Urban Renewal?: Eminent Domain, Displacement, and the Origins of Progress Village - Part Two
9: Progress Village Pioneer newsletter (1961)
This document is the first edition of the Progress Village Pioneer, a community newsletter. A committee of Progress Village citizens organized this small newspaper to showcase events happening in the community. This first issue is from December 1961, and showcases the Village’s Christmas festivities. The “Gala Week” included lighting displays, a meeting with Santa for the children, and groups of young performers marching through the streets singing carols. There were contests held for best Christmas display, as well as the best yard landscaping. The newsletter also includes multiple community photographs, which show the Christmas Program Committee, the Festival Planning Committee, the group who organized the paper, and the new playground equipment for the county park. This document shows the pride that residents of Progress Village felt in their community and how hard they worked to improve it. Their newsletter was a way to showcase their achievements to residents as well as those outside of the community.
10: Betty P. Wiggins (Betty Brown) Interview, Part 1
This clip features Betty P. Wiggins, formerly Betty Brown, interviewed by Otis R. Anthony and members of the Black History Research Project of Tampa. The interview was conducted on August 9, 1978. Wiggins was a Civil Rights activist and business professional who played a key role in the establishment of Progress Village. Here, she discusses the feedback that Progress Village and its leaders received from outside organizations, as well as the types of people living in the community and their influence on the surrounding local government. This demonstrates that residents of Progress Village sought to improve their community and were eager to work with people beyond its borders. Although there was opposition, those who lived in Progress Village felt a sense of communal pride and worked hard to gain respect and resources from outside groups, including the NAACP and local government. As Wiggins notes, other communities came to them for advice, suggesting that aspects of life in Progress Village were deemed worth emulating. As Wiggins recalls, residents of Progress Village worked hard to maintain an image that earned them respect and support.
11: The Tampa Housing Study Describes the Shortcomings of Progress Village (1961)
By 1961, Progress Village had become a disappointment to residents and investors. While creative financing and advertising made the initial phase of home sales in the community a success, the second phase of development saw declining sales due to unfulfilled promises and the failure of city planning committees to anticipate the demand for access to public transportation. In an effort to determine if there was a future for the community, concerned investors contracted Walker Research Service, an Indiana-based firm specializing in field research for home building projects. Conducting interviews in the homes of 400 black residents, Walker Research Service produced a volume called the Tampa Housing Study. According to the surveys, disillusioned African-American residents blamed their frustrations on the lack of public transportation, higher-than-anticipated utility costs, limited access to medical care, and unfulfilled developer promises. As one resident said, there were a lot of broken dreams in Progress Village. Soon after The Tampa Housing Study was complete, builders stopped building new homes and many residents moved out of Progress Village. As pressure mounted on investors, members of the Progress Village Corporation, including Cody Fowler, admitted that their investments in Progress Village were worthless.
12: Betty P. Wiggins (Betty Brown) Interview, Part 2
As one of Progress Village’s first homeowners, Betty Wiggins was directly influenced by Tampa’s redevelopment plans. As an active member of the Progress Village homeowners association, Wiggins worked to combat voter apathy, limited employment opportunities, and bureaucratic obstacles. Describing efforts to promote voting, Wiggins recalled: “We have a political caucus and we assign people to track these people [candidates] and see how they vote on issues that are really pertinent to us in this community.” To advance employment opportunities, Wiggins laughingly recalled implementing “selective spending strategies,” a phrase she favored over boycotting. As she described it, “I don’t believe we’ll go over there anymore…and finally they [businesses] would fold.” When homeowners experienced intolerable drinking water, they organized and went before the county commissioner. Wiggins recalled: “even the attorney for the water company commended us in terms of our background, research, our preparation…and the way we conducted ourselves at the hearing.” Betty Wiggins died on November 9, 2011. In her honor, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn declared August 19, “Betty P. Wiggins Day,” calling her “one of those individuals whose commitment and dedication have made a lasting impression on our community.”