Interview with Wilhelminia Jennings, August 8, 1997

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Interview with Wilhelminia Jennings, August 8, 1997
Jennings, Wilhelminia ( Interviewee )
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Subjects / Keywords:
African Americans -- Florida
Overtown Oral History Collection ( local )
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This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'Overtown Collection' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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A~ooIZ .0 o

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


other's house.

(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

intermediate neighborhood.

(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 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 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.

(Female???): Wholesale.

(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

Mrs. Fannie.

(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

Herroco Drugstore.

(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' 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

place Overtown.

(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 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

since 1970?

(Mrs. Jennings): It has made a drastic change, 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

of I-95?

(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 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

completing it.

(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


through Overtown.

Okay, Mrs. Jennings when did you decide to change your place

of residence?

(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 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 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 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 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

to know.

(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

beautification programs?

(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

maiden names.

(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.