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Oral History Interview with William Fonvielle, August 2, 2002. Interview R-0174. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    William Fonvielle describes the long legacy of his family's ownership of Savannah Pharmacy on West Broad Street in Savannah, Georgia. After his father's murder in 1955 and his grandfather's death the following year, Fonvielle's aunt assumed leadership of their business. As a child, he delivered prescriptions and learned the city's landscape. Fonvielle fondly remembers the close-knit nature of the black West Broad Street community. Blacks supported the local businesses, especially during the Jim Crow era, when most white business owners refused to serve black patrons. However, Fonvielle argues that blacks have divided themselves along class lines. Middle-class blacks moved to suburban areas and did not return to support their community. He maintains that Savannah lacks progressive and aggressive blacks willing to unify the race and protect the black community. He connects black unification with a strong black economic center, and he bemoans the decline of adequate store supplies, the growth of chain stores, and the flight of the black middle class to the suburbs, all of which, he argues, has stymied economic progress and drained West Broad Street of its economic vitality.
    Excerpts
  • Economic success of black-owned businesses attributable in part to Jim Crow
  • Factors leading to economic decline of black-owned businesses
  • Challenges for black-owned businesses in Savannah, Georgia
  • Advocating racial unity
  • Resentment toward revitalization efforts
  • Unlike whites, blacks are paralyzed by class snobbery
  • Advocating city reparations for the destruction of black urban culture
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  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.