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History and the People Who Make It: Rosa B. Williams

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler

This is the fourteenth in a continuing series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Rosa B. Williams, long-time Gainesville community organizer, was interviewed by Joel Buchanan [B] in 1996.

B: Where were you born, Rosa?

In Starke, Florida. My mother was a housewife. When I was small I can remember her working out … taking in laundry at her house. But she never worked out after I got bigger. My father, … Roosevelt, first he was cutting cross ties, then he worked at a sawmill and then when he came here to live, he worked two jobs, Alachua General Hospital and the University of Florida.

B: Did you have a responsibility on the farm?

Yeah feeding the pigs, cows, chickens, doing everything else. We planted peanuts and all but we did have to go out and cut okras and potatoes. We used to make about 25 cents for a little basket.

B: What was your first job?

Working at Alachua General Hospital running the elevator, for about five years.

B: What did you make a week?

$13.50. That always stuck in my mind. I went to work as a maid [for] Deborah and Jane Stearic, until the beginning of the ’70s. She’s the one that really started pushing me out there. She used to go to the library and pick up my books for me. She said one day that she wasn’t going to, and I was going to go myself. And when I say “push,” if it had not been for her I wouldn’t have went to the library and insist that I get a library card, which I was the first black person which finally got one. It took us about two or three months.

Then when the Democrat Club was home around here, she was insistent that I go to their lunches and things and I was the only black person, you know.

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