Oral Memoirs of David Tossie

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Oral Memoirs of David Tossie

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Oral History, David Tossie


Oviedo (Fla.)
African Americans--Florida
Elementary schools--United States


An oral history interview of educator David Tossie. The interview was conducted by Geoffrey Cravero and Diana Dizon over Zoom on November 8th, 2022. Some of the topics include early life and education in Oviedo, his favorite teachers, integration of Central Florida public schools, becoming an educator, thoughts on Oviedo Colored Schools Museum, and his final thoughts.


Oral history interview of David Tossie. Interview conducted by Geoffrey Cravero and Diana Dizon through Zoom on November 8, 2022.

Table Of Contents

0:00:00 Early life and education in Oviedo
0:03:18 His favorite teachers
0:04:49 Integration of Central Florida public schools
0:09:13 Becoming an educator
0:11:04 Thoughts on Oviedo Colored Schools Museum
0:12:49 Final thoughts


Tossie, David
Cravero, Geoffrey
Dizon, Diana


Tossie, David. Interviewed by Geoffrey Cravero and Diana Dizon, November 8, 2022. Audio record available. RICHES, Orlando, Florida.


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16-minutes and 42-seconds audio recording
10-page digital transcript




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Oviedo, Florida
Jackson Heights Elementary, Oviedo, Florida
Oviedo High School, Oviedo, Florida

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Item Creation


History Teacher


Originally created by David Tossie, Geoffrey Cravero, Diana Dizon and published by RICHES.

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Davila, Hiram

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External Reference

Robison Jim. Around Oviedo. Charleston South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. 2012. Accessed November 4, 2022.
The World Outside Reunion. “A Written and Pictorial History of the Oviedo Area Colored Schools, 1890-1967.” RICHES of Central Florida accessed November 4, 2022, https://richesmi.cah.ucf.edu/omeka/items/show/5258.


Are you already recording? Let me see [smacks lips].

Good to go.

Okay. Alright I’m gonna go ahead and start. Let’s see here. Hm. This is Geoffrey
Cravero and with me is Diana Dizon. I am conducting an oral history with David
Tossie. The interview is being connected via Zoom on Tuesday November 8th,

Mr. Tossie, thank you for speaking with us today. Would you begin by stating
your name and telling us a bit about where you’re from and what life was like
for you growing up?

My name is David Tossie. You can say Tossie either way it doesn’t matter.
Alright. Um, part of my family says Tossie, some say Tossie. I am from Oviedo. I
was born in Oviedo, Florida, 1954, at a doctor’s office—Doctor Stoner’s office—
right in downtown Oviedo. Um, I attended school at Jackson Heights Elementary
School1 from 1960 to 1967. And that was when—since 1967 is when the
integration was, uh, full-blown and it was freedom of choice. You could choose
to go to Crooms2 in Sanford or choose to go to Oviedo High School3, and I chose
to go to Oviedo High School [audio glitch].

I forgot—that’s—all the times I’ve done this I always forget to do that [laughs].
Um, could you please describe your experience attending Jackson Heights
Elementary School, uh, Colored School and what are some of the memories that
stand out to you?

Well, just, uh, going to school was a big excitement because I had two sisters,
uh—I had four siblings in front of me that had gone to school in Oviedo but two
that had gone to Jackson Heights. And they would come home with all these
stories and everything, so I was excited to go.

My first-grade year I remember catching mumps or measles. I can’t remember
what it was. But, you know, when I—when I caught that I was home for a week.
And my teacher—my first-grade teacher just happened to be my next-door
neighbor. So—and instead of missing all the schoolwork, she brought my
homework home to me every day. So that was—It wasn’t fun, but it was alright.
Um, all through the school I had good friends. Uh, I walked to school. Um, my
aunt was one of the bus drivers for the, uh, school. We had—I think we had two
buses that went to Jackson Heights. And my aunt, Gladys Ingram4, was one of
the bus drivers and Dolphus Carwise5 was the other bus driver.

We had probably around 400 students. My first-grade class was two classrooms
and I think every other class—I can remember all my teachers from first grade
through the seventh grade and all of my friends. Some friends I have—still have
those friends for life. So we still see each other and still communicate with each

Did you have a favorite teacher? And what qualities did he or she bring to the

Well I guess as you—as you progress my—I guess in first grade my favorite
teacher was my first-grade teacher because she was my next-door neighbor, and
I knew her. Our second-grade teacher was real good. Mrs., uh, Curtis I think her
name was. My third-grade teacher was another neighbor and my best friend’s
mother. So she was pretty good but she was real strict. And since she knew me,
you know, she was real strict on me. My fourth-grade teacher was a lady from
another town, but she was close—you know, y—Jamestown is where it was. We
always thought she was mean, but she was a good lady. But we always thought
she was mean because we were little kids. Uh, fifth grade and—fifth and sixth
grade I had the same teacher: a man. That was my first male teacher and we
thought he was great because we did a lot of different things with him. So we
kept him for two years. And then my seventh-grade teacher, Mr. Wright, was a
teacher—that was when we started changing classes, too. We would go from
science to English to math and different things like that. And all the classes we
always had recess. We didn’t have any physical education class. No special
classes at all. We did have recess though. Alright.

Many, uh, schools in Central Florida were still considered segregated over a
decade after the Brown vs. Board of, uh, Education6 decision.


You’d go on to attend Oviedo High School during a period of racial integration.
Do you remember what that first day was like and would you share some of
your memories of your high school experience?

It was—it was different. Um, that was my eighth-grade school year and I had
seen the school—it was within walking distance of me. I had never been on that
campus before. And I had seen it. I had been around it and whatever but never
walked on that campus. Never been to any classes. Some of the students that
were there I had seen before. And later on I found that their names were familiar
because at Jackson Heights we wouldn’t get new books. We would get their old
books with their names in them. And so that was, uh, strange. You know, it was
alright then because it was new to us but once I got up there it felt kind of
strange. Because we wouldn’t get the new books. We would get the old books.
But it was—it was—it was different.

Um, I was put in classes that had, uh, mostly Black kids and probably—and I
don’t know if this is right or not, but probably the poorest of the white kids were
in—were in the classes that I had. And my first day in English class—I remember
this very well. A guy behind me—white guy—I didn’t know him, but I knew his
uncle because my dad and his uncle worked together on the farms. And he was
sitting behind me. And he touched me on the shoulder and told me what his
name was and said hello. Very nice guy. And I—I knew him until his—he passed
away about three or four years ago. But he was a good friend of mine all those

And so—and I got some new friends, too. But there was some controversy or
some tension at the school because a lot of the white people didn’t want us up
there. And our parents would tell us before we left the house to be careful. To go
to your class. Do you work. One of the things my mother told me was not to
touch a white girl, you know? So [laughs] make sure I stay away from them
because you get hung by that. You know, stuff like that. So I did—I—I did all

Uh, one day, one of my friends was, uh—the school was a three-story school. It
was where Lawton Elementary School7 is now, it was Oviedo High School. One
of my friends had an art class and had brought some scissors to school. This the
story I got and I don’t know the real story of it. But this the story I got. He
brought some scissors to school and some white guys saw him upstairs. And he
was kind of a big guy, so they were gonna jump him. And it ended up that he
beat all three of them up and he got sent to the office and got suspended from
school. And they said they suspended him because he had scissors, you know?
So—and then there was another fight in the girls’ bathroom where another girl—
Black girl—was in there and a girl called her the n-word. I guess they must’ve
bumped into each other or something, so she called her the n-word. And the girl
hit her in the nose. And I was just happened to be passing by the hallway and the
bathroom girl—girls’ bathroom. When the girl ran out. And I remember her
screaming and hollering that—that n just hit her in the nose, you know? And so
the crowd—the hallway was always crowded and everything. But it was the next
day I think all the—a lot of parents showed up. Uh, mainly white parents. I don’t
think any of the Black parents showed up. But you could hard—you could
hardly walk on the school campus because of all those people that were there.
And we didn’t know what was going on, you know? We had heard stuff about
KKK and all that stuff, but we had never seen anyone. But they didn’t have on
any robes or anything. But they were there. And I still to this day don’t know
why they were there, but they were. There was a lot of people there and it was
sort of scary. But we got over that and ended up having some good white friends
and Black friends. And some of them I still know today.

You’d go on to, uh, become an educator yourself. Um, how did your formative
experiences, um, in Oviedo shape your desires to become an educator and—and
w—what—what were some of the differences, uh, once you were an educator
versus a student in your experience?

The great thing about that: when I was in the eight grade, that first year up there,
the, uh, PE8 teacher was a basketball coach and he was assigned to teach the high
schools and the middle schools, but I guess the principal had him to take out the
elementary kids also. And so he asked me and another guy if I would come over
there. And he’d talk to the teachers I guess and got us excused and had me take
the kids out to the playground for him. And so I guess that—that sort of got me
into that mode.

And so during all those years I guess just watching what the teachers do—and I
was a basketball player at school—in high school. And so when I went to college
I had no, uh, expectations of becoming a teacher. I just wanted to make sure I got
into college. And I was gonna think about it when I got there. But I did get into
college. And I played basketball. And after my junior year is when I decided to
become an educator. So it was just all of the basketball coaches, the teachers
treated me good up at Oviedo High School. And I got along well with just about
everyone. So it wasn’t any big influence over anything. I had a lot of cousins that
were teachers and educators and maybe that did, too. But it was—it was just a
progressive thing.

The oral history that you’re giving us today is going to be archived in the Oviedo
Colored Schools Museum. What are your hopes for that museum?

Well, I would hope that it grows and that everyone—uh, people in the future will
see what—what happened. Because a lot of times—I guess today’s people are
trying to push a lot of history down and not—not try to remember. But I think
we should remember our history because if we don’t know where we came from,
we don’t know where we’re going. Um, I know that I grew up in Oviedo and it
was poor and we lived in a one-bedroom house. My parents were not educated.
My mother went to sixth grade, which is probably equivalent to maybe third
grade nowadays. My dad—I never saw him or heard him read anything, but I
did see him sign his name on his checks. So, we were not a upper-class or
middle-class people. You know? They went to work early and came home late.
They worked for other people. And so I just want people to know that Oviedo
was a pretty good place to live. There was prejudice here. Um, I’ve heard about
it. You know? I saw some of it, but not much. And I knew—you knew what and
what not to do. And—but I would like for people in the future to just know that
things are not just like it is today. But it was worse than it was and—and people
need to know that. Some people are—they don’t want their children to know
how bad people were treated, but it should be known.

Is—is there anything else that you’d like to add or expand on? Do you have any
final thoughts for us?

Well, I did write some stuff down to remember. I told you about my homework
teacher—my homework in first grade. And we also did a lot of things with the
Bible in—in elementary school. Our principal would come on the intercom every
morning and say a prayer. And then he would tell everybody to have a good day
and everything. Um, we would have a Bible teacher that would come. I don’t
know if it was once a week or once a month. I can’t remember. But that Bible
teacher was a white lady. And she would come there. And we would all
assemble in the auditorium. And she would do Bible lessons. And she would
have this felt board. I remember this very vividly. A felt board with things that
she would—with people that she would stick on that board. And then she would
give a story and tell us. And we would, uh—she would sing some songs and

Um, we had a music teacher and she would do, uh, Christian music. Hymns and
things like that. We would sing those things. Uh, we would—in the classrooms
our teachers would have prayer. We would sing a song about “Get Thee Behind
Me Satan” every morning before we, uh, started our classes.

I remember all the girls were always taller than me in elementary school. And
then when we got in eighth grade or something I sort of passed them up. I love
the carnivals that we would have. It would be a PTA sponsored thing, I guess.
And they would have a little booth. And parents would make food. And they
would have gifts. And you’d go to these different booths and try to play things.
And they would have a, uh—I remember this truck that looked like a train that
you could get on there for a certain amount of money. And then they would ride
to downtown Oviedo then back to Jackson Heights. And it looked like a train but
it was a truck.

Uh, recess was good because, like I said, we didn’t have regular physical
education classes, but we had recess. And our teachers would take us outside
and they would play little games with us. And then we would go to the
playground and play that.

Uh, the parent participation was real good at PTA. When you’d go to a PTA
meeting it would be crowded. And I when education—I was in education for 35
years and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a crowded PTA meeting unless it was a
show or something that the children were doing.

Um, like I say my siblings—I always looked up at them. And the bad thing about
having two girls in front of you is that if you get the same teacher, they expect
you to excel like they did. And I wasn’t doing that so [laugh] it was just a little

And like I said we had—I’ve got friends that I met before elementary school and
in elementary school. And I’ve had those friends for life. And the status of the
students out there was different. There were people—most the people out there
were poor. Uh, there were maybe two or three families that had exceeded. You
know? We had some students that were—that their parents were teachers. Some
students had parents that had gone to college, but not that many. Most of them
worked for field—in the field. And they worked for other people. And they were
just like us [inaudible] you know? So it was a—there wasn’t a big status different
in anyone. And that’s about it. Any questions?

No, that was fantastic. Thanks. Mr., uh, Tossie, thank you again for sharing your
time and speaking with us. This has been Geoffrey Cravero with Diana Dizon on
November 8th, 2022.


Tossie, David, Cravero, Geoffrey, and Dizon, Diana, “Oral Memoirs of David Tossie,” RICHES, accessed May 30, 2024, https://richesmi.cah.ucf.edu/omeka/items/show/11269.