah. It was a very loving home. My father
was a person who provided for his family, not only his immediate
family but see he had three sisters that lived right around us and
he had like an old English tradition, he felt that he was the
protector, although they were married and had children. He felt
that he was the protector of his family and any time family member
would come from the Bahamas, they knew they had a place to stay -
at our house. It was a loving kind environment I would say because
they stressed education and moral, character and they were very
loving parents. I never saw anything, I would say, out of them
that they were not because they lived together until he died. He
died first and so he was a provider although my mother also worked
because she wanted to have more, she wanted her children to have
more than what they were able to give by him just working.
(Ms. Wanza): The next set of questions are regarding
employment between 1945 and 1970...
(Mrs. Jennings): Employment? Of?
(Ms. Wanza): For you.
(Mrs. Jennings): Me.
(Ms. Wanza): Of yourself, yeah.
(Mrs. Jennings): Okay.
(Ms. Wanza): Can you describe the types of jobs you had
during that time?
(Mrs. Jennings): '47 you said? Well ah...
(Ms. Wanza): '45.
(Mrs. Jennings): '45. Well I finished college in '41 so I
began teaching. So all my life that's all I've done except when I
was growing up, I did little work for...I wouldn't call it work, it
was just summertime work, like children have summer work now. I
did a little summer work, I worked at the 5 & 10 Cent Store but
just for a short time, that was not really a job. It was just
something to do at that time.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Where were those jobs located?
(Mrs. Jennings): I worked at McCrory. They had a cafeteria
and a lady that lived in my house needed someone to come there to
help her like measure things for her because she was a baker...she
did the baking. So it was just a little summer job and I also ran
the elevator at one of the hotels, the Ritz. At that time it was
called the Ritz Hotel. I also worked for D.A. Dorsey in his office
because I got that from Mrs. Wallows, our commercial teacher. She
taught shorthand and typewriting and he needed somebody to work for
him and he hired two of us to work for him and I did that in the
summer and a part of one year because I didn't go to school after
I finished the first year, I just worked up until like January and
then ummm...So that's the type...all the work I did but from '41 on
I taught until I retired in '81.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, what schools did you teach in?
(Mrs. Jennings): I taught down to Goulds at Mays.
(Ms. Wanza): At Goulds and at Mays?
(Mrs. Jennings): No, Mays was the name of the school.
(Ms. Wanza): Oh, Mays in Goulds, okay.
(Mrs. Jenningz): Yes.
(Ms. Wanza): What kind of hours did you work?
(Mrs. Jennings): School hours. From 8 until 3 or 4.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay.
(Mrs. Jennings): Then I taught at Bethune and Kelsey Park.
Comstock is the one that I retired from.
(Ms. Wanza): What years did you have these jobs?
(Mrs. Jennings): The one in Goulds was from '41 until about
'43 or '44 and I only taught two years down there because it was so
far. The next was Bethune, those years...I must have worked there
about 10 or 15 years. So I can't give you the exact date but I
worked there about 15 years and then Kelsey Park about 15 also
because I worked 40 years in all, after that I...maybe we can
figure it out, you know, what years they were. I worked at
Comstock and that's where I retired in '81.
(Ms. Wanza): The next question is, how did you find work?
(Mrs. Jennings): Well ah, the way the system worked at that
time, almost everybody knew each other and when I finished, I went
to the school and talked with the principal and, of course, you had
to go down to the School Board and the superintendent would hire
you but you would also, would already have had some interview with
a principal that knew you were you were looking for job and that's
how I got my job.
(Ms. Wanza): Where did the other members of your family work?
(Mrs. Jennings): I think when were talking before I told you
I had two sisters both of them were teachers also and one worked at
Carver in the Grove and the other one worked at Douglas.
(Ms. Wanza): Beginning in the late '50s many immigrants moved
to Miami from the Caribbean including Cuba, Haiti and other
countries. Do you believe that these immigrants competed with
Overtown residents for jobs?
(Mrs. Jennings): Not only did they, they are now, taking over
their jobs. All those people from Nicaragua that's all you see
working and even doing the menial jobs that Blacks had, they're
doing it now and most definitely they did, not only competed but
ummm they have secured all these jobs.
(Ms. Wanza): Do you recall people moving into the Overtown
area from out of town?
(Mrs. Jennings): Oh, a long time ago they did because that
was the mecca for Black people to be over there so many people...
because most of the people that lived in our houses...many of them
were from Georgia and New Orleans. I can remember people who had
children and they were from Georgia and New Orleans.
(Ms. Wanza): Do you recall where they were from?
(Mrs. Jennings): Georgia and New Orleans and other places,
southern states mostly.
(Ms. Wanza): Where did they live in Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): They lived wherever they could get a place
to live but I should say here the houses next to us, a group of
those people came from the Bahamas and they seemed to live in
groups because I know several settlements of houses in Overtown,
the ones right next to us, I think those people were from...I think
the place is called Cat Island. Then a few...not blocks but places
over, there were people from a different island and they seemed to
live together just like people do now. I guess all the Cubans live
together and those from Nicaragua live together so people usually
find there likings b.t we found out, I mean thought about it now
that people that came from say the States and even Florida, north
of here, they just lived wherever they could, they didn't cluster
into groups like the people from the islands.
(Ms. Wanza): What sought of jobs did they have?
(Mrs. Jennings): They worked over to the Beach as domestic
work in hotels and those type of places.
(Ms. Wanza): The next set of questions are regarding whether
or not the interviewee owned a business and I know you said you
didn't own one personally but your father owned a business.
(Mrs. Jennings): Yeah, my father and mother, yeah.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, what kind of business did he own?
(Mrs. Jennings): First he had a boat where he would take
people to the islands and even around here. In fact, in our
family, we have a joke that my daddy had first cruise line
(laughter) that held maybe about five or six people and I can show
you the manifest where he brought people back...the paper I found
not too long ago and then he had a fish market because he would
fish also and had people who go fishing in his boat for him and he
had a market where he sold fish. Then we had houses, we had five
house on that lot that my sister and I and my niece still own in
Overtown. We tore the houses down but we still have the property.
(Ms. Wanza): Where was his business located?
(Mrs. Jennings): On Ninth Street. The fish market was there
and the rooming houses, the houses were there too.
(Ms. Wanza): Who were his employees?
(Mrs. Jennings): Now, I, I can't remember.
(Ms. Wanza): His employees, okay and do you know how he found
(Mrs. Jennings): I guess people who were right around town.
I do know of one man that worked for him and all we called him was
Cuz but how he got him, I don't know. I know he use to go fishing
for my daddy.
(Ms. Wanza): Who were his customers?
(Mrs. Jennings): People in the neighborhood and, of course,
some of those people that he took on trips were of the other race
also because he...well there were not very many people with boats
at that time. See this is in 1919 according to this paper that I
found when he had his boat so you know Miami was just a very new
city, a baby city.
(Ms. Wanza): Who was his main competition?
(Mrs. Jennings): I don't think he had much of a competition
because if he did, I don't know.
(Ms. Wanza): Alright. Did he ever move closer to business or
did he keep his residence?
(Mrs. Jennings): No, the business was right near the
(Ms. Wanza): Did he ever change the location of his business?
(Mrs. Jennings): No.
(Ms. Wanza): Alright, the next set of questions will be
regarding neighborhood life between 1945 and 1970. Could you
describe your place of residence?
(Mrs. Jennings): Ummm '45, well I was just out of school I
guess and you said describe like what?
(Ms. Wanza): The place of residence like how...
(Mrs. Jennings): It was comfortable because...
(Ms. Wanza): What type of house, where was it located?
(Mrs. Jennings): It was on Ninth Street and as I told you, we
had five houses there. Two houses set in the front and they were
six-room houses and we lived in one of them and the other one was
rented out. Now, in the middle of the lot was a two-story house
that was a rooming house downstairs and it had two apartments
upstairs, it was a twelve room house with baths at the back of it
and that's way they use to build them at that time. Then we had
two small houses. Lately they call them shotgun houses, you know,
I guess you heard that term before. Two small houses, two three-
room houses. I understood that those houses were in the front and
when my father...then they were moved in the middle of lot and they
built these two six-room houses there. When my father decided to
build this twelve room house, he moved them further back in the lot
and so everything was right there. Now when he had the fish market
he rented that building which was across the street from us from
Mrs. Walker, Jeanna Walker.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. So you lived with your parents after you
came back from school?
(Mrs. Jennings): Yes with my...well my father was dead and I
lived with my mother on Ninth Street.
(Ms. Wanza): Who lived in your household other than yourself
and your mom?
(Mrs. Jennings): The two of us lived there because my sister
was married when I finished school and she lived in one of the
other houses, the other six-room house and my middle sister, I'll
call her, I'll call her middle because she was the second, she
lived upstairs in one of the apartments upstairs.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, could you describe the street where you
(Mrs. Jennings): Yes, at that time ummm, we thought it was
great. We knew everybody and everybody knew you and even when we
were going to school, you had to speak to everybody as you went to
school. So that grew up in us to speak to the neighbors as you
walked down the street. There were all houses that people lived in
and my grandfather lived across the street.
(Ms. Wanza): Who were your neighbors?
(Mrs. Jennings): Across the street was Mrs. Bloomfield, you
talked with her, that was my grandfather. Her father was my
grandfather and ah they had quite a number of houses over there.
On the side of us were just people who moved in from other places
and they were...we were all friendly, very...not like it is here,
of course, I speak to my neighbors, you know my sister lives next
door, but not friendly like we were. Because after all, we were
children then and they had children. So we were in and out of each
(Ms. Wanza): Where did your neighbors work?
(Mrs. Jennings): Domestic work. Most of them worked on the
Beach or downtown in...I don't think we had anybody...Oh yes, we
did have one or two who were teachers but that was not right in our
(Ms. Wanza): What happened to those neighbors?
(Mrs. Jennings): Most of them moved out. Especially...I lost
contact with many of them after 95 came in because we were talking
about a lady yesterday and I couldn't remember her name. When I
got home, my sister and I, we were out together and I...neither one
of us could remember her name. I remembered her daughter's name
but I couldn't remember her name. When I got home, I remember and
I called her right away to tell her who it was. The lady that
lived directly across from us. So people just moved away after the
city was divided. I'll call it divided but sepa...you know...I-95.
(Ms. Wanza): So basically they left after 95 came through?
(Mrs. Jennings): Yes, yes.
(Ms. Wanza): Do you know where they went?
(Mrs. Jennings): Many of them came out in this area.
(Ms. Wanza): Liberty City area.
(Mrs. Jennings): Liberty City area and not...you know from
Forty-Six Street, cause I met several...
(Ms. Wanza): So they mostly moved north?
(Mrs. Jennings): North, yes in the city.
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe the main business areas you
went to in Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): You mean where you buy?
(Ms. Wanza): Yes.
(Mrs. Jennings): Well it was a grocery store by the name of
Nick...he had a grocery store but you see my mother worked out and
we did most of our shopping at Shell. I think it was Shell, that
was a big store like they have now, a grocery store and we would
have to go cross the railroad track but there were other little
grocery stores in the neighborhood and one of them was Nick
Montgomery had a grocery store and Mr. Arnold had a grocery store
there and there were other little stores. She did most of her, our
shopping was done from the big store. It's wasn't Shell, it wasn't
Shell, Shell was out here. Maybe that name will come to me but it
was a big store Overtown, a big market that you could go in and
they had baskets that...ah it wasn't on the rollers like they are
now. We would go over there and do most of our shopping over there
but small items we could go to even Nick, Mr. Arnold and there was
another store, I can't think of it now, he had a store.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, alright. Could you describe where your
family brought groceries? I know you just explained, they went to
the main grocery store.
(Female???) Piggly Wiggly?
(Mrs. Jennings): Well, Piggly Wiggly was one but that was
down on Twelfth Street but it was one on Fifth Street and Miami
Avenue. Do you...
(Female???) I forget what it was.
(Mrs. Jennings): Tip Top, that's what it was.
(Ms. Wanza): Tip Top?
(Mrs. Jennings): Yeah, Tip Top. Did you ever hear of that?
(Ms. Wanza): So your family went to Tip Top for groceries?
(Mrs. Jennings): But we also bought grocery...and see what my
father would do as I told you he was like a...I don't know if you
call a man a matriarch but he would buy things because he had a
sister that had many boys and he would buy like a 100 pounds of
rice (laughter) and he would tell my mamma be sure and give Susan,
that was his sister so much out of it and he had another sister who
was divorced, she just had two children, and give Girty so much out
of it (laughter) and he would buy things by, you know, a lot of it.
(Mrs. Jennings): Yes, he would...because he was a man who got
around see. My father got around quite a bit.
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe where your family went to the
barber shop or beauty shop?
(Mrs. Jennings): Ah, I don't know where my daddy went to.
I'm trying to think of where mamma had her hair because at that
time I had a lot and she didn't allow me to straighten it at that
time. No. My other sister over here, I guess you saw her pictures
because she has plats down here. She didn't...I'm trying to think
of the lady who mamma when to...Mrs. Fannie...I think her name was
(Ms. Wanza): Mrs. Fannie. Do you know where it was located?
(Mrs. Jennings): Yeah, it was on Third Avenue and about Fifth
Street was a beauty shop and later I went to...when I got bigger
and start having my hair straightened was...I can't think of Ms.
Helen's name. All I can remember is Helen. She did hair, she had
a shop attached to her house and it was really a beauty parlor but
it was at her house on Ninth Street and Fourth Avenue.
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe where your family went to the
(Mrs. Jennings): Yeah, it was a place called Herroco, I think
(Ms. Wanza): Herroco?
(Mrs. Jennings): Un hun (laughter) I don't know how you spell
it. Because I really didn't you know delve into much medicine like
I am now. Oh boy! (laughter) I could tell...could write a book on
grocery...I mean drugstores.
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe where your family went to
(Mrs. Jennings): Yeah. We grew up in an episcopal church,
St. Agnes. That's all I know but, of course, my mother would take
us at times to different churches and when I couldn't...like when
we were very small and couldn't make it to St. Agnes, we would go
to Bethel because that was right in our backyard. All we had to
do...that's where I went to Sunday School quite a bit, to Bethel
but we were not members of that church. St. Agnes is where...
(Ms. Wanza): St. Agnes is on Third.
(Mrs. Jennings): Third but at first you know it was on Eighth
(Ms. Wanza): Okay it was on Eighth Street, moved on to Third.
(Mrs. Jennings): Eighth Street and Third Avenue then it moved
up to Seventeenth Street.
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe where your family went to the
(Mrs. Jennings): No, because at that time I guess we did all
our laundry mostly, you know, wash and wear but I image mamma did
have some of her nice things...
(Ms. Wanza): ...pressed.
(Mrs. Jennings): Parisian was one that I remember her going
to and that was on Flagler Street, Parisian Cleaners, for a long
time we went there.
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe where your family went for
entertainment such as theaters, bars, restaurants or sporting
(Mrs. Jennings): The first show was the Lyric and then the
Ritz came in and then the Sky Dome but we didn't go to that much,
that was on Thirteenth Street or Twelfth, Fourteenth Street but I
have been there to see certain pictures. Then those were the
shows, theaters. After I got grown and came back from school
because they didn't allow us to go to the Rockland Place only when
special clubs had dances, you could go to the Rockland Place and
the Harlem Square, we went there for dances.
(Ms. Wanza): When someone in your fgjly'got sick where did
they go to the doctor's office.
(Mrs. Jennings): Dr. Lowery was one of the doctors, Dr.
Sawyer, Dr. Lazon, and who else? Dr. Greene. Then like Jackson
was your last resort, you wouldn't go there unless you just had to
because at that time they were not very kind. They were not kind
at all to Blacks and you tried to do, you know, get better without
going there so that's where we went, to those doctors. The dentist
were doctor...I can't think of his name right now. Anyway we had
a few dentist in town that we went to, all Black.
(Ms. Wanza): How long did you continue to patronize those
businesses in Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): Until they started going down, down and it
wasn't safe and the goods were not...that's how come we gave up our
(Ms. Wanza): During the period from 1945 to 1970 what were
the main things that made Overtown a community?
(Mrs. Jennings): A community? I imagine the schools and the
churches were the things that held them together because I see, you
know, like Bethel, St. Agnes, Mt. Zion, they still hold. People
come...like I go from here over there to church. The question was
what now again, let's see if I'm keeping on that point.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, what were the main things that made
Overtown a community?
(Mrs. Jennings): I guess the schools and the churches and the
(Ms. Wanza): When did you begin to shop or go to
entertainment outside of Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): After I came...began...moved up here and
that's when my...things opened up because before everything was
over there. It was good. Of course, I had been to New York and
came back here and would still find things as good because most of
the entertainment would be at one of those nightclubs. Zebra
Lounge, that was at the Mary Elizabeth and I almost forget that
(laughter). Jackie Bell had a store, I mean a restaurant and
several other places that you could go and eat so after everything
over there began to take a spiral down then you had to find other
places to go.
(Ms. Wanza): When and how did that sense of community
(Mrs. Jennings): When? I would say around '68, '69. That's
when the change really was felt. Things got worse. I guess it was
no better word to put it...things got worse over there because
people didn't...I guess they didn't have the money or the outlook
to keep things going.
(Ms. Wanza): That's true. Okay. How has Overtown changed
(Mrs. Jennings): It has made a drastic change, most...in fact
it's a different place. If you go over there now, if you came from
somewhere else and you.hadn't been here in twenty years, you could
hardly find a place that you know because they're all broken down.
I mean they have demolished them, and vacant lots and I think they
are just waiting for us to finish moving out because there is no
way for them to go back south so they are going to take the
northern part. They always say I'm foolish for holding on but
we're...I guess, I don't know.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. The next set of questions will be
regarding 1-95. When and how did you first hear about the building
(Mrs. Jennings): Ummm, I can't give you an exact date but I
do know we knew that they were going to build an expressway as they
call it. I think it was an expressway through and ah they were
buying up property in the northern end of our area which was called
the "Colored Town" and I knew several people who were selling their
property. We wanted, when I say we, I'm talking about my sister
and I wanted to keep our place and see if we could build a better
place over there because I think it was around '60...I don't know,
it was before '60, it had to be '55 or something like that, a new
building was built on Second Court and we went to bank to see could
we could borrow to tear down those houses that we had and we
couldn't borrow any money and at that time we knew we were being
redlined and they just said they couldn't lend any money at that
time. So ummm...it was just...we were not asked to sell ours at
that time but those people that were living in the northern part,
right where 1-95 came through, they got notices because I know
several people who sold and some didn't sell and the rest of them
had to sell.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Where were you living at that time?
(Mrs. Jennings): Oh we moved in here in about '56 and I think
when 1-95 came through...Do you know what year, it was finished?
(Ms. Wanza): I know it was in the '60s when they started
(Mrs. Jennings): The reason I said that is because my son was
born up here. My last child was born here and he was born in '61,
so ummm and we were in this house and my sister didn't move over
here until '61 so it had to be '58. Now, what was the question?
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Where were you living during that time?
(Mrs. Jennings): So when it really went through...was
about...I was living here.
(Ms. Wanza): So at the present address, 1140 Northwest Sixty-
(Mrs. Jennings): Yeah if it was '58, '59, I was living here.
(Ms. Wanza): Did you rent or own the place where you lived
(Mrs. Jennings): No. We never rented, we owned, we...Bill
had this built. Yeah we had the house built.
(Ms. Wanza): What kind of a reaction was there to the news
that an expressway would come through Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): Well at first some people were happy because
they were eager to sell but they didn't know...oh, and they also
told them that they were going to fix up Overtown, then they could
come back. A lot of people thought that but that wasn't what they
did, they just, you know, got them out of there and from then it
spiraled down, it just went down, down.
(Ms. Wanza): Did you discuss 1-95 with any of your neighbors?
(Mrs. Jennings): No, because most of my neighbors were
rentals because on both sides of us there was an apartment
house...the rain, you want to go (laughter).
(Ms. Wanza): I'm just looking at the lightening out there,
flashing, okay (laughter). Did you attend a meeting where it was
discussed or signed a petition or discuss the issue with public
(Mrs. Jennings): No. No, I don't remember that at all.
(Ms. Wanza): What was the most important impact of the
expressway on you?
(Mrs. Jennings): Well, as I said, I don't whether I said this
before but it might have been in my mind, the clientele, the type
of people we were getting in our rooming house and our rentals went
down and even the caretaker that we had to get to keep the place
because we were out here, they were not like the ones that we had
in the beginning so, we just had the wrong crew that came in so it
had a great effect because after that we were having so much
problems renting and collecting the rent. At one time we had
rental agency to collect and couldn't collect so we just said,
well, we'll close the whole thing down. After we closed it, all of
the five houses down, we decided we weren't going to let it, them
deteriorate and fall down and derelicts live in it so we just
decided to clean the lots off, the lot off and clean the houses off
so that's what really happened.
(Ms. Wanza): What was it like when the expressway was being
constructed? I know you didn't actually live over there
(Mrs. Jennings): No, no we lived over here.
(Ms. Wanza): But ummm do you have any recollection of what it
was like during the construction?
(Mrs. Jennings): No because see where I taught was on this
side of the expressway and the only thing I would do, would go over
to see about the house. Okay and when you went over there to see
about the house did you...I know a lot of people complained about
(Mrs. Jennings): I imagine but see I had somebody keeping the
place. I guess it was bothersome because see, 1-95 goes right by
the property within a block, less than a block because it goes
right down, between Third and Fourth Avenue not between Second and
(Ms. Wanza): What did the community get from public officials
in return for 1-95 going through Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): I don't think they got anything.
(Ms. Wanza): How did 1-95 effect the community?
(Mrs. Jennings): It caused it to deteriorate, to become a
slum worse than it was. It did nothing for it.
(Ms. Wanza): We are going to end Side #1 of Tape #1 for Mrs.
Wilhelmenia Jennings. This is Stephanie Wanza and we are at her
home. We will begin questions on Side #2.
SIDE #2, TAPE #1
(Ms. Wanza): This is Stephanie Wanza and I am interviewing
Mrs. Wilhelmenia Jennings. Today's date is August 8, 1997, we were
discussing questions regarding 1-95 and we're going to begin off on
questions regarding her decision to move because of 1-95 coming
Okay, Mrs. Jennings when did you decide to change your place
(Mrs. Jennings): After my husband and I were married for
about three or four years, we decided to move out because we had
two children at that time and we wanted to build something more
comfortable because after we couldn't build over there what we
wanted, we decided to move out and they had some lots out here that
were...you know, as I have interjected that we did try to keep
those places going but we couldn't because of the clientele.
(Ms. Wanza): Why did you think it was appropriate for you to
change your place of residence?
(Mrs. Jennings): Because I had children and we wanted to
spread out and then the type of people that begin moving over there
were not I'll say good neighbors.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Alright, you never sold your property,
you still currently on it right?
(Mrs. Jennings): Yes, we own it right now (laughter) might be
getting rid of it with the taxes.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay what was the mortgage or rent in this house
compared to your former residence?
(Mrs. Jennings): Well see, my parents had paid for that.
(Ms. Wanza): I know.
(Mrs. Jennings): So it was no rent and this house...ah well
compared to what prices, now, it was comparable. I mean it was
great. We were able to pay it with no strain with two of us
working so ummm...and then we got a good deal on it because I knew
the ah...that same fellow that built this house and that one, he
had done work for my mother over there because we kept our place
up, we didn't let it g9 down. Although it was an old house she had
Stanley to just almost rebuild it and so when we got this, he
did...you know, I wouldn't say a favor, I think we would have
paid...I know we would have paid more somewhere else.
(Ms. Wanza): How did your choose your new residence?
(Mrs. Jennings): I'm trying to think...you know this area was
called "Little Korea" and the people were selling out. You
remember that, "Little Korea"? Because there were apartments over
there and Blacks begin moving in and they begin bombing those
apartments over there. It was right after, during the Korean War
and they didn't want the Blacks to move in here so every once and
while they would bomb one of the apartments. I don't think anybody
ever got killed.
(Female???): That was before my time if it was during the
Korean War, I hadn't moved to Miami then. I remember the name,
I've heard your children talk about the Little Korea.
(Mrs. Jennings): It might have been right after the...or
somewhere but this area was called Little Korea because they were
bombing this area because people were moving...Blacks were moving
in and they stayed a while because when we first moved here, there
were one or two Whites around.
(Ms. Wanza): How did you come to chose this area?
(Mrs. Jennings): Well they had lots for sale and we just came
over here and saw it and it was big enough for the two of us, you
know, we each got a lot and a half. He had this tract...No, it was
an aunt she wanted it too but then she decided she wasn't going to
bother anymore so my sister and I bought the three lots and it was
big enough for us.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, what was the neighborhood like in the new
location compared to the neighborhood from which you moved?
(Mrs. Jennings): Well I liked Overtown because I knew
everybody. I grew up over there but when we wanted to expand our
family and get something better, we found the people okay because
in front of us there was a nice...they were renters also but they
were nice and then James E. Scott had something right in front of
us, so everybody seemed to be okay.
(Ms. Wanza): The next set of questions are going to be
regarding public housing. I know you said that you really are not
too familiar with it but when did you first hear about the building
of public housing?
(Mrs. Jennings): The ones-that...in Overtown, that's the ones
you're talking about?
(Ms. Wanza): Yes, no not Liberty City, Overtown.
(Mrs. Jennings): Well, my understanding was until right now,
I thought those people were able to buy those apartments that they
were building for them because it looked like they said it was
Urban Renewal or something like that. They would be able to buy it
but now I understand it's a project owned by the government. So I
have very little knowledge of that.
(Ms. Wanza): So you don't know what the reaction of Overtown
residences was to the news that public housing was going to be put
in the community?
(Mrs. Jennings): No, no because see, not that I didn't have
any dealing but I wasn't associated with people who came into that
category and then I wasn't...I was working and trying to take care
of three children...well three plus two others that...three of my
own and two others that I acquired (laughter). I didn't have to
time to think about other problems like that. Well, I don't...I
wouldn't call it problems but, you know, anything else like that
and I just began getting into civic duties now because now I'm
retired and I have more time to volunteer to something like that.
(Ms. Wanza): The next and last set of questions are regarding
the future of Overtown. What are the most important and
misconceptions about Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): That it will come alive for Blacks, that's
the misconception. I don't think it is, I hope it will, I really
do and that's why I'm holding on but unless my children hurry up
and do something on their own, we're going to give up because taxes
are too high. So that's the misconception that I don't...I hope it
will and I've worked over at ah...various, as a Overtown Advisory
Board and many other civic organizations but it seems like we make
one step forward and ten steps backwards.
(Ms. Wanza): What do you think public officials need to know
most about Overtown?
(Mrs. Jennings): Ah, I don't know what they need to know.
You just have to have a conscience about themselves to know that
they...what is it they need to know? I wish I knew what they need
(Ms. Wanza): I mean in terms of the politics of Overtown what
needs to be done in Overtown, the situation in Overtown.
(Mrs. Jennings): A lot needs to be done for the whole
community, even this community that I live in and it's not only the
politician, it's the people who need to get out and vote and put
some people in there or show them a little power and I think that's
the misconcept...our problem.
(Ms. Wanza): What they need to know most?
(Mrs. Jennings): Yeah.
(Ms. Wanza): What should be done to improve the Overtown area
now such as transportation projects, attractions, job creation or
(Mrs. Jennings): All of the above (laughter).
(Ms. Wanza): All of the above.
(Mrs. Jennings): Education and what else? Beautification,
job creation, everything that you said.
(Ms. Wanza): What should be the relationship between Overtown
and Downtown Miami?
(Mrs. Jennings): It...the, I'm not downing the people that
are over there but I just came from over there and I saw some
pitiful sights. But the Blacks in Dade County as a whole need to
get it together...I don't know, try to encourage these young people
to get out and vote but they won't do it and if you don't have any
voting, you have no power. You go down to the city commission
meetings and show their faces, the city and county meetings,
because it's being taken away, because we have no power. We're
having no whatchacallit...representation but we are paying our
(Ms. Wanza): Taxation without representation.
(Mrs. Jennings): That's it taxation without representation,
that's what happening.
(Ms. Wanza): That's true. When you have visitors from out of
town, where do you take them to show them culture and history of
Dade County African-American community?
(Mrs. Jennings): (Laughter) I drive to Overtown, I show them
where I uses to live and when they see...people who have never been
here and see the proximity it is to downtown and they wonder, when
I say all of it use to be Black, well what happened? Well it has
happened all over the United States, nac.just here in Dade County
and, well I will take them Overtown and then I'll take them to
Miami Beach, I'll take them out to the various areas where a lot of
Blacks have moved into.
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe in your own words what kind
of community you would like for Overtown to be in the future?
(Mrs. Jennings): I would like to see it become a thriving
city like it was but not the same standard on a higher standard
then it was because everything has changed and I would like to see
things happening over there that happened when I was growing up but
only on a higher standard and owned by Black people because that
who owned Overtown but it isn't owned by Blacks anymore. One or
two got a grain of sand here and a grain of sand there but I don't
know too many people who own anything over there now.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, well that's the end of our interview with
Mrs. Wilhelmenia Jennings.
(Mrs. Jennings): I want that Franks in there, that's my
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, Wilhelmenia Franks Jennings. Okay.
(Mrs. Jennings): Un hun.
(Ms. Wanza): This is Stephanie Wanza interviewing her.
Today's date is August 8, 1997 and we are here at her home. This
is Side #2 of Tape #1.