On March 21st, the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program hosted the 2019 symposium, From Segregation to Black Lives Matter, with over 300 people in attendance and many more live streaming the day’s panels and discussions.
University of Florida President, Kent Fuchs; University Provost, Joe Glover; Reda Buchanan; Director of the African American Studies Program at the University of Florida, Sharon Austin; and Director of SPOHP Paul Ortiz were on hand to open the symposium and the Joel Buchanan archive.
During the day, symposium participants had the opportunity to attend various sessions, including: Conducting the Oral Histories: Challenges, Impacts, and Legacies; The Difference History Makes: Veterans, Classrooms, Community, and Museum & Virtually. There was also a screening of “Gator Tales” – an original play focusing on the experience of the first generations of African American students at UF.
We ended the day with a presentation by Professor Curtis Austin from the University of Oregon who gave an enlightening keynote address on the real history of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense using oral histories.
“Dr. Austin’s presentation was eye-opening. As a student in the College of Journalism at UF, it was sobering to learn what a crucial role the media played in demonizing the Black Panther Party by conspiring with the FBI to discredit the labor of the Black Power Movement.”
The second day of the symposium began with a welcoming address by Florida State Representative Clovis Watson (District 20). College of Liberal Arts and Science Dean David Richardson followed with the exciting announcement that UF has authorized four new faculty searches in African American Studies in the upcoming year!
Next was a panel of friends and colleagues of Joel Buchanan’s who shared their memories of him and their reflections on his legacy. Some of the memories were of Joel personally, while others recalled his efforts more publicly as a historian, an archivist, and a community activist. Panelists included Evelyn Foxx, Rodney Long, Bernie Machen, Judith Russell, Steve Noll, Marna Weston, Faye Williams, and Sam Taylor. Afterwards, Dean Russell, Stephanie Birch, and Laurie Taylor of the UF Libraries officially unveiled the online collections.
Three students from Columbia University’s Oral History Master’s Program traveled to Gainesville to participate in the symposium. Benji de la Piedra shared his thoughts on the second day of the symposium:
“As I am now approaching my fourth year of work on African American oral history in Little Rock, and preparing to take up the mantle of oral history education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) in Spring 2020, I have been asking myself incessantly since the symposium started: How can we replicate this model, documenting the life and community histories of African American elders, in Arkansas? And how might a project in Arkansas learn from, or even partner directly with, SPOHP’s fieldwork activities in Florida and the Mississippi Delta?”
The third day of the symposium was held in the A. Quinn Jones Center auditorium, which was the auditorium of the original Lincoln High School.
A panel from Ocoee started the program, featuring Kathleen Crown, Nichole Dawkins, Mayor Rusty Johnson, and William E. Maxwell, with Edward Gonzalez-Tennant moderating. Following their presentation, symposium attendees enjoyed Delia’s Catering, and then a presentation by Albert White describing the legacy and significance of Lincoln High School.
Julian Chambliss shared the story of the documentary film in progress on the remarkable history of Oscar Mack, previously presumed to be a 1922 lynching victim in Kissimmee, but who we now know survived and escaped to the north, where he lived under an assumed name for the rest of his life. The presentation closed with Oscar Mack’s descendants: Vanessa Bonner sang, and her brother James Brown gave an address on racial unity that was rooted in the legacy of his family’s struggle.
Lastly, Marna Weston, the founding graduate student of SPOHP’s African American History Project, introduced the final speaker, Larry Rivers, who showcased his oratorical skills in delivering the closing remarks.