Palm Beach County

African American Oral History Project

Sponsored By

The Palm Beach County African American Oral History Virtual Pilot Project began in July of 2020 as a partnership between the Palm Beach County School District and the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County. The goal of the project was to provide opportunities to pass down knowledge and history from generation to generation, as well as encourage connections between the youth and the elders through an oral history project on the life, culture, and history of African American communities in Palm  Beach County, Florida.

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Eight elders representing Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Belle Glade, Pahokee, and  Riviera Beach were virtually interviewed by five youth researchers about life growing up in Palm Beach County.  Two interns from Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) assisted in facilitating the project, along with another PBA student serving as Tech Assistant. Through their research and interviews, the youth highlighted the elders’ experiences with racism in the educations system, segregation, and discrimination. Meet our team, the elders, and their stories.

The Elders

images-800x800_LUCILLE FLETCHER


images-800x800_MARY LOPEZ


images-800x800_ALLIE HOWARD BIGGS


images-800x800_GLORIA CHANEY


images-800x800_MYRTLE POOLE RAINS


images-800x800_ALFRED STRAGHAN


images-800x800_ELIZABETH STUBBS


images-800x800_Patricia Luma


Project Director

Dr. Alisha R. Winn

Dr. Alisha R. Winn is project director for the Palm Beach County African American Oral History Project, training and enabling youth to preserve and document the lives of community elders. She is an applied cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on race, class, identity, educational disparities, historic preservation in communities, heritage education for youth, historic African American insurance companies, and oral histories. She received her Ph.D. from the University of South Florida in Applied Anthropology. Dr. Winn has directed numerous heritage educational projects such as the Remembering St. Petersburg Oral History Project, the Inner-City Youth Summer Preservation Project, and the Riviera Beach Prep Oral History Project. Through her company Consider the Culture, Dr. Winn incorporates anthropological knowledge to governmental, community, educational, and religious institutions on the social construction of race, cultural belief systems and practices, and language, ethnographic research, and community engagement. She is an adjunct professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University's School of Ministry, infusing community-engaged research, and applied anthropology in the classroom.

The Interns

Catalina Rios

Catalina Rios was born and raised in Colombia, but has lived in Boca Raton, Florida since 2017. She is a recent graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic University where she majored in Psychology and minored in Christian Social Ministry. She is an intern for the Project and performed tasks such as assisting the project director and guiding youth teams with interviewing, coding and analyzing collected data.

Josmery Botello

Josmery Botello was born in Dominican Republic and raised in MIami, Florida. She is a graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic University where she studied Psychology and Christian Social Ministry. She serves as the project’s Tech Assistant by personally contacting all of our participants and preparing them for our interview meetings. She has also assisted in conducting research for the project.

Nicole DeAvila

Nicole De Avila was born in West Michigan but has lived in South Florida for the past ten years. She is a senior at Palm Beach Atlantic University on track to graduate May 2021. She is majoring in Christian Social Ministry with a minor in education. She is an intern for the Oral History Project and helped student researchers through the interview and research process. As well as create content for the social media platforms.

The Researchers

Jovonna Morton

Jovonna Morton is 16 years old. She was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She has lived in West Palm Beach, Florida since she was 9 years old. She attends Suncoast High School and she is in the 10th grade. She is a part of Salvation Army’s T.R.I.B.E, Photography club, The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), and Pre-Med club. She enjoys spending her time making advanced friendship bracelets and hanging out with friends and family. She wants to graduate with honors and get into the college of her dreams.

Zanae Talbert

Zanae Talbert is 16 years old. She was born in West Palm Beach, FL where she has lived her entire life. She is in the 10th grade at Palm Beach Lakes High school. She volunteers at the Police Athletic League (PAL) where she has attended since she was five years old. Zanae likes creating beauty products like body butter, lip scrubs, lip oils, body shirmers, and face masks that she does for her own company Melanin Escentials. Her dream is to become the youngest black business woman of her generation.

Essence Foster

Essence Foster is 17 years old. She was born in Loxahatchee, FL but grew up her entire life in Pahokee, FL. Essence is a senior at Pahokee High school where she was a part of the cheerleading team. She also enjoys shopping and helping others. After high school, Essence plans to pursue her Nursing degree at the University of South Florida.

Jermaine Mays

Jermaine Mays is 19 years-old. He grew up in the city of Belle Glade, Florida. He graduated from Glades Central High School in the class of 2020. He is a team member of The Student ACES Center in Belle Glade, FL and enjoys football and being a mentor to his peers. His goal is to one day become an electrician.

Cordayja Searcy

Searcy is an 18 year old senior graduating from Atlantic Community High School. She was born in Boynton Beach, Florida but was raised in Delray Beach, Florida for most of her life. She is a member of the Emanuel Jackson Sr. (EJS) Project, Inc. She likes to paint, draw, sculpt, model, and do just about anything that involves art. In the future, she wants to be in the animation and game art design field. She hopes to someday visit other countries to learn and experience different cultures.


Top row: Nicole DeAvila, Essence Foster, Jermaine Mays, Josmery Botello
Bottom row: Jovonna Morton, Catalina Rios, Zanae Talbert, Cordayja Searcy

From participating in this project, youth researchers have a greater appreciation for their elders and an understanding of their history and culture in their communities.

“It really changed my perspective of Elders because at first I thought Elders were people who would just tell random stories to give kids candy and stuff like that. But by watching and interviewing other elders, I see that we shouldn’t’ take them for granted. We should get to know their stories and stuff like that…I learned how to interview. I learned how to communicate better. I learned how to research information farther than I ever researched before. And I learned how their lifestyles as a college student and stuff like that and it’s giving me information to be ready for when I graduate.” – Zanae Talbert

“…It changed the way that I view where I live…hearing elders from Palm Beach County talking about streets that I know, and talking about how this used to be there and I guess in that way….Researching, definitely researching, interviewing skills, brainstorming skills, communication skills….” – Jovonna Morton, West Palm Beach, FL

“This project here opened up my eyes. I was like ‘wow this is amazing,’ all this information. I could never get tired of hearing more and more. I was always interested in learning more. I would go on my laptop and search up everything…The fact that, not only did I get to meet a group of great people but to also learn about my history and then learn about my elders history. Not just in America, but in my own State. You never really hear about that from your own State…When I first started training, I had no idea how to interview people. I ask you a question and you answer. But I never really knew about probing…I feel like that’s a skill that I’m definitely going to have to use in the future in certain aspects of my career.”- Cordayja Searcy, Delray Beach, FL

Youth Intern & Researcher Experience

Segregation Life in Palm Beach County

A segregated life was the norm for people of color in Palm Beach County. Segregation and discrimination existed in the school system, businesses, housing, and people of color’s everyday lives. After the Civil War, the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments were passed in 1865, 1866, and 1869 respectively to ensure the rights of the recently freed slaves. However, State governments were given the liberty to adopt the “separate but equal” doctrine, which meant that whites and blacks had the same rights. Still, each State had the liberty to use separate institutions to facilitate these rights.

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