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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Floyd Adams, August 16, 2002. Interview R-0168. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Church group leads community empowerment efforts

Adams remembers black Savannah's "Daddy Grace Parade," a spectacle that unified the community. It was led by Sweet Daddy Grace, the leader of a Pentecostal church that Adams notes has contributed a great deal to the economic health of the black community. As he reflects on the church's outreach, Adams remembers some of the institutions black Savannah lost to urban renewal and black Savannans' efforts to reverse some of those losses through community activism.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Floyd Adams, August 16, 2002. Interview R-0168. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

KIERAN TAYLOR You wouldn't remember any of Daddy Grace's parades? FLOYD ADAMS, JR. Oh yes I do. I remember quite a few of them. I enjoyed it matter of fact, really enjoyed those because at the time we could go to the Herald and kept cool and relaxed until the parade came out and then we walked outdoors and did it. Like I was telling, relating to some people the other day, they used to have the bands on the back of a truck, a flatbed truck and playing the music right before Daddy Grace would come by and see the people walking and the parade. The big parade of Savannah was the Daddy Grace parade for black folks. It wasn't the Saint Patrick's Day parade. It was the sweet Daddy Grace parade and everybody turned out. I mean, that was it. That was the thing. I remember going to my first service of Daddy Graceߞ KIERAN TAYLOR Was this an outdoor? FLOYD ADAMS, JR. No, he had a tent on the corner of Thirty-fourth and Thirty-fourth street between Ogeechee road right around the corner from his present place and had the sawdust on the floor. That was the ground. That was the flooring, the sawdust, fresh sawdust on it. People step on that and everything and see how they gave him the money trees and all that kind of stuff. But as a child you related to the music and see how the people were reacting so more than anything else. So it was good. KIERAN TAYLOR A spectacle. FLOYD ADAMS, JR. Yeah, the spectacle if you want to call it, but everybody looked at Sweet Daddy wanted to look at his fingernails and everything of that nature. He did wonders for this community and brought it together. So regardless of whether you believe that his religious permutation and belief, he did good for this community. He still continues to do good, his beliefs. KIERAN TAYLOR House of Prayer. FLOYD ADAMS, JR. The House of Prayer doing great. The House of Prayer did something in this community that other churches have not done, black churches. They built apartment complexes for the senior citizens within the church. They spruced up the neighborhoods and recently within the last four or five years, they've come in and rebuilt all their churches in Savannah and upgraded their facilities. Now they're operating restaurants and everything. So from an economic point of view, they've been a wonderful blessing to this community and that was always his outreach and everything else. So he's created the economic flow for this community. Savannah has improved over the years. Slowly like I've told people, I've seen the bad, the good and hopefully the best coming forward, but I've seen the city move. Everybody's emphasizing the historical significance. We've lost a lot of historical things that were prevalent to the black community when urban renewal came through. I was recently in Macon and the terminal, the last Union station in the state. I felt as a child, that our Union Station was the best and most beautiful building that I'd ever seen with the marble and all that, but it went down the tubes because of urban renewal and somebody wanted to put I-16 in here. You have some little engineer in Atlanta saying we need to put the train this way. Next thing everybody jump on board, just for the development, economic stimulus for the community. Yes, it's economic stimulus. We now have one of the biggest ports in the community because we can now move the cargo from Savannah to Atlanta and then disperse it nationwide because of that connection. But we pay the price. We paid the price. Luckily, there were seven white women who said 'no.' See that was the difference. When they started emerging and trying to do something in the downtown area, you had the white community say no, we're going to form these groups and buy these buildings. The black community didn't have the resources to do that. That started the Historical Savannah Foundation. That's why we have a lot of these buildings that so-called save the day because of Historic Savannah. They started creating laws like our historic review board gives certain permissions and stuff. Before you can get a house painted you had to get permission, those type things. The covenants within this historic district, it's so tight that you have the complaints from a lot of people that too restrictive, but that's what saves Savannah. Now we created 1.2 billion dollars worth of industry, a new industry based on tourism because people now have seen what they did in Williamsburg and other places, and they're coming now not to see the old houses that these people saved, but everything else that's connected. You've got these tour buses and everything else. All that created wealth in the community and created jobs. Tourism like I say has slowly becoming the second largest industry within Chatham County. So all that stemmed from historic preservation, but on the other side of it you have a lot of wealth of black history as well. A lot of the buildings and stuff that we could've probably attracted other whites to see a historical significance, we lost those because of quote urban renewal. We're trying to rebuild. One of my main goals and hopefully my legacy when I leave my office will be the rebuilding of the Cuyler-Brownsville neighborhood where we've gotten the city to go in, purchase up most of the land within the area and rebuild it. That will be coming on track very soon.