Title: Oral History Interview with MaVynee Betsch, November 22, 2002. Interview R-0301.
Interviewer: Taylor, Kieran
Interviewee: Betsch, MaVynee
Abstract: Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch removed the letter R from her first name to protest what she saw as Ronald Reagan's disregard for the environment and expunged her middle name, Elizabeth, when she learned that Queen Elizabeth I nurtured the British slave trade. In this interview, she describes her childhood in the 1930s and 1940s in Jacksonville, Florida, a childhood spent in a vibrant black community peopled by pioneering professionals who created institutions to support one another. She remembers her travels in Europe after graduating from Oberlin College in the mid-1950s. And she describes the decline of the African American neighborhood of her youth, a stronghold of economic and cultural independence divided and destroyed by an interstate and chain stores. But if Jacksonville reveals the predatory relationship between development and the black community, Betsch's life in the resort founded by her great-grandfather, American Beach, represents the potential for black Americans in a changing South.