African Americans in Florida Oral History Project

TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 11, 2009) – The University of South Florida Tampa Library has made travelling back in time possible through its distinguished oral history program. The latest collection has preserved voices from the previous century – young and old – to create USF’s African Americans in Florida Oral History Project. The special digital collection is now ready to be shared with the world beginning with its opening Sept. 18 at 2 p.m. at the USF Tampa Library.


The ceremonial launch will be held in the Grace Allen Room on the 4th floor of the library, hosted by USF Libraries Dean William A. Garrisson and Special & Digital Collections Director Mark I. Greenberg. Special guests include: community activist Otis R. Anthony and Cheryl Rodriguez, associate professor in the Department of Africana Studies and interim director of the Institute on Black Life. Free parking will be available at the library for this event if you RSVP to or call (813) 974-1198.


The idea for the interviews began with Anthony. Many of the project’s 89 oral histories were conducted under his direction between 1977 and 1978 as part of the Black History of Tampa Project, sponsored by the Tampa Urban League and the Hillsborough County Museum.  In 1993-94, Anthony shared these interviews with several USF anthropology department faculty in order to support The Central Avenue Legacies Project.  The collaboration involved Anthony and USF Anthropology Professors Susan Greenbaum and Rodriguez, past NAACP field secretary Robert Saunders, independent researcher Beverly Ward, Ginger Baber, and architectural historian Geoffrey Mohlman. The Central Avenue Legacies Project received funding from the Florida Humanities Council with help from Liz Dunham at the Tampa Bay History Center.  


Project leaders deposited the oral histories as well as an extensive collection of research materials with the USF Tampa Library Special Collections Department. Over the last year, USF Libraries Oral History Program staff have digitized and cataloged the transcripts and audio recordings in order to preserve these valuable historical records and make them available.


“Making this important legacy accessible via the Internet results in a far-reaching and lasting contribution to scholarship,” said Greenberg. “Oral histories bring the past to life and constitute an invaluable resource for students, researchers, and the greater community. They enrich research and teaching for all who use them.”


About the USF Tampa Library's Oral History Program:

Through an active oral history program that includes interviews, workshops, and outreach, the USF Libraries Oral History Program records, collects, and preserves individual and community memory for future generations. These oral histories offer valuable information that furthers knowledge of social, cultural, historical, political, and economic activities in the Tampa Bay area and beyond.


Since 1997, the program has collected more than 900 interviews on topics ranging from history and culture to the establishment of the University of South Florida.  It has fostered the creation of unique resources, including digital initiatives. The USF Tampa Library works with the latest state-of-the-art technology and technical services to preserve, catalog, and digitize its oral history collections. Complete interview transcripts, in addition to the audio, are available on the USF Libraries Oral History Program web site:


The University of South Florida System is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The system offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. It has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.