From Colored to Black: The Stories of North Central Florida

Project Partner:
Center for Arts in Medicine
Contract Period:
June 15, 2018 – June 15, 2019
Amount Awarded:
$5,000
Region Served:
North Central

Aided by a $5,000 Community Project Grant from Florida Humanities, the Center for Arts in Medicine at UF orchestrated From Colored to Black: The Stories of North Central Florida, an oral history project that masterfully translated data on systemic racism in Alachua County into a theatrical performance. Written and directed by Brittney M. Caldwell and Jeffrey Pufahl, the play sought to educate the public on issues of Black identity, health, wealth, and education. Made possible through a combination of six filmed oral history vignettes, archival photographs, and live performances by community actors. The project connects the stories of Black Floridians in North Central Florida from the 1950’s to present day issues.

Oral histories, or the practice of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants, allows the audience to be submerged into another era through vivid imagery and storytelling and see the world through someone else’s perspective. No longer the distant figures in the black and white photos of the past, the horrors, wonders, and persisting struggles that Black Floridians have experienced in North Central Florida are sprung to life through the performance of their stories.

The stories, which evoke vivid imagery of Black communities in North Central Florida, address the pressing question of equality in Florida: How can it be achieved? Is it possible? Where do we start? While the climb towards equality may be a persisting responsibility that must be undertaken by generations to come, a clear step towards a fair, cohesive, and kind community may lay in building trust and empathy through the humanities: community conversation, storytelling, and the arts.

Ensuring these important stories could be heard by every member of the community, the University of Florida Center for Arts in Medicine offered free admission and the play drew a large and widely diverse audience, representative of the diversity within Gainesville. Several prominent community leaders attended the play, including the Mayor of Gainesville, which created a valuable educational opportunity for community leaders to better understand the struggles facing their constituents and for community conversations on racial inequality to include policymakers.

Following each performance, the audience engaged in Florida Humanities funded “talk backs”, or community conversations, regarding the topics of racial inequality, forgotten histories, and the importance of recognizing the ways in which history repeats itself if not addressed properly. These conversations brought an additional level of understanding and awareness between the audience and the important themes brought forth in the performance. The post-performance discussions were videotaped and transcribed to be used as qualitative data to develop a further understanding of Floridian mindsets on racial inequality.

Looking to the future, the Center for Arts in Medicine seeks to expand education on the history of Black Floridians by providing free access to a digital rendering of the performance, which can be used in online student courses and in future public tours throughout Florida that focus on Black history.

Center for Arts in Medicine

Partner Spotlight

Partner: Center for Arts in Medicine

Project Director: Mr. Jeffrey Pufahl

About the Partner Organization: 

The mission of the Center for the Arts in Medicine is to advance research, education and practice in arts in health, locally and globally. Established in 1996, the Center conducts interdisciplinary research and delivers educational curricula addressing the arts and health, serving as a national model for arts in health research, education, and practice. A lecturer in the Center, Jeffrey’s work is a combination of teaching applied theater, directing and producing health related theater and film projects, community engaged research and research translation, and health communication. His local and international research focuses on how theater and video can be used to investigate community health issues in order to catalyze public engagement and critical dialogue around health and wellness.


“The Florida Humanities saw the value and importance of this project when it was just an idea and their support paved the way for other funders and collaborators to join us. They provided guidance at every step of our creative process; we couldn’t have achieved what we did without them.”

“The Florida Humanities saw the value and importance of this project when it was just an idea and their support paved the way for other funders and collaborators to join us. They provided guidance at every step of our creative process; we couldn’t have achieved what we did without them.”