Ora Sims was born on a cotton farm in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1917. Her parents owned the farm, which was rather unusual for African Americans in that area at the time. She recalls the hardships of farm life, including the boll weevil, but adds that in the Great Depression, she never felt poor because they grew all the food they needed. Sims recounts how her father fed passersby who were desperate for food and work during the Depression. She remembers the time before the Tennessee Valley Authority rural electrification program transformed life in Mississippi. Sims also tells stories of her father rescuing at two men from the threat of lynching, and she recounts a humorous story of how her young son saw Jim Crow water fountains. She attended Alcorn State Normal School and Tennessee State and then taught for 50 years. Sims arrived in Cleveland in 1946 and lived in Glenville. She recalls the difficulties of being a black shopper in some downtown Cleveland stores and reflects on the separate and unequal schools on either side of the Cuyahoga. Late in the interview she discusses Antioch Baptist Church and how Councilman Leo Jackson shut down Cafe Tia Juana, a storied jazz and blues club on East 105th Street.


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Sims, Ora (interviewee)


Taylor, Katherine (interviewer)


Provost Summer Program



Document Type

Oral History


81 minutes

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License
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