Recorded in Sandy Tyler's Home in Berwyn. Ms. Tyler is the founding secretary of Lakeland Community Heritage Project
Type: Oral History
An oral history interview conducted with Betty Greene during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2007. Betty Louise Thomas Greene was born on September 13, 1938 at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington D.C. to Annie Venerva Hebron Thomas and Sam (probably Samuel) E. (possibly Edward) Thomas. Betty, the last of eight children, was born when her mother was in her 50s. Betty married her husband, Ambrose Augustine Greene, on June 29, 1957 at Holy Redeemer Church in College Park, Maryland, after he left the Army. Betty and Ambrose both lived in Lakeland, and developed their relationship by going to weekend dances at the Lakeland Tavern. They had one daughter, Danita Darcel Greene Costley. Betty also has two grandsons and three great grandchildren, whom she enjoys visiting in Arlington, Virginia as often as possible. Betty belonged to several community organizations, including the House of Ruth and the Lakeland Civic Association, and is a charter member of Post 140 John Henry Seaburn, College Park (which merged with the American Legion Auxiliary, Post 275, Glenarden.) She is a proud lifelong member of the Embry A.M.E. Church in Lakeland, which was her parents’ church and where she was baptized as an infant. Betty has fond memories of growing up as a child in Lakeland, emphasizing that while her family did not have much, they were very loving towards one another, and belonged to a community where everyone looked out for each other. The children would generally create their own entertainment by “playing store” and “playing house.” They even emulated the behavior of adults and once had a funeral for a dead bird. Betty and her siblings would also collect discarded glass soda bottles and redeem them for penny candy. They would either walk up the tracks to Berwyn, or patronize Mack’s Store or Black’s Store in Lakeland. Her father worked for a coal and feed business in Berwyn. He did the weekly grocery shopping on Saturday, which was payday; the family could look forward to hot dogs and beans for dinner, and as a special treat for the kids, a box of animal crackers. Betty’s mother, a domestic worker for families in Berwyn, knew how to be creative with food, so the family never went hungry. Betty also recalled that her mother got the best hand-me-down clothes from her employers for her children. Betty explained that there was no lack of discipline in her childhood, and that her parents used a switch to discipline their children. Rather than feeling like it was unnecessary, Betty feels that she’s a better person for having been disciplined, though she does hope that parents have learned other methods of disciplining their children. She also recalls being disciplined by her teacher, Richard Brown, by having her hand smacked with a ruler, while attending school in the two-room schoolhouse in east Lakeland. Betty expressed her disappointment over urban renewal in Lakeland because the program did not live up to the expectations that had been promised. The community did need some subsidized housing, but she notes that most of the apartments and lower income houses that replaced single-family houses and small businesses have become student housing; investors are buying homes for sale in the community and renting to students. She feels that this is a disadvantage for the community. Drugs are a problem in Lakeland now, and Betty attributes this to the fact that young people do not want to work at a minimum wage job, and turn down their noses at manual labor. Betty describes her family’s various housing situations. As a child, Betty lived at 5407 Detroit Avenue, now the site of Lake Artemesia (she mentions that she could walk over to Lake Artemesia today but would not be able to locate where her house had been.) They shared a double house with the Stewart family, renting it from the Kleiner family. Betty’s mother eventually went to live with Betty’s sister in Laurel. After Betty and Ambrose married in 1957, they moved in with Ambrose’s grandmother Elizabeth Greene, whose house was located, along with the houses of the Gray and Gross family, on the current location of Paint Branch Elementary School. After some moving around, including a stay in an apartment on Emerson Street in Hyattsville, Betty and Ambrose settled in a house owned by Ambrose’s mother, at 8001 51st Avenue, where Betty lives today. She raised not only her daughter, but also her brother’s four children, in this home. She cites raising her family while working for twenty-seven years as a cleaner at the Paint Branch Elementary School as her proudest personal accomplishment. Betty’s greatest joy in life comes from her involvement in the church. She has served in practically every capacity and church office, and still participates in church activities and charity events, like feeding the homeless. Her love of God and her faith have sustained her through some difficult times in her life, including the tragic loss of her mother in a house fire, a devastating blow for Betty since her mother had a significant influence on her life. To this day, Betty thanks her mother for all the wisdom she imparted, even if Betty did not appreciate the advice at the time. Wrapping up the interview, Betty recalls that she and her siblings looked forward to church, since it was their time to get away from the house. But, their mother’s wild and joyous behavior at church would embarrass them. With a knowing glance, Betty’s mother told her that one day, she would understand. Betty now finds herself acting just like her mother in church. And she couldn’t be happier.
Oral History of Mrs. Diane Weems Ligon, completed at her home on April 23, 2011. Mrs. Ligon discusses her family's connection to Lakeland, as one of the founding families. She describes how her grandparents and parents met and what they did for a living. Her parents were both civil servants, her father working in the District of Columbia, and her mother at Fort Meade in Columbia, MD. She discusses her siblings, a brother and sister, and her own experience being born and growing up in Lakeland. She describes the different schools she attended, Lakeland Elementary, Fairmount Heights High School, Howard University, and New York University. Ms. Ligon attended segregated schools throughout her education, until she reached graduate school at NYU. She discusses the effects of attending segregated schools, including the lack of material resources for African-American schools, the exceptional quality of teachers in those schools, favorite teachers, and after school activities. She also speaks about Prince George's County's resistance to integration, and the effects segregation had on her life as she experienced it both in the county, in the District of Columbia, and through discussions with her parents in her home. She explains the unity of the community of Lakeland with the surrounding African American communities and how Lakeland was the choice location for the high school because of its position in the middle of the Route 1 corridor. Mrs. Ligon discusses a trip she took after sophomore year in college to India, which was the first time she lived with people who practiced religions other than Christianity, which was an eye opening experience. She later explains how the trip to India helped her transition to graduate school, where again, she was living with people from different cultures and religions. Until graduate school she attended mainly all African-American institutions, and outside of the trip to India, had never lived outside of Lakeland. She describes leaving graduate school early to pursue a career in social work, a career choice she attributes to her rearing in Lakeland. She remained in New York City for fifteen years before returning to Lakeland with her daughter. Upon returning to Lakeland she worked for the District of Columbia government, and then for the Prince George's County Health Department, where she currently still works part-time after coming out of retirement. She describes the difference in her education and the education of her daughter in Prince George's County in the 1980s, not only the different between segregation and integration, but the quality of the education her daughter received. She also describes the Urban Renewal project in the community, and her perspective as someone who was not in the community when the redevelopment happened and as someone whose family was not displaced. She said the redevelopment had both good and negative impacts on the community, and how though her family wasn't negatively impacted, she understand why some families were and are so upset about the project. She briefly discusses the impact of having the University of Maryland as a neighbor to the community. She explains it was a place for employment, but it was also a constant reminder during segregation of where African Americans couldn't attend. Throughout the interview Mrs. Ligon discusses the small community experience for African Americans, their sense of place, self, and rootedness. She explains that Lakeland's story is part of a larger narrative for African American history, and that the history of Lakeland is probably similar to many of these small communities. She also disputes the idea of education as a way out explaining that education was not necessarily a way out, but a way for people to achieve more, and have more opportunities for work.
An oral history interview conducted with Dorothea Ellen Houston during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2008.
An oral history interview conducted with Julia Pitts during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2008. Mrs. Pitts discusses her childhood in Beltsville, Maryland. How living in a predominantly white community affected her childhood, the relationships that existed in that community, and being educated in an all African-American, one room school house from first to seventh grade. Though she was born in Montgomery County, Maryland, where her parents met, they moved to Beltsville when she was young. She describes how her family lived on the "white" side of Beltsville, and how she walked to school on the other side of Beltsville, because the school in her community was only for white children. She discusses her relationships with white children in that community, how the community stuck together, and how she didn't feel the effects of segregation until later in life. She also discusses her different places of employment. After dropping out of school after seventh grade, to help her mother support the family after her father died, she worked as a nanny for people within her Beltsville community. She later got a job at the University of Maryland, through a contact in her community. She worked at the University on the housekeeping staff, a job she didn't keep for long, because she applied for a position with Prince George's County. She spent most of her life working for Prince George's county as a community aid. Mrs. Pitts explains segregation's effect on her life, on the lives of her two children, and on those who lived in the Lakeland Community. She discusses in detail a case of discrimination at a local bank, which prompted the NAACP involvement. She briefly explains how she felt about Urban Renewal in Lakeland, and how other people in the community felt about it. Her home was not affected by Urban Renewal but she understands how it effected others who lost their homes. A common theme throughout the interview was Mrs. Pitts' involvement in church groups and both the Baptist and Methodist churches in Lakeland. She is an active member of Church Women United, and mentions the organization several times throughout the interview.
Interviewer doesn't state her name in the audio recording. Audio recording is of poor quality.
Hand written memoir of Robert Ridgely Gray
Oral history with Shirley Tyner-Pratt, by Brian Cuvo, Jennie Chaplin, and Gregory McCampbell, Capitol Heights, MD, December 14, 2009.
An oral history interview conducted with Clarice Briscoe during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2007. Both on Omeka and on the hard drive from Mary Sies in the 'LCHP-II, Jan 2011 > 15September_audio' folder. The interviewer does not state her name on the audio, and there is no date given. Split across two audio files: brisco_1.mp3 (25:05) and brisco_2.mp3 (5:30)
Telephone interview with Elwood Gross. Elwood Gross lived in Lakeland from 1933 to the 1970s. He served on the Lakeland Project Area Committee (PAC), which consisted of Lakeland residents who approved the earliest version of urban renewal plans. Those plans later changed and did not include many requests made by Lakelanders, namely the desire for single-family housing. Recorded via telephone with subject speaking from his home in South Carolina.
Robert Ridgley Gray
An oral history interview conducted with Beverly Daly during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2007.
A series of interviews with organizers and volunteers by Dinah Winnick and Eli Pousson during Lakeland Heritage Weekend.
An oral history interview conducted with Thelma Lomax during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2007. In this oral history, former first lady of College Park Thelma Lomax discusses her community involvement with Lakeland from the early 1950s to the present. Thelma Lipsey Lomax married into the Lakeland community in 1953. Her husband, Dervey Lomax, was a Lakeland native, city councilmen and the first African American mayor of College Park. During this interview Mrs. Lomax touches on her life and experiences in the community. Early life family and community life, segregation, urban renewal and even Maryland basketball are all points of discussion during this interview, Mrs. Lomax's connection and commitment to her family, church and community are thoroughly described.
An oral history interview conducted with Jean Ann Matthews during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2007. Mrs. Jean Ann Gray Matthews, eldest of 13 children, was born in the Lakeland Community in her grandmother's home on December 19, 1934, to Clarence and Christine Gray. In 1954, she married Carroll Matthews in Lakeland at 48th Avenue, which was where her parents resided. From this union, they became the parents of two daughters, Carroll and Avis and two sons, Barrett and Jean. One of the most significant influences that remains in Mrs. Matthews' life is her religious involvement, and she has been a member of the Embry AME Church of Lakeland since a child; she readily admits that these religious teachings, along with her strong familial bond, have instilled in her a positive attitude and a major source of strength. Mrs. Matthews is grateful for the significant role her parents and other religious leaders, such as pastors and Sunday school teachers, played in her upbringing. Besides her church involvement, Mrs. Matthews considers her children attending college as another proud accomplishment. When asked about the most significant change in Lakeland, Mrs. Matthews says it was urban renewal since it forced many people to leave the community; however, she did not have to leave. When asked how she would like to be remembered, Mrs. Matthews notes: "I gave the best to the community proud to have been born and raised in Lakeland."
Split across three tracks/files: Diane Weems Ligon Track 1.mp3 (5:49), Diane Weems Ligon Track 2.mp3 (42:08), and Diane Weems Ligon Track 3.mp3 (1:04:28). There is also a transcript of this interview. Audio recording is of poor quality.
Robert R. Gray
In the 'LCHP-II, Jan 2011 > 15September_audio' folder on the hard drive of data from Mary Sies. There is no date given.
An oral history interview conducted with Dorothy Holman during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2007.
An oral history interview conducted with Hattie Sandige during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2007. The interview was conducted between an interviewer and Mrs. Hattie Sandige, who lived in Lakeland. Mrs. Sandige's daughter, Jean, was present at the interview and at several points, interjects to comment on her mother's answers to questions posed. At the end of the interview, the interviewer asks some questions of Mrs. Sandige's daughter, related to her experience of growing up in Lakeland.
In the 'LCHP Misc' folder on the hard drive of data from Mary Sies. The interviewer does not state her name on the video, is not visible, and there is no date given.
An oral history interview conducted with Maxine Gross by Sandy Tyler following the 2002 oral history workshop.
Anthony Yanchulis has been in College Park since 1952 and was a College Park City Council member from 1975-1985. In this interview with Benjamin Skolnik, Mr. Yanchulis talks about his time as a student at UMD, his time on the CP city council, and Urban Renewal in Lakeland. Recorded at the College Park McDonalds (8301 Baltimore Ave. College Park, MD 20740).
Mr. Kelly is the current President and Mr. Curtis is the current Vice President of Leon N. Weiner & Associates.
Recorded during Lakeland Storytellers, Maryland Day, at Cole Fieldhouse at University of Maryland
Robert Ridgeley Gray
Robert Ridgley Gray
An oral history interview conducted with Pearl Lee Edwards during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2007.
This interview was conducted with Gela Sandage Brooks on April 27, 2011 at her home in Upper Marlboro, MD. Ms. Brooks discusses her time as a student at Lakeland School, Greenbelt Jr. High, High Point High School, and the University of Maryland. Ms. Brooks also talks about being a teacher at Lakeland Elementary and Paint Branch Elementary.
Violetta Sharps Jones, with her infant grandson, was interviewed on November 18, 2009. After not knowing her maternal or paternal grandparents, Violetta became interested in her genealogy. She is able to trace back her family's roots in Lakeland to the early 1900s. Her family migrated from Colonial Beach, VA in Westmoreland County to Washington, D.C and she was able to determine through census records that in 1880, Sarah Walls migrated to Washington, DC where she worked as a servant for a doctor and his family. This doctor was also from Virginia, so it is possible that she came with them to Washington, DC. She believes that Sarah's mother, Susan Walls moved to Lakeland because her children were there, and when she died in 1906 her body was sent back to Colonial Beach, VA to be buried, most likely because that is where her husband was buried. The 1900 census documented that Sarah, the oldest daughter, and her sister Nanny Walls, who was Violetta's great grandmother, lived in Lakeland. Nanny Walls Johnson Tate lived there with her husband James Johnson and their five children, and their family owned their home in Lakeland after 1900. Violetta was born in 1948 and lived at 1425 Albany Avenue, Lakeland, MD. When she left Lakeland in 1975, she lived at 5507 Albany Avenue, Lakeland, MD. Four generations of her family had lived in Lakeland since the 1900s. She was able to recall the neighbors that she grew up around, including John and Maggie Brooks who had five children, James and Martha Edwards who had one child, Charles and Netty Hamlet, and James and Anna Smith who lived in the building that used to be the Rosenwald School with their thirteen children. This school was comprised of two large rooms that previously housed the classes, a hallway, kitchen and storage room. Violetta's experience living in the East Side of Lakeland remained rural, and she was able to recall lots of outdoor activities and cookouts in her neighborhood. Her father was in the cooking profession and worked as a chef at the now closed College Park Diner that was located where the current McDonald's is, at a restaurant in College Park, and at one point he owned a small restaurant in Alexandria, VA. During the summer he would dig out a pit and have a barbeque pit, and Violetta recalls that her father always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Violetta grew up in her Family's house and recalled that her mother raised two of her sister's children after her sister passed away. Her extended family did not live with her; however, she recalled that at times relatives would stay with her family for one reason or another. Members of her extended family lived in the area local to Lakeland, and they were all associated with Embry AME Church together. Growing up, Violetta lived in a two-story house with a wrap around porch. Her house had two front doors with one door shut off to a parlor that was only used for special occasions. The siding on her house was originally wooden but then aluminum siding was installed. Next to her house was a large yard with an apple and walnut tree. Violetta later got married under that same walnut tree. Additionally there was a fishing pond with no fish and flower garden in her yard as well. Her family did not have a vegetable garden because of her Dad's work schedule and because she had no other brothers to upkeep it, nor did they keep any animals in their yard. The layout of her house consisted of a huge dining room, which activities were centered around, four bedrooms and an indoor bathroom on the first floor that was installed after the house was build because the original house did not include indoor plumbing. Violetta recalled the architecture styles of the houses around her, with several houses having a resort style, a large Victorian near the lake, a Bungalow style house with a screened in front porch, along with two-story structures that did not have a porch, and a cottage. Most houses in the area were fairly large two story structures. Status was not placed on homes and Violetta described it as a proud not pretentious community. Since her father was the cook of the family and her mother never had to cook, her mother was interested in personalizing her house through its dacor. Growing up, Violetta did not think of her area as the East side instead it was just the other side of the railroad tracks. Social events growing up included house parties, events at Lakeland Hall that anyone could rent, Church events and the Friday night teen club held by the recreation department. The Teen Club took place at Lakeland High School, and they would occasionally join up with other recreation departments in Prince George's County for events. Another past time included dancing to Juke boxes in Black's store and buying penny candy. During the summer, the recreation department had organized sports including softball and swimming. Violetta attended Lakeland Elementary and Junior High School and at the end of her eighth grade was the beginning of integration. Violetta had the choice of attending Northwestern, High Point, or Fairmont High School, and ended up attending Fairmont High School, which was a thirty-minute bus ride to school. She very much enjoyed her school experience because her teachers had a vested interest in the students. The Embry AME Church was a focal point in her family's history, and her mother was married there and her extended family were members of the church. The ministers lived in Washington, D.C and loved Lakeland, and would spend their Sundays after church with different host families that would invite them to Sunday family dinners. Growing up in Lakeland there was always a sense of community and belonging for Violetta. Everyone knew each other, and new people would become a part of the community as well. The community members were very protective, and this was apparent in the way they cared for you. Lakeland was a safe place and no one locked their doors, and she recalled very few instances of break-ins. Looking back she realized that struggling families were supported by community members and they always had something to eat and clothing to wear and other families always stepped up to help. Very few families moved in to the Lakeland community, and most property was passed on to extended family instead of being sold when someone passed away. Some of the traditions that Violetta recalled from her childhood were that very few people did not go to church, which is something that has changed now. Now there are a lot of new people in the area with no connection to the town, and not everyone knows their neighbors. Growing up everyone knew everyone and their families, which was a bond of the community. People often married other community members from Lakeland or North Brentwood. The community boundaries of Lakeland were based on a social life with the neighboring black towns until the 1960s, and that segregated socialization was a choice not by force. Violetta recalls going to the library and shopping center in College Park, and that many of her friends were in Lakeland and neighboring communities. Violetta briefly discusses an engineering firm that opened up on the East side of Lakeland, but it did not become a part of the community. On the east side, there was one newer structure built, but the rest of the houses were from the 1900s. On the west side, many families had expansions to their homes throughout the neighborhood.
An oral history interview conducted with Fannie Douglass during Lakeland Heritage Weekend 2007.
Interview with Anna Owens Interviewers Alex Toprac and Nancy Bazar Mrs. Anna Owens, Mayor of the City of College Park from 1987-1993 and previously City Council member beginning in 1981, speaks of her experience of late or post Lakeland Urban Renewal. She gives a strong internal perspective of the governmental bureaucracy and operations involved in the development of the high rises on Lakeland's west side as well as WMATA's Green Line. She also specifically regards the University of Maryland's involvement in Lakeland's post-demolition Urban Renewal developments.
Mr. Arthur Dock was born and raised in North Brentwood, Maryland. His father was a sand and gravel employee, and his mother, who worked as a domestic, passed away when Mr. Dock was a young boy. His aunt helped to raise Arthur and his three siblings. Mr. Dock recalls that North Brentwood, where he attended elementary school in the 1940â€™s, was a close-knit African-American community where everyone was concerned about the educational and social well-being of the children. The schools and churches played a large role in safeguarding the security and well-being of the community. He describes some experiences of attending a segregated school, including how teachers were short of supplies and what books they had were handed down from white schools (usually Mt. Rainier or Hyattsville.) Mr. Dock attended Lakeland High School from 1946-1950, and was part of the last graduating class of Lakeland High School. Like other African American students in Prince George's County, he rode the bus to Lakeland. Again, he recalls the second-hand materials that the school received, but fondly remembers the quality education he received there. Mr. Dock feels strongly that the teachers made an exceptional educational experience for the students, preparing them for a life and career in the segregated world. One important lesson he recalls is that African American students were taught to speak well, use appropriate English, be on time, and look decent. Mr. Dock formed a close bond with one teacher - Mrs. Walker and speculates that she took special care of him because his mother had passed when he was young. He stayed in touch with Mrs. Walker until her death in the mid-2000â€™s. This serves as one example of how the teachers in Lakeland wove themselves into the fabric of the community, taking the time to visit students at home, serving as mentors and role models. Most of Mr. Dock's reminiscences center around his conviction that folk made the school“ especially the teachers. It is not surprising, then, that Mr. Dock went to Bowie University, after graduating Lakeland High School in 1950, to become a teacher. His experiences at Bowie cemented the idea that education had a purpose and could be used to market yourself to the job market. After graduating Bowie University in 1954, and spending a two-year stint in the army, Mr. Dock began teaching in the Prince George's County school system, starting at a two-room school in Holly Grove, Maryland. But the segregated school system began to change, after the Brown vs Board of Education decision in 1954 forced an end to legal segregation. Mr. Dock seemed more affected by the fact that the integration of schools in Prince George's County caused competent black teachers to move to mostly-white schools, signaling an end to their effectiveness. Mr. Dock enjoyed teaching, especially science, and it is obvious that his teaching style was influenced by the education he had received in Lakeland, and that he attempted to replicate that experience for children during integration, a time of great social upheaval for adults and for children in Prince George's County. He was promoted from teacher to Helping Teacher (a quasi-supervisor for teachers) and then to Vice-Principal at Concord Elementary in District Heights. After two years of training, Mr. Dock became the principal of Ardenwood Elementary School, a country club school in the County. From there, he went to the decidedly less glamorous Bladensburg Elementary School, which he enjoyed immensely for about two years. He spent the rest of his career in a middle school implementation team position that he did not like, as it kept him out of the classroom and away from teaching children. Mr. Dock emphasizes that one of the major drawbacks of the integration process was that talented black teachers were sent to white schools, where they were not as appreciated and were decidedly less effective. He saw his role as trying to make the transition to integration smooth for the teachers and the students, implementing new teaching procedures and curriculum that seemed to replicate the educational experience of Lakeland and help the students to market themselves for the outside world. He also wanted to properly assign teachers to subjects where they had an expertise or strength. He pushed to instill discipline in the students and have the teachers set expectations, or benchmarks, in the learning process so that students could mark their progress. Finally, Mr. Dock emphasized the importance, at the time, of athletics in the schools, and how the students were able to travel around the county. Athletics became another field in which African-American students could achieve success in their segregated world. Recorded at Caroline Hall, University of Maryland College Park.
Recorded during Lakeland Storytellers, Maryland Day, at Cole Fieldhouse at University of Maryland