Learning from Their Voices: The Importance of Oral History
In the early 1980s, a well-respected African American community member in Gainesville, Florida Joel Buchanan, had the foresight to preserve the voices and stories from his old neighborhood. Joel was born in the heart of Gainesville’s closely knit African American community. He attended Lincoln High School until eleventh grade, when in 1964, he was one of three students selected to desegregate the all-white Gainesville High School.
The interviews between Joel and members of the community are treasures. Joel’s intimate knowledge of African American culture, his love for his history and upbringing, and his respect for his elders come through clearly, as does their patient tutelage of Joel. These are front porch conversations with lemonade—storytelling at its finest. Noting the changes that were rapidly occurring within the African American community, Joel asks insightful questions that make the web of political, educational, and cultural networks in the community visible. Fifth Avenue, the street for which the project is named, was once the main thoroughfare of Gainesville’s thriving African American community (the Pleasant Street District), housing a great many of its businesses and homes, and its school.
A trained historian, Joel’s keen insights, probing questions and extensive connections created intimate interviews with African American leaders, teachers, students, and principals who lived and worked in Gainesville’s Black community during Jim Crow. This collection now called The Fifth Avenue Blacks Collection is housed in the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.
Oliver Jones and A. Quinn Jones, Lincoln High School alumni and Principal
This interview conducted by Joel Buchanan features Oliver Jones(son) and A. Quinn Jones (father), who was 94 years old at the time. A. Quinn Jones was the Founder of Lincoln High School in Gainesville, Florida. He served as Principal from Professor A. Quinn Jones as served as Principal of The Union Academy and its predecessor Lincoln High School from 1921-1967.
A. Quinn Jones was one of seven children born in Quincy, Florida to Rosa McDonald Jones and Joseph Thomas Jones. He attended public school in Quincy, Florida and then continued his schooling in Tallahassee, Florida. In the eighth grade, he was encouraged to apply for admission to the State Normal College for Colored Students at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College (FAMC), renamed Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU).
In 1908, he was accepted and enrolled at FAMU’S high school. During his high school years, he boarded at the school, working in food service during the school term and on a tobacco farm during the summers to pay for his tuition, room, and board. In 1911, he enrolled in the first baccalaureate class at FAMU, graduating in 1915 with a Bachelor of Science degree. Upon his graduation, he was awarded the distinction of having attained the highest honors in his class. In 1921, President Nathan Young recommended Jones for the principalship of the Union Academy in Gainesville, Florida. Jones remained an administrator in Gainesville until his retirement in 1957. This audio is Jones last public conversation. Click here and here to read the transcripts of other interviews with longtime educator A. Quinn Jones
Mabel Dorsey Interview by Joel Buchanon, October 8, 1984
Mabel Dorsey was both a student and then a teacher and department chair at Linciln High School. She attended Lincoln as a student from 1935-1939. Her family moved from New Rochelle, Florida to Gainesville so that she could attain a high school diploma. There was no high school in New Rochelle that degrees to Black students. Lincoln gave Mrs. Dorsey a window into a new world. After graduating, Dorsey attended Bethune Cookman College and them Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University to become a teacher. She returned to Gainesville as a faculty member at Lincoln in 1944.
In this interview conducted by Joel Buchanan, her former student, Dorsey describes her recruitment to the Lincoln faculty. Click here to read Mrs. Dorsey’s oral history transcript. She states, “My first year of teaching was in Levy County in a little junior high school named Royal Junior High School. And before I completed the first year, Professor Jones wanted me to come to Lincoln, but I asked him to let me complete my one year here and then I came on over to Lincoln High School and I was there until I decided to quit teaching. . . in 1968.” She taught home economics courses upon her appointment, eventually developing a full home economics department that provided curricula of courses for the sixth through twelfth grades. Buchanan recollected his experiences as a student of Dorsey: “The reason I can do some things at home now is because of some things I learned in your class.”
Frederica Jones and A. Q. Jones Interview by Joel Buchanon, July 30, 1985
Andrew Mickle Interview by Joel Buchanon, July 31, 1985
Geraldine Miller Interview by Joel Buchanon, February 6, 1986