Former RJC students* and employees helped plan the reunion. Top row: Margaret B. Richardson, Emerald Smith*, Alfred Newbold*, Bettye T. Dawson*, Stafford A. Ferguson, Jacquelyn Taylor Cotman, Willie A. Miller, Sr.* Bottom row: Lillie Wilson*, Barbara J. Wyly*, Ineria E. Hudnell, Geneva B. Boynton, Idella Wade, Laurise Davis, Mary E. McGee*, Annie Ruth Wilburn Nelson.
Since 2006 Palm Beach State College has been reaching out to the former staff and alumni of Roosevelt Junior College in an effort to document and commemorate this important part of the history of both Palm Beach State College and RJC, which was the first institution of higher learning for African Americans in Palm Beach County. R.J.C. opened its doors to students in the fall of 1958. Britton G. Sayles served as the president of the college as well as the principal of the all-black Roosevelt High School, which shared its campus with the junior college for the first year. Over its seven-year history, the college grew in stature and in size, gaining accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and membership in the American Association of Junior Colleges. The college became an educational and cultural pillar in the community, creating opportunities for black students to advance their education and enrich their lives. The push for integration prompted the Board of Public Instruction to close the school in 1965 and send its students and some faculty to Palm Beach Junior College (now Palm Beach State College). Today Roosevelt Junior College lives on in the hearts and minds of its alumni, employees and the community. The memories and experiences of the staff and students who attended R.J.C. represent a precious resource that is rapidly disappearing.
Our concern was that if we did not act quickly a vital and important component of the history of the first public community college of the state and the only African American junior college of Palm Beach County would disappear. Our goal with this project is to create a permanent digital record of the oral histories and stories of the individuals whose lives were changed by attending R.J.C. and by its merger with Palm Beach Junior College.
Conducted in depth interviews with former students and staff from the 1958–1965 era
Created a permanent digital archive of the recordings
Digitized numerous documents, yearbooks, and memorabilia from that era
Commemorated the participants through student artwork
Our intent is to share the archives with various states and national historical agencies including the State Library of Florida, the Palm Beach County Historical Society, the Internet Archives and History Makers, the Nation's Largest African American Video Oral History Collection- www.thehistorymakers,com/makers/lawmakers and others as deemed appropriate.
"I had dreamed of going to College. Roosevelt Junior College gave me that opportunity to fulfill a silent dream."
"It was important to our Community...I would like to say thank you to Dr. Gallon and Palm Beach State College, because Dr. Gallon in his work with you and with us, he has eased a pain...he has healed the sore that was there, because we were so bitter about how we were treated...there was no merger, they just took over and closed...we do feel that it is a merger today."
"It was the right community for the Junior College."
"They were good students, very respectful, and I respected them. I loved them."
Robert (Bert) Johnson (lawyer, School Board and Board of Trustees) VIDEO CLIP
"We were wearing two hats, but we were doing the same thing. We were desegregating, integrating the college here and the college on Roosevelt Avenue was being taken away. We were doing that. The administration of doing it was left to the Superintendent and the President of the Community College. We said desegregate. I don't think any of the Board members said 'I don't want to hear anything about it. I don't want any trouble.' All of us made ourselves available to any individual community group if we were called."
"My favorite memories at Roosevelt Junior College were the instructors."
"There was a Roosevelt Junior College where the Black Folks when they couldn't go anywhere else and that we in fact attended a brand new Junior College facility on 15th Street of the Hood, they would probably say today. We would probably say in the heart of the community back in the 60s. That it made a significant contribution to the educational well- being and growth of the Black Folk in Palm Beach County."
"The Junior College itself was good for the community, because there were a lot of people that would not have had the opportunity to get a higher education after leaving high school. So that was a big, big mark for the community when that was finally set up there on 15th Street."