The Black Archives public forum at Joseph Caleb Center, August 7, 1997

Material Information

The Black Archives public forum at Joseph Caleb Center, August 7, 1997 tape 1
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Overtown Oral History Collection ( local )

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:

Full Text


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
the University of Florida

Ccuo[e 6e"tr te4etl'

August 7, 1997
(Tape #1)

(Mr. Derrick Davis): Public Forum in our Series called "Tell

the Story." In this series we are gathering information about

Overtown and the effect that the transportation systems had on that

community. So the information we are gathering is trying to

capture what Overtown was like before the transportation system

came through, what happened during the period of the building of

the transportation systems and now what Overtown is like. A lot of

the times when we say the transportation systems, I know I'm from

the Overtown area and a lot of times we don't relate some of the

Urban Renewal projects over there to transformation but they were

all tied together; they were all happening around the same time.

So while a lot of people think when they moved it wasn't because of

1-95, that was all a part of that system that was happening with

HUD coming in. So if you were living in Overtown between ah...or

had to move out of Overtown between 1967 and 1970 it was because of

transportation systems and later on then the 1-95 transportation

system and then later on there was the 1-395 and then there was the

Metro-rail so there have been a lot of transportation things that

have come into the Overtown area. In all the discussions we find

out that even though a lot of them came through the area there is

still very little access for the people of Overtown to these

transportation systems and now to document some of that information

about it, to talk about what was there, to talk about what effect

it had on you, to talk about even the sense of community in

Overtown, what made a community, what were some of the things that

were lost that could not be recaptured as businesses moved out.

So we are trying to get that the information and present it in such

a way that in future transportation projects we will be able to

talk with facts about what needs to be done to rebuild that


As I said in some of the other forums, when we were leaving up

out of Overtown and they kept telling us it would be rebuilt, it

would be made into a city again. What was left out is, if you

really want it to be a city again, you're going to have to rebuild

it. The Black community is going to have to get together and say

that we want to have a city here again, we want to have these

elements in this city and so if we don't band together and start

gathering some of the facts about what we want, we lost and what we

desire to have there again, nothing is going to happen so we want

this to be a part of the process of trying to document what we had,

what we lost and what we would like have rebuilt in that area.

To talk a little bit about the whole process that we are going

through and I know you see a lot of microphones around here, the

microphones are for recording the conversation. To be an oral

history, you have to record what is being said, you have to

transcribe what is being said, you have to review those transcripts

to make sure the information is correct. Once you go through that

process you change conversation into history so that's what we are

doing. So the microphones are not made to make...amplify our

voices, they're made so the recorder over there will have...will be

documenting what you're saying, they will be transcribing what is

being said, it will be reviewed and it will become a part a the

collection at the Black Archives and it will be used by Florida

International University in a study that they are doing. They are

doing a study that they have been commissioned by the Metro-

Planning Organization to study the impact of transportation systems

on Overtown. They are looking at all the statistics about the

business that were there. They're looking at the censor's track on

the size of the families that were there; they're looking at the

maps...the aerial maps of the area to see where the houses were;

looking at the zoning maps that it took to get all of that

information about Overtown and all of that, including the

conversation that we're having will be developed into a report to

the Metro-Planning Organization and then to the Florida Department

of Transportation to let them know what happened to that community

and we've been getting wonderful information. The public forums

that we're having are part of individual one-on-one interviews that

we're having with individuals from the community. So all of this

information we will gather together to help us to rebuild Overtown

and to see what was lost in that area.

Today we have some business people persons

from the community, that Overtown community to lead us in

conversation. Remember our leaders, the people we have presenting

are to help lead us in a conversation because we want to hear from

everyone if we get a chance to talk about the impact of

transportation, to talk about what the community was like because

you know, since were there sometimes we forget that others don't

know. People that come to Miami, they have no idea, they have no

clue of what was in that city, they just hear people saying, oh I

use to love Overtown and now it' know, what is it? So

unless you tell us these facts and give us, future generations will

come and will be totally lost, even their knowledge of what it was

will be lost. So we are collecting information and we have members

from the business community to help jar some of your memory, they

might name a place that you remember. Sometime they might falter

in their memory and you might be able to help them remember some

facts but we are trying to help gather this information to help

build a community for our future.

As a part of the work that we're doing, we have taken some

students from the community and we trained them in oral history

techniques and they're out doing studies and right now I would like

to ask the Black Archive coordinator to present some of the

students and the community members who are going out gathering this

information on one-on-one interviews. Ms. Stephanie Wanza.

(Ms. Stephanie Wanza): Good Evening.

(The Public): Good Evening.

(Ms. Wanza): I'm Stephanie Wanza. I'm the program

coordinator here at the Black Archives and we have 5 interviewers

who are assisting us on this project, "Tell the Story" and at this

time I would like to have them come forth. Let me introduce them

one by one. This is Devon Williams. This is Alice Milford, Mr.

Philip Kelly, Ms. Yvonne Daily and Ms. Electra Ford. We all are

interviewing past and present residents of Overtown at this time.

Our interviews are being held at the Culmer Center, here at the

Caleb Center and the Black Archives conference room and we also

hold interviews by appointment. So if anyone is interested in

being interviewed, please contact me, Mr. Davis or Dr. Fields at

the end for those who may be interested in participating in the

"Tell the Story" project.

Okay, now I'm going to ask everyone to introduce themselves

and say why they are interested in participating in the project.

(Mr. Devon Williams): My name is Devon Williams and I am a

college student and an Overtown resident. The reason why I am

interested in this program because I'm interested in the past. The

tells...can tell you a lot, for instance where the future is going,

what can you do the change what happened in the past, what's going

to happen in the future. I believe that if you don't know your

past, you won't know your future; that's very important to me, and

also for some reason I always felt like...when I came to Miami and

I moved to Overtown that it wasn't...that wasn't the way it use to

be...the way I met it, that wasn't the way it use to be and in the

recent months I'm really learning what it use to be and I hope that

whatever I get from this program I can take back and hopefully

bring back something maybe 10 times better than what it use to be,

that's the reason why.

(Allen Smith): My name is Allen Smith and I'm also a college

student and the reason why I'm interested in working in this

program is because i think it is very important to know ah...when

I moved to Overtown, I heard a lot of negative things about

Overtown. First of all before I moved to Overtown I use to stay in

Opa Locka and North Miami. I moved from Chicago, I came down here

and I heard a lot of negative things about Overtown and when I got

to move down there and met some of the people and talked to some of

the residence there you know it not like was stereotyped.

(Mr. Davis???): Speak a little louder so they can hear you.

(Allen): It was pretty stereotyped with negative stuff of

things that you hear about Overtown and once I down there I found

out it's not what i thought it was or what people were saying about

it and it had a lot of nice people. You met some close-knit

families and how people got along and they cared and loved the

families and inspire of all the stuff that was going on it was

still a nice community and with this program also doing like the

first interview I've learned a lot about the history and the past

of Overtown, how it use to be a very great progressive

neighborhood, progressive community and I hope to learn a lot more.

(Mr. Philip Kelly): My name is Philip Kelly and I just

graduated from high school about to be a Bethune Cookman Wild Cat.

(Dr. Fields?): Speak a little louder.

(???Female): Speak up.

(Mr. Kelly): I'm in the program to hopefully talk to the

elders that you know...that has lived in the Overtown area so that

they can teach me about how it was and about I can improve it and

hopefully that I can come back one day and just do that.

(Mr. Davis???): I just ask if you could move forward because

it will be easier for us to hear since our mikes are just for

recording purpose, if we could get everyone to come closer to the

front, it will help a lot with being able to hear the speakers.

(Dr. Fields): Tell them the mikes are not for amplifying the


(Mr. Davis???): Right the mikes don't amplify the voices,

they are just for recording purposes so that's why we have to have

them stand back here so that the mikes only pick up in the pattern

here so they stay in here so that them up on the mikes but they are

picking them up to go into the recorder, not amplification so

thanks for holding up.

(Ms. Yvonne Daily): My name is Yvonne Daily, I am from

assented you know I'm Jamaican, I'm not African-American but I

became acquainted with this project through the Students Support

Services of Florida Memorial College where I was a student until

two weeks ago, I graduated and I'm always interested in Black

history and whatever happens to the people who are of African

descent is always my interest and I thought during these interviews

and working along with this research team I will be able to find

out more about the residence of Miami and Overtown. As a matter of

interest, we were just driving through and my son said to me, "Oh

this reminds me of Spanish Town, Jamaica (laughter) so you see

wherever we go, wherever there are Black people, it's just the same

and I think it's going to far I see that it is very

interesting all the time being, hearing and seeing, so far, is very

informative and I think I'm going to learn a whole lot from this

research program.

(Ms. Electra Ford): Good evening. My name is Electra Ford,

I'm a citizen of Dade County, I've partially spent my latter

growing-up years living in Overtown. I also worked Overtown with

the Poverty Program, formerly known as the Economic Opportunity

Program, some of you may know it as EOPI. I enjoyed the cultural

process that Overtown possess. It is a tremendous loss to our

community and I'm enjoying the privilege of having been selected to

do "Tell the Story" which is going to record our history, part of

which I have lived among the people. I am a living testimony of

what it was like to have lived in Overtown and I'm disappointed in

how Overtown is today. However, I am hopeful that after we

complete this project, some of the things that I knew in the past

concerning Overtown will be restored and hopefully we will have a

part of our cultural that we can claim as our very own again as we

did previously.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, thank you everyone (handclapping). Okay.

We will be having interviews, let me reiterate one more time until

about the 22nd of this month, of August. If anyone again is

interested, please let me know or Dr. Fields. Now I turn the

program over to Dr. Fields.

(Dr. Fields): Thank you. We are quite encouraged by the

talent that you see here, the individuals who were selected as

interviewers. There were a number of people who wanted to

participate and we did go through a selection process and we are

very pleased and we are very happy with those who were selected.

They had skills, that's one of the reasons they were selected and

they are very flexible and they are developing other skills that

hopefully will help them as they move through their careers.

Again, to the interviewers we do appreciate the time and effort

that you're giving to this project and to Stephanie Wanza who is

our project coordinator, we give great thanks. She has come to us

in just a few months ago and has hit the ground running and we are

delighted to have her especially in this project which is so very

important and which was a pop-up which is her term that describes

this project that kind of fell into our laps when we were already

in the middle of a number of other things and so it takes flexible

team headed by Derrick Davis and supported by Diane Hicks in order

for this to happen. We are please to have all of you here this

evening with the thunderstorms looming overhead, we are going to

move the program right along so that we all get home before the

flood comes. We are pleased to have you come and you'll get a

chance to express yourselves and we certainly hope that you will.

We have asked business people to come. We have talked with M.

F. Lee Range and she did give us some feedback two Sunday's ago

when we had our post centennial tea at the Church of Prophecy...God

and Prophecy but she is a business person, an active business

person. She had a business in Overtown, it then moved to Liberty

City and place in Liberty City...and now it is in a

second location in Liberty City and she is about the business

today. She had several services to conduct so she was not able to

be here. We are pleased with the panel that we have. Two other

individuals that were in business in Overtown and when we asked

Mrs. Theodora White Cooper, she said, "Humm...I guess I can

remember," and we know she can and she will because she does all

the time at the Archives, she's on our Board of Directors and

Trustees and we'll be pleased to hear from her as she talks about

the kind of business that she engaged in and how or if it was

effective because we don't mean to project and to say what isn't if

that's not the way it was for you, we want to know firsthand, did

the transportation system effect your business, was your family

effected and we want to know firsthand. We are going to begin

though with Dr. Braynon, a pioneer dentist in Overtown, in Miami,

Dade County. As we chatted in the back, he was telling me that he

was one of the organizer of the Black Dental Association in the

50's and he has a written history that he is going to share with

us. So Dr. Braynon we welcome you and we ask you if you would'

begin and tell us about your business in Overtown and businesses

generally in Overtown when you established in the 50's and what


(Dr. Braynon): Thank you. Good evening. I'm going to tell

you a little bit about Overtown. I have to confess that I am not

a native. I was not born in Overtown, I was born in Railroad Shop.

I don't know if you where that is. Railroad Shop is a small Black

community that's located where the Allapattah Elementary School is

located now and they built those schools primarily to get the Black

folks out of that area. It was a small area with a few Black

families. They tried to intimidate them, they tried to buy them

out and they couldn't so they got together with the school board,

the school board condemned the land that belonged to the Black

families and that's how they built those schools. So that sent us

to Overtown. In fact, we had left just before that occurred, they

condemned that area in 1947, I believe.

(Dr. Fields): August 1st.

(Dr. Braynon): August 1st?

(Dr. Fields): Yes, 50 years this month.

(Dr. Braynon): Okay, and we family moved to

Overtown in 1937. We moved there because my father opened a small

grocery store in 1936 up the street from Mrs. Thomas and so

I...I've had quite a bit of experience with the business in the

Overtown area long before I came back in 1956. In fact, my father

operated a small grocery store there, starting in 1936 and it was

quite an experience when we sold a nickel's worth of sugar, a

nickel's worth of rice...everything and everybody was happy and my

father made money. From that small grocery store, he sent 4 of us

to college, three to Howard University at the same time, just my

mother and father and they worked long hours and that was what

motivated me to go to college to get out of that grocery store

(laughter). When I was in college, a student at Fisk University,

I'd think about that grocery store and I'd get up in the middle of

the night and start reading because I knew if I flunked out I was

going to be back in that grocery store and I did not want to do

that because they worked from sun up to sun down. But it made a

decent living and we were very proud of the store, all of us, 4

children. I have a brother who is an attorney, he's retiring this

year. I retired last year, my sister, a pharmacist, retired two

years ago, and I have a younger sister who is a teacher who is

retiring next year. But I left the grocery store because of the

long hours and I ended up at Howard University and I looked around

and my brother and sister entered Howard University and I told

them, I said, "This is the reason I left home, to get away from you

all," and they followed me to Howard. But it worked well, we all

graduated and came back here to live and to practice. When I left

here I had absolutely no intentions of ever coming back to Miami.

Segregation was at its height, I guess if you could say that,

because I guess it was at its height all of the time. It was rigid

all of the time and I never intended to come back but I went to

college, I completed my college work and I came home for a year and

I decided I would go back to study dentistry. I did and I

completed my work, I went into the military. When I went into the

military, they sent me to Japan and when I came back from Japan I

was getting out so I had no place else to go. I thought while I

was in the military I would be able to look around and find me a

nice city up north to practice in but I didn't have that

opportunity so I had to come back home and I am extremely happy

that I did because I have enjoyed it. I was able to open my office

on Second Avenue, Northwest Second Avenue and that was like a dream

for me because Second Avenue was the mecca. It was the center of

everything in Black Miami, for many years. When I came back it was

difficult at time to find an office on Second Avenue, in 1956. It

was lined thriving businesses, predominately Black. Everything

that you would need in a community was on Second Avenue and they

were predominately Black businesses. But I did find a spot near...

on the corner of Sixth Street and Second Avenue and I opened my

dental office there and it went very well for me. I was pleased

and honored to be on Second Avenue and I stayed there for 10 years

before moving to the Liberty City area but my parents' business, as

I said, they opened in 1936 and they moved around 1966, they

operated on Seventeenth Street until 1966, then they moved to

Seventeenth Avenue and Fifty-Fifth Street and we built a building

there and they had the grocery store on one side and my dental

office was on the other side and that was again sought of a

disappointment for me because I went to college because the grocery

store hours were so long but by this time, when we were together,

they had been in business so long that they could their hours back

and at 5:00 they would be going home and I would just getting ready

to go to work. So I told them, they kind of cheated me, they cut

the hours after I left and got training in something else but it

worked well. They operated their business for 54 years. My mother

and father worked together everyday for 54 years and they were able

to retire and lived for several years. They both are now deceased

but they lived for several years after retiring. So it was a very

pleasant experience for my family being in the Overtown and for me

growing up in the Overtown. I feel it was an ideal community. I

have two boys and I would give anything to have had them to live

under the circumstance that I lived under, to grow up in the

community I grew up on 5th Court and Fifteenth Street. My boys

grew up in North Miami Beach and it was a big difference from the

area that I grew up, the friendship and the love of the neighbors

that we had experienced. So I felt a great loss that we had to

leave the Overtown area. I went... where the schools are modern

and all that but I would have been very happy for my boys to have

graduated from Booker T. Washington High School just as I did, just

as my brother and sisters did but, of course, that wasn't possible.

But it was an ideal community. I enjoyed being there in that

community, I'm proud of it and I certainly hope that one day it

will return, not to the state that it was in but it would improve

over what it is now. It's looked upon now as something strictly

negative and that is not the Overtown that I knew. The Overtown

that I grew up in wherein people could walk anywhere they wanted

to. Everything was on Second Avenue. Everything was on Second

Avenue. Young ladies, anywhere they lived in that area, they could

walk to the activities on Second Avenue without being bothered, it

was done routinely. Of course, we know that is not possible now.

My family did not lock the front door of the house. I was a

college student before they got around to having a key to lock the

front door. Normally when we left, you closed the front door and

when everybody was in at night, you put the night latch on. But

other than that, you just closed the door, had no problem. My

father's business, they broke in maybe twice in about 20 or 30

years. He was robbed several times after he moved to the Liberty

City area now but the Overtown area, it fact, there were businesses

broken into but they were never robbed or held up at gun point but

this did happen down on Second Ave...Seventeenth Street, several at

least twice so I don't know if I've provided you with any

information but I hope that you at least got the feel that I'm a

very proud product of the Overtown area and I also want to mention

the fact that my family had quite a bit of experience in being

displaced for when they moved from the Overtown area, this was the

third time my family had been displaced in Dade County. My father

was originally from the Bahamas and they settled in what was called

South Miami but it was really an area near Southwest Eighth Street

and Twelfth Avenue which you now know as Little Havana. Well there

were Black people living in that area prior to about 1923 because

they built the house in Railroad Shop and moved in there in 1924

and they stayed there and my part of the family moved to Overtown

and they were displaced there so that was the third time so we are

quite experienced in moving around the community. But overall it's

been a very pleasant experience.

(Dr. Fields): Let me ask you, why did you and your family

move from Overtown? You said you moved your business in a...10

years after you established it, about '66?

(Dr. Braynon): Yes. When I opened my office, Second Avenue

was still a thriving business area but 10 years later it had began

to decline and it was not a good place for a business.

(Dr. Fields): Any reason, do you have any guess as to why it

was declining?

(Dr. Braynon): Well at that time many of the longstanding

homeowners had moved and the...

(Dr. Fields): Do you know why?

(Dr. Braynon): Well they were being displaced, I think they

called it Urban Renewal. Initially, they were tearing down a lot

of the properties and they were buying a lot of the homes and it

was just not a good area.

(Dr. Fields): Were you aware of the transportation system at

this point?

(Dr. Braynon): As I can recall there was more talk about

Urban Renewal than about the highway. I don't remember too much

about it. I'm sure they talked about it but that was of kind of

slipped in that they were going to build a high...even to build a

highway, no one had any idea it was going to do what it did. They

said they're going to build a highway through but no one knew it

was going to destroy the community as it did.

(Dr. Fields): Any last words? I know you are going to have

to leave early and we are sorry about that (laughter).

(Dr. Braynon): I am too but I have another program that I'm

part of and I've got to go to.

(Dr. Fields): I see.

(Dr. Braynon): But I'm elated to have this opportunity to

share my views on what it was like growing up in the Overtown area,

what it was like going to a rigidly segregated school which was a

good school. I left here, as all the others, we were prepared to

make it anywhere we went and most did. All those that wanted to

did succeed.

(Dr. Fields): Let me ask you one last question, that is

before you moved were you aware of public meetings where you could

go and voice your opinion as to whether or not the community was

being destroyed? What was your sense at that time? Were there

public meetings that you were aware of?

(Dr. Braynon): Yes, there were, I don't remember too much

about them for some reason but I'm certain that there were some


(Dr. Fields): Well, thank you very much and we do appreciate

the interview that you gave us earlier today and this evening you

have added some information which will certainly help us with the

study. Thank you very much (handclapping).

(Dr. Braynon): So sorry I have to leave but I must. Thanks.

(Dr. Fields): Here's your umbrella.

(Dr. Fields): Ms. Theodora Cooper- White, White-Cooper

(laughter) is someone that I've known for a very long time and I

started knowing her because of her business. She is what we call

in the community a hairdresser, a beautician. When she retired,

she retired as a teacher from one of the elementary schools so she

has had quite a career change but we've asked her tonight to share

with us some of her experiences as a business person in the early

community and to give us a sense of what the community was like and

to help us better understand business in Overtown, Colored Town

between '45 and 1970.

(Mrs. White-Cooper): Thank you Ms. Fields, Dr. Fields. My

name is Theodora Virginia White-Cooper. I like to say all of it.

I was born in Overtown in the Christian Hospital that was located

on First Place between Twelfth Street and Thirteen Street and my

parents lived in Dr. Chatman' of his houses across

the street from the Christian Hospital and I've always felt very

sentimental about that area because my parents lived there before

I was born and then I was born in Christian Hospital across the

street and then later I came back to live in that area for a short

period of time.

As Mrs. Fields, Dr. Fields said, I did become a beautician a

couple of years after I graduated from high school. I was suppose

to attend college but I was so into dressing hair and I was

somewhat fascinated with dressing hair because I had a couple of

teachers who were beauticians and they kept trying to encourage me

to go to Atlanta, Georgia to Apex Beauty College and it seemed

somewhat fascinating but my mother still kept saying, "You're going

to college to become a teacher." My whole family said that because

I am the oldest sibling in my immediate family and my mother

thought that I should set that ah good example for the other

children. Well, so to be, as it was, I did get into dressing hair

and I worked for Mrs. Trilla Taylor who had a beauty shop on what

they called the "main drag" Second Avenue between Ninth...Eighth

and Ninth Street and I worked for Mrs. Trilla Taylor who had a

beauty shop there in Miami, she had one in Fort Lauderdale and she

had one in West Palm Beach and, of course she had 6 of us working

for her because she and her husband just went up and down the...,

in fact, up and down Florida trying to find other places and having

other people work for her. Of course, by being the only single

person working for her in Miami, she chose me to be the one to run

up and down the road when somebody was out of a beauty shop and ill

in Fort Lauderdale. She would call me and say, "Baby, the bus

leaves at such and such an hour and someone will be there to pick

you up to take you to the shop in Fort Lauderdale," and then I knew

nothing to say but, "Yes." So sometimes I would go in, spend a

week or two or however, whatever length of time it took for that

person to be replaced or either come back. And then there were

times when I would go to West Palm Beach and finally, I ah...when

she let me stay in Miami, for several weeks, I was very happily

because I was involved in church activities and other social

activities and so I really wanted to be in Miami. So finally after

working for Mrs. Trilla Taylor for I guess about 4 or 5 years I

became a little tired of having to pull out and go from one place

to the other so I went on a vacation, not realizing that I would

stay away about a couple of years. So after I went on vacation to

New York, I stayed there for a couple of years and then I went to

Connecticut and finally I came back home and Mrs. Taylor hadn't

found anyone who would run up and down like I did (laughter) so she

said, "Baby, we're going to sell this beauty shop to you and I said

to myself, "Oh no, I, I knew that she was just sought of putting me

on, you know. But ah I really decided I would accept it with my

mother's encouragement so I bought Trilla's beauty salon and it

became Theodora's Beauty Salon and I guess I thought I was a real

lady then, a grown lady as we called them at that time. But after

buying the beauty shop and having 5 other operators working for me,

they really didn't consider me the owner or the boss of the shop,

they sought of bossed me around and then there was a restaurant,

the Palm Cafeteria...Palm Cafe a couple of doors down from the

beauty shop and that person was someone that knew me from infancy.

So when I wasn't too busy in the beauty shop she would have me come

down and be the cashier so it still meant that I really didn't get

a grip on trying to be, I guess what I wanted to I stayed

in the beauty shop and worked there and, of course, Dr. Fields was

one of my customers. She was a little girl, very nice quiet little

girl and when she came to the beauty shop, she was very, very nice

and never complained about anything. After shampooing her hair, I

would put her under the drier and would have to stand there and

hold her head because she was always sleeping and after getting her

hair dried I always had to put her across my lap in order to

straighten her hair. It was delightful having her and several

other children there and I guess that was the only time that I

actually got a chance to be the grown lady because just working in

there with the people who were working for me, they just

disregarded me as a full adult.

So I worked in the beauty shop and I had many, many customers

and I enjoyed it and finally I decided that I was going to leave

the beauty shop and go back to New York and, of course, during that

particular time, I enjoyed Miami, the ah Second Avenue because we

had a lot of Black owned businesses. The Lyric Theater at that

particular time was a very nice place to go and we had the Rockland

Place which I could attend at that time because I was over 20. We

had the Black owned drugstore, Lewis' Drugstore, and we had Judge

Thomases' office upstairs, over the drugstore and we had the

dentist, Dr. Muriel's office. In fact, all of Second Avenue was

actually owned by Black people and we had Polite's Restaurant down

there and we had the poolrooms, we had barber shops, Nat Barn's

Barbershop and we had Dr. Sawyer's office down on Seventh Street

end and the very famous Mary Elizabeth Hotel and we's that man's name, he's a TV...he was our what?

(Dr. Fields): Ed O'dell.

(Mrs. White-Cooper): We had Ed O'dell's father's restaurant

and bar. We had several Black fact, I think most

of the businesses were owned by Black people other than the Boston

Chop House and the Chinese Restaurant and, of course, finally

businesses began going down because some people died and the other

race of people bought those businesses and it just seemed like

businesses were going down in that area. So after I left Second

Avenue, I moved to Liberty City with my family and I opened another

beauty shop out in Liberty City but it was never like Second

Avenue. I enjoyed Second Avenue as a girl, not going into any of

the big business places other than restaurants and the theaters but

um, I can say that I hope that one day it will develop and be a

very interesting and enjoyable area for us to attend.

(Dr. Fields): Thank you Mrs. Cooper, I'll ask you the same

question as I asked Dr. Braynon, why did you move your beauty shop

from Overtown to Liberty City? About what period of time was that?

(Mrs. White-Cooper): That was ah...I really closed the beauty

shop um...during the early 50's. I moved the beauty shop because

Mr. Oscar Howard, a Black man who owned the building passed away

and I think his business was bought by the other race of people and

other businesses began opening in that area so I moved to Liberty

City...and transportation, well transportation was pretty good

because we had the jitneys but I'll tell you one thing, we use to

even walk from Overtown to Liberty City but, you know, it was fun

doing that but ah when we were with a group but not when you had to

go to work.

(Dr. Fields): Was it privately owned or was that owned by the


(Mrs. White-Cooper): No the jitneys were owned by different

private individuals and most...I knew some of those people because

Mr. Walter...ah, I can't really recall some of those names but they

were owned by families.

(Dr. Fields): Did you know of a transportation system within

Overtown that was government run?

(Mrs. White-Cooper): No, I don't recall...

(Dr. Fields): Was there a bus system?

(Mrs. White-Cooper): Oh yes, yes, yes. Oh yes because they

had gotten rid of the streetcar and they did have the bus system...


(Mrs. White-Cooper): ...jitneys...

(Dr. Fields): Were you effected by Urban Renewal at all?

(Mrs. White-Cooper): Yes, I was effected by Urban Renewal

because, excuse me, working in the beauty shop, urban renewal meant

Black People removal and most of the Blacks that owned several

places in places went out of business because

the umm...people were moving out and buying homes and they really

didn't have the apartments like they do today so those people were

moving, excuse me, out of the city into Brown Sub area and Liberty

City so that meant the Black businesses were failing.

(Dr. Fields): Where were you living at the time? How long

did you live in Overtown?

(Mrs. White-Cooper): I lived in Overtown, oh from 1922 until

1957, I think it was and I lived on Eleventh Street before moving

to Liberty City... on Eleventh Street and near Third Avenue, right

behind Ebenezer Methodist Church.

(Dr. Fields): And why did you move your family from Overtown

to Liberty City.

(Mrs. White-Cooper): I moved my family because um...most of

the people were moving out in this area. It was a better area for

Black people because the houses were not...those places that we

rented over there, were not...were not really repaired and taken

care properly because I think those people knew that we were going

to not be in that area and they were, the Black people were selling

their homes to other races of people and my family had already

bought out in Liberty City so we moved out here. Of course, before

I moved out here, I moved into your family's...your grandmother's

home for a period of time because I got married and I moved out

from my parents and moved into your grandmother's home and then

later we moved...I moved with my parents.

(Dr. Fields): About what year was that because we moved in


(Mrs. White-Cooper): You moved in 1948?

(Dr. Fields): Yes.

(Mrs. White-Cooper): Well in 1948, I...I moved...I can't

really recall now...

(Dr. Fields): So it was late 40's early 50's?

(Mrs. White-Cooper): Yes, late 40's early 50's.

(Dr. Fields): Ah, well, we thank you very much and you have

certainly given us some new information and you have, in fact, re-

enforced information that we have heard from many others. Let's

give her a thank you (handclapping).

(Dr. Fields): It has worked very well for us to begin with a

panel of individuals who have from their own experiences shared

with us information about this situation and now we come to our

open forum and we invite individuals to please go to the microphone

and to tell your story and help us better understand what happened.

Mrs. Thomas may we start with you, would you please tell us

since you helped us name this program "Tell the Story"? Would you

tell us something about what it was like to in Overtown and, of

course, your husband was an attorney and so he had a business and

we would just like to hear some words from you.

(Mrs. Thomas): I was just about to eat.

(Dr. Fields): I noticed (laughter).

(Mrs. Thomas): Seriously, I have to go a serve a notice at

6:30 and it's already past. I didn't know that I would have to do

this, I was looking forward to the interview Monday.

(Dr. Fields): Oh, arlright so you prefer waiting?

(Mrs. Thomas): I prefer waiting, I have to catch this person

and serve this notice, if you all will excuse me this is real


(Dr. Fields): Okay, yes (laughter). Gwen Walters would you

begin our public forum and talk about your family's living in

Overtown and your business...was your business ever in Overtown?

(Mrs. Gwen Walters): My father, Raymond Hasty, ran Hasty

Transfer from 1924 until 1951 when we moved to the Brownsville area

and, of course, you know daddy moved all the people who needed to

be moved from area to the other. He took the college students'

trunks to the train station because that was our mode of

transportation and also I remember when I was in high school, the

high school classes use to have straw rides. My dad had an open

truck and that was such a big deal to get in the back of that truck

and ride down to Coconut Grove and that's when we had the parties

and the dances.

(Dr. Fields): Your husband was a pharmacist...and did he

start his business in Overtown?

(Mrs. Walters): My husband worked in Overtown, he was a

pharmacist at Economy Drugstore but he opened the Brownsville Drug

Store in 1950. My mother had a beauty shop, in fact, my mother was

the first student enrolled in the Sunlight Beauty School and my dad

took the garage...we had a home on Northwest Fifth Court between

Nineteenth and Twentieth Street, he took the garage and made that

into a beauty shop and my mother was able to operate her business

and I think she operated that from 1936 until we moved in the

Brownsville area in 1951.

(Dr. Fields): Do you know why your family moved from


(Mrs. Walters): Well, I'm thinking now because of...well

we...we all talked and my husband had fact he had a

conversation Mr. David Julius. He came to Economy Drugstore and he

was saying to my husband, you know there is a need for a drugstore

in the Brown Sub area and we were all talking about it and then we

started looking around and sure enough we were able to get some

property on Northwest Twenty-Seventh Avenue and Forty-Seventh

Street. So then we heard there were a lot of talks about Urban

Renewal, you know this type of a thing so we finally decided that fact, in 1951, we were able to build a home in the Brown

Sub area and that's how we happened to leave. So it was between

19...well the Brownsville Drugstore opened in the Brownsville area

in 1950 and we moved our home in 1951.

(Dr. Fields): So that was long before the transportation

system came in?

(Mrs. Walters): Yes.

(Dr. Fields): Were you aware of any expansion or development

with transportation and I don't mean to lead you on but simply to

ask of your awareness or lack of?

(Mrs. Walters): Not that I could recall. I remember the

transportation Overtown because as a girl we would have to walk

from Nineteenth Street to Third Avenue to catch the trolley and

after they removed the streetcars then we would have to walk down

there to catch the bus on Third Avenue or the jitney.

(Dr. Fields): Alright, okay. Thank you very much.


(Dr. Fields): Mrs. Eneith Curtiss-Johnson Pinkney would you

please go to the microphone and I know you're being interviewed but

there may be some new information or something that you want to

repeat about your family's living Overtown and subsequent having to


(Mrs. Johnson Pinkney): Thank you. I was born at 1827

Northwest Fifth Court and Dr. Braynon was a neighbor and so was

Mrs. Walters. In fact, Mrs. Walters' mother was my beautician and

we grew up in that neighbor and, in fact, some people...some of my

friends called it the Bal Harbor of Overtown because of the

families that lived on Fifth Court, the Coin family, the

Butterfield family and there were a lot families that owned their

own homes and we were just like family. We weren't like neighbors,

we were like family, we looked out for each other and we went to

the Church of God of Prophecy which was, at that time, located on

Fifth Court and Seventeenth Street. One of the interesting things

about the church, was that um a lot of white people use to come,

the tourist...use to come to church because they liked the music

and they liked whatever else was going on there, they seemed to

like it and they would come with their, chauffeured driven

limousines and fellows would see to it that they were okay. Some

of my friends made money watching the limousines and then we would

have to get up out of our seats to give the White people a seat

because the ushers wanted to make them feel comfortable and at home

and so they would always go the children and say you have to get

up, put us over in one section of the church so that the tourist

could come in and see us have worship service.

One of the things...another thing that I'm very proud of, I

know that Dr. Braynon talked but one of the things

that I always look back on are the teachers that I had. They were

really...I knew that they were interested in me and they just went

out of their way. If something happened that they didn't like, my

brother did...I usually didn't get in trouble but if my brother got

in trouble, they would come to the house and report it to my

parents and let my parents know. Of course, my parents lived on

premises but my grandmother was there and my parents had to get my

grandmother to come and live with us because they lived on Miami

Beach and we couldn't go to school on Miami Beach so we had to have

my aunt and my grandmother in the house with us. But, you know,

people like Ms. Marie Roberts and Mamie Williams just past, she

lived on Fifth Court also and when we...there would be school

activities, they would...especially Ms. Mamie Williams, she would

walk me home. If she took me to an activity at school at night,

she would walk me home, saw that I got home and then she would

walk. You could walk in Overtown then. She'd go back home to her

house and um one of the things my father always said and I couldn't

understand why he kept saying that. But he kept saying, "The White

people wanted to move the Black people from Overtown and I didn't

know where he got that from. But just recently I read a book by a

Dr. Mall, I think he's from Florida State University or...I don't

know but anyway he wrote a book about...

(Dr. Fields): Florida University, Raymond Mall.

(Mrs. Johnson Pinkney): Yes.

(Dr. Fields): Yes.

(Mrs. Johnson Pinkney): Yes. I was reading something that he

said and it's in print that the White people wanted to move Black

people from Overtown because it was an extension of Overtown and he

even called Mr. Merrick's name of Coral Gables, that he was one of

the persons that wanted the Blacks to move from Overtown. So then

I said, you know, my father was giving us information but we

didn't...I didn't believe it until I saw it in print and um that

should have given us a hint of trying to save our community. But

when they told us about the Urban Renewal, that was the reason that

we moved. The house that I was born in was going to have to be

taken away because of Urban Renewal and so we would...

(Dr. Fields): About what year was that?

(Mrs. Johnson Pinkney): Ah that...I think that...that was like

in the 50's that we moved and we moved...we moved from Overtown to

the Brown Sub area.

(Dr. Fields): How were was the family notified?

(Mrs. Johnson Pinkney): Well you asked

about a meeting or something before. I don't recall any meetings

being held to notify us. I think from what I can remember, there

might have been a letter telling us what was going to happen but

there wasn't anything where we met and had any say about it. We

were just told what was going to happen and back then we just

decided, I guess we gotta do whatever they say. So...

(Dr. Fields): And were you paid very much for your property?

(Mrs. Johnson Pinkney): What I remember that we got for...we

had...we had...which was worth a lot to us...because we had three

bedrooms, living room, kitchen, dinning room and another thing, we

had an inside toilet because there was a time when there were

outhouses in Overtown and then the city passed an ordinance that

the toilets had to be connected to the house and what most people

did was put it on the back porch but we had it inside, we put our

on the inside. But from what I can...I think they...we...they got

about something like $10,000 which really was anything for the


(Dr. Fields): Thank you very much.

Denise Kelly-Johnson is a current member of Overtown. Would

you tell us why you and your husband stay and moved to Overtown?

(Mrs. Denise Kelly Johnson): Well I kind of think that

transportation brought us back to Overtown if you will. I came to

Miami in 1988, after I got married and my husband grew up in Miami

but my husband didn't grow up in Overtown. He lived in Liberty

City for awhile and then the family moved to North Miami Beach and

that's where he went to high school and that's where his mother

continues to live now but he spent most of his time in Miami. So

after we got married and I came here we started looking around for

some place to live and this was right around the time that in the

Overtown area, I guess there was more Urban Renewal or more

redevelopment what at least would appear to be some kind of serious

effort to begin the redevelopment of Overtown and there was a

condominium complex that was constructed called Poinciana Village

and one day I just happened to be driving down the street because

I worked for the Custom Service, that's a little bit on the south

end of downtown, just happened to be driving up the street on the

way to the expressway to go home in north Dade and saw this complex

and there was this sign. So when I had a day off I went by. I

remember the day, it was Veteran's day in 1989. I went by the

office, that was downtown and the developer took me into a unit

that was being built, the unit on the fourth floor that is now

occupied by the Sawyer family and, you know, said well this is what

we're trying to do in this area. I went home and told Stan, "Think

I found some...and it seems to be affordable." I said, "I think I

found us a place. I think I found someplace that we can buy,"

because we had started to look...we were looking to buy a house.

So we bought a condominium in Poinciana Village in Overtown. It's

on Seventh Street and Second Avenue and after wasn't really

until we moved there that we really...that we both learned

something about...start to learn about the area that we live in.

We found out from people who go to church with us, from people

we've met through friends and family what Overtown use to be and

found out that it was vibrant community and its...coming from some

area but I know that there are things going on in terms of

redevelopment and because I'm on Board of Directors of the Black

Archives I know what we're doing with the Lyric Theater. I know

about our plans for the area and what we want to do to try and

redevelop it, to bring it back to what it use to be, to show what,

you know, what our history is because I think it is important as,

you know, all the interviews have said, we need to know our

history, we need to know about...something about where we are,

where we use to be and where we're going and it's a very

interesting place to be now and I'm glad I'm there (handclapping).

(Dr. Fields): Thank you for your comments.

I took the liberty of calling on these people because I know

them and I know they have a story but I know you have a story too

and there may be someone over here who would like to say something

if you would we'd like to hear it at this time.

I think all of the interviewers have spoken. Yes, okay,


Well if there are no more comments, then I'll turn the program

over to our Executive Director, Mr. Derrick Davis.

(Mr. Derrick Davis): First of all let me just thank everyone

for coming out tonight and being with us and gathering more of this

history...just to announce that we have one more public session in

the process and that will be on the Twelfth which is next Tuesday

and that will be held at Booker T. Washington, the time will be the

same about 5:00 with refreshment and we will go to about 8:00 or

whenever we run out of conversation, we'll stop and so we invite

you to come and we invite you that if you know someone from this

conversation, if you thought of someone who should be involved in

the process, either from that public session or wants to contact us

about having a private one-on-one interview about Overtown and the

transportation systems or, you know, it says the transportation

system but most Black people from the community think of it as

Urban Renewal. Almost everyone that we talk have just

doesn't connect that there was a transportation system behind the

Urban Renewal Process that had made a lot of people move from the

Overtown area. So if you know someone who was a part of any... no

matter what walk of life they were in doing there...I mean if they

were a street cleaner or if they were a politician, if they knew

anything about the life or experienced any of the things that went

on during that time please let them get in contact with us so we

can set up an interview with them and to gather some of that


Another project that we're assisting with is talking about the

missing history of Black nurses and midwives in Miami. I would

like Christine to stand, she is working on a project to gather

information about Black nurses, can we reach into the community to

help fill the void? So what she is saying, she wants to reach into

the community to help fill the void about the information about the

Black midwives and nurses in the Miami community. She's searching

them out and she's doing a oral history project similar to ours

which she is gathering information. Now her study is talking about

nursing in general but she felt that to do this and to leave out

the history of the Black nurses would be a travesty so she's asking reach out into the community and find out and fill this

void about the information of the Blacks who were part of the

medical treatment and assistance of patients in the area. So the

project is entitled Black Nurses and Midwives in Miami from 1896 to

1960 and Christine Ardolan is the historian who is conducting

interviews which is sponsored by the Black Archives and the Florida

Council...Florida Humanities Council and she's looking for people

who know anything about it if you were delivered by a Midwife, do

you have any relationships or relation, you know, people in your

families who were midwives, did you know any personally, did you

know personally of a midwife and what about some of the nurses, diS

you know any of the early nurses that worked at Jackson Memorial

Hospital or Christian Hospital or in public health and private duty

nurses. So if you do, please contact Christine at the Black

Archives, 636-2390 or you can call Christine at 460-6398. So thank

you very much, if you have any help that you can give her in that

project to gather that information about the Black nurses.

Anything else?

(Dr. Fields): We adjourn.

(Mr. Davis): Thank you for coming, there are still some

refreshments, you are welcome to them but we adjourn for the night.

Full Text
xml record header identifier 2009-02-12setSpec [UFDC_OAI_SET]metadata oai_dc:dc xmlns:oai_dc http:www.openarchives.orgOAI2.0oai_dc xmlns:dc http:purl.orgdcelements1.1 xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.openarchives.orgOAI2.0oai_dc.xsd dc:title The Black Archives public forum at Joseph Caleb Centerdc:date 1997dc:type Bookdc:identifier University of Florida