A Guide to the Lucy Simms Oral Histories, 2000 SdArch 20

A Guide to the Lucy Simms Oral Histories, 2000 SdArch 20


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James Madison University Libraries Special Collections

880 Madison Drive
MSC 1704
Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807
Telephone: (540) 568-3612
library-special@jmu.edu
URL: https://www.lib.jmu.edu/special/

Tiffany Cole

Repository
James Madison University Libraries Special Collections
Identification
SdArch 20
Title
Lucy Simms oral histories 2000
Quantity
0.09 cubic feet, 5 folders, 6 audiocassettes
source
Getachew, Wondwossen
Creator
Getachew, Wondwossen
Creator
Getachew, Wondwossen
Language
English .
Abstract
The oral history collection includes the recollections of Carlotta Harris, Edgar Johnson and wife, Wilhelmina Johnson, Louise Winston, and Elon Rhodes, former students of Lucy Simms, and Ellen Walker, current owner of the Lucy Simms house.

Administrative Information

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (library-special@jmu.edu).

Access Restrictions

Collection open to research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Preferred Citation

[identification of item], [box #, folder #], Lucy Simms Oral Histories, 2000, SdArch 20, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

Acquisition Information

Cassette tapes, transcripts, and background paper were donated to Special Collections by interviewer Wondwossen Getachew in January 2001.

Processing Information

At some point after their donation in 2001, the cassette tapes were reformatted into a digital format.


Bio/Historical Note

Lucy Frances Simms was born into slavery in 1856 at the Hill Top Plantation located along Harrisonburg's northeast boundary. After Emancipation, her family settled on the same land where they were formerly enslaved, known as Newtown. As a young girl, Simms attended the Whipple School, Harrisonburg's first African American schoolhouse near Blacks Run, and later enrolled at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Hampton, Virginia where she studied alongside Booker T. Washington. After graduating in 1877 with a teaching certificate, Simms returned to the Harrisonburg area, where she taught three generations of Black students over the course of five decades. She began her teaching career at Long's Chapel schoolhouse in Zenda where she taught for one year before taking a position at the Effinger Street School in Harrisonburg. Simms taught there for fifty-one years until her death in 1934. She is buried in Newtown Cemetery. Her advocacy and commitment to teaching was commemorated by the Lucy F. Simms School which was built in 1939 as the city's new school for Black students and named in Simms's honor. The school, now known as the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center, was in operation until 1966 when the local schools desegregated.

Scope and Content

The oral history collection includes the recollections of Carlotta Harris, Edgar Johnson and wife, Wilhelmina Johnson, Louise Winston, and Elon Rhodes, former students of Lucy Simms, and Ellen Walker, current owner of the Lucy Simms house. Topics discussed include Lucy Simms as an educator and her teaching style; local African American education more broadly; and social, economic, and demographic changes to Harrisonburg's African American neighborhoods.

Arrangement

Collection materials are arranged according to interviewee.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

  • African American neighborhoods -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg -- Sources
  • African American teachers -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg -- Sources
  • African American teachers and the community -- Sources
  • African Americans -- Education (Elementary) -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg -- Sources
  • African Americans -- Education (Secondary) -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg -- Sources
  • African Americans -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg -- Economic conditions -- Sources
  • African Americans -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg -- History
  • African Americans -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg -- History -- Sources
  • African Americans -- Virginia -- Harrisonburg -- Social life and customs -- Sources
  • Effinger Street School
  • Getachew, Wondwossen
  • Harrisonburg (Va.) -- History -- 19th century
  • Harrisonburg (Va.) -- History -- 20th century
  • Harrisonburg (Va.) -- Race relations
  • Lucy F. Simms School (Public school)
  • Rockingham County (Va.) -- History
  • Segregation in education -- Virginia -- History
  • Simms, Lucy F. (Lucy Frances), 1856-1934
  • Slavery -- Virginia -- Rockingham County
  • Social change
  • oral histories (literary works)

Significant Persons Associated With the Collection

  • Getachew, Wondwossen
  • Harris, Carlotta (Mary Carlotta Newman), 1911-2015
  • Johnson, Edgar, 1925-2003
  • Johnson, Wilhelmina
  • Newman, George A. (George Ambrose), 1855-1944
  • Rhodes, Elon W. (Elon Walter), 1922-2006
  • Simms, Lucy F. (Lucy Frances), 1856-1934
  • Walker, Ellen, 1951-
  • Winston, Louise Helen, 1921-2019

Significant Places Associated With the Collection

  • Harrisonburg (Va.) -- History -- 19th century
  • Harrisonburg (Va.) -- History -- 20th century
  • Harrisonburg (Va.) -- Race relations
  • Rockingham County (Va.) -- History

Container List

Mixed Materials box: 1 folder: 1 20-1
Background paper
October 2000
20-2
Ellen Walker interviewed by Wondwossen Getachew
Walker, Ellen, 1951-Getachew, WondwossenGetachew, Wondwossen
01:20:00 Duration (HH:MM:SS.mmm)
2000 October 13

[Aviary] SdArch20-2.mp3


pg1hh6d70g   audio-default.png   
Location of Interview

Recorded at Ellen Walker's residence at 231 East Johnson Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia. It was the former residence of Lucy F. Simms.

Scope and Content

Records the reminiscences of Ellen Walker, who purchased and renovated Lucy Simms' Harrisonburg house in 1997. Describes her childhood and school experiences in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the 1950s and 1960s, during the transition from segregation to integration. Discusses the economic and social impact of segregation on the school systems. Relates how she moved to Harrisonburg in 1994, where she found the Simms house, abandoned and in disrepair. Describes the process of buying the house from the City of Harrisonburg and renovating it with the help of volunteers from the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Mentions a number of Simms' papers and letters found in the attic, during renovation. Describes Simms' family, including her mother, sister, and two brothers; John Simms and Ulysses Wilson. Gives a brief account of the final days and death of Lucy Simms in the house, in 1934.

  • Mixed Materials box: 1 folder: 2
    Transcript
    20 pages
  • Audio Media Cabinet: 1 Audiocassette: SA020-CS-002
    Original audiocassette
  • Audio Media Cabinet: 1 Audiocassette: SA020-CS-006
    Preservation copy audiocassette
20-3
Carlotta Harris interviewed by Wondwossen Getachew
Harris, Carlotta (Mary Carlotta Newman), 1911-2015Getachew, WondwossenGetachew, Wondwossen
00:49:33 Duration (HH:MM:SS.mmm)
2000 November 2

[Aviary] SdArch20-3.mp3


6d5p844p47   audio-default.png   
Location of Interview

Recorded at 192 Kelly Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Scope and Content

Records the reminiscences of Carlotta Newman Harris, who was a neighbor and student of Lucy Simms in the early twentieth century. Recounts her early family life and her experiences as a student in Simms' first grade class at the Effinger Street School in Harrisonburg, Va. (ca. 1917). Describes Simms' teaching technique and classroom demeanor. Discusses the daily routine at the school, including the role of the principal, her future father-in-law, William Harris, whom she calls "Dembe." Mentions events in subsequent primary grades and her eventual high school graduation from that same school in 1929. Includes recollections of the friendship between her mother and Simms, as well as Simms' standing and reputation in the community. Briefly describes the physical and social changes in her Harrisonburg neighborhood over several decades.

  • Mixed Materials box: 1 folder: 3
    Transcript
    13 pages
  • Audio Media Cabinet: 1 Audiocassette: SA020-CS-001
    Original audiocassette
  • Audio Media Cabinet: 1 Audiocassette: SA020-CS-005
    Preservation copy audiocassette
20-4
Edgar Johnson interviewed by Wondwossen Getachew
Johnson, Edgar, 1925-2003Johnson, WilhelminaWinston, Louise Helen, 1921-2019Getachew, WondwossenGetachew, Wondwossen
00:48:55 Duration (HH:MM:SS.mmm)
2000 November 11

[Aviary] SdArch20-4.mp3


4j09w09w09   audio-default.png   
Location of Interview

Recorded at 424 Myrtle Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Scope and Content

Records the reminiscences of Edgar Johnson, Wilhelmina Johnson, and Louise Winston, three former students of Lucy Simms at the Effinger Street School. Describes Simms' teaching style and her standing in the community. Includes a brief physical description of the Effinger Street School, as well as the Lucy F. Simms School, where all three students were transferred in 1939. Refers to Mary Fairfax, who taught at the Simms School. Discusses the social, economic, and demographic changes to Harrisonburg's African American neighborhoods after a major redevelopment project in the 1940s.

  • Mixed Materials box: 1 folder: 4
    Transcript
    11 pages
  • Audio Media Cabinet: 1 Audiocassette: SA020-CS-003
    Original audiocassette
  • Audio Media Cabinet: 1 Audiocassette: SA020-CS-007
    Preservation copy audiocassette
20-5
Elon Rhodes interviewed by Wondwossen Getachew
Rhodes, Elon W. (Elon Walter), 1922-2006Getachew, WondwossenGetachew, Wondwossen
00:33:14 Duration (HH:MM:SS.mmm)
2000 December 1

[Aviary] SdArch20-5.mp3


h12v40kz2c   audio-default.png   
Location of Interview

Recorded at 366 Effinger Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Scope and Content

Records the reminiscences of Elon Rhodes, a lifelong resident of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Recounts his early family life and his experiences as a student in Lucy Simms' first grade class at the Effinger Street School (circa 1928), and his subsequent high school graduation from that same school in 1939. Describes Simms' teaching technique and classroom demeanor, as well as the physical layout of the school building. Mentions the Lucy F. Simms school building, which opened the year he graduated from Effinger Street, in 1939. Briefly mentions the Effinger Street School's principal, William Harris, who would hold the same position at the Simms School. Describes race relations in Harrisonburg, as well as the changing demographic and social structure of the city over several decades. Touches briefly on his service in a segregated Army unit in World War II and his subsequent entry into Harrisonburg municipal government upon his return from the war. Discusses his two terms on the school board and his two years as the vice-mayor of Harrisonburg.

  • Mixed Materials box: 1 folder: 5
    Transcript
    14 pages
  • Audio Media Cabinet: 1 Audiocassette: SA020-CS-004
    Original audiocassette
  • Audio Media Cabinet: 1 Audiocassette: SA020-CS-0008
    Preservation copy audiocassette