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Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill

Azira Gonzalez Hill, referred to as Atlanta’s Angel for her works as a civil rights activist and nurse, was born in Holguin, Cuba, on October 28, 1923, to a large working class family of eight siblings. As a young woman, Hill worked diligently as a student to provide opportunities that would enable her to flourish outside of Cuba; because of her academic achievements, she was finally afforded the opportunity to come to the United States to study through her church. Hill attended Bethune Cookman, Morris Brown, and Georgia State University, ultimately becoming a registered nurse. Hill married Jesse Hill, a prominent civil rights figure, with whom she had two daughters.

Hill worked as a nurse at Grady Hospital Educational Department, Price High School, and Ralph Bunche Middle School, before her retirement. After her retirement, Hill remained an active member of Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church; the Azalea Links, Inc.; the Inquirer Literary Club; the Circlelets; and the Quettes. Hill also founded the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Talent Development Program at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which named its scholarship fund in her honor. Hill has been involved with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center’s Board of Directors; the Board of Directors of the Center for Puppetry Arts; the Southeastern Flower Show; the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; and St. Joseph’s Mercy Care. In 2008, Hill was named a life director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, an honor which at the time only belonged to five other individuals.

Hill has received awards from the Association of the National Negro Musicians for promoting Black music and musicians, and the Martin Luther King Federal Commission for her service. Hill also received the Golden Rule Award for community service from J.C. Penney; the Ralph Bunche Middle School Medal; the School Nurses Association for Merit and Distinction; the Lexus Leader of the Arts Award; and a Mercy Care Award for Service.

Accession Number

A2005.184

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/4/2005

Last Name

Hill

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Gonzalez Sanchez

Schools

Boylan-Haven School

Bethune-Cookman University

Grady Memorial Hospital School of Nursing

First Name

Azira

Birth City, State, Country

Holguin

HM ID

HIL10

Favorite Season

Spring

Favorite Vacation Destination

South Africa

Favorite Quote

It's Going To Get Better.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/28/1923

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

Cuba

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Civil rights activist and registered nurse Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill (1923 - ) has had a long and prolific career in Atlanta in the areas of school health care and civil rights. After her retirement, Hill became involved in various philanthropic endeavors, most notably her involvement with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, for which she was named a lifetime director in 2008.

Employment

Price High School

Grady Memorial Hospital

Bunche Middle School

Big Bethel AME Church

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill narrates her photographs

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill remembers her mother supporting the family after her father's death

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill recalls moving to the United States

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill remembers her childhood in Holguin, Cuba

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill remembers her childhood home in Holguin, Cuba

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes the diversity of her neighborhood in Holguin, Cuba

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill remembers a supportive teacher from her elementary school years

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes her middle school experiences in Holguin, Cuba

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill remembers her experiences at Boylan-Haven School in Jacksonville, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill remembers her personality and aspirations as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes attending church in Jacksonville, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill remembers experiencing exclusion at Boylan-Haven School in Jacksonville, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill explains her decision to attend Grady Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill talks about leaving Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill remembers returning to Cuba briefly after obtaining her nursing license

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes how Jesse Hill courted her

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill recalls the strict regulations at Grady Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill remembers having her two children while working as a nurse

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes her return to work as a school nurse

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill recalls her and her husband's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill reflects upon her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill talks about her connections to Cuba

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill reflects upon the reception of Latino immigrants in the United States

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill talks about her philanthropic work

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes her husband, Jesse Hill

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill talks about her grandchildren's accomplishments

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes the rewards of nursing

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes her concerns for the African American and Latino communities

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill explains her values

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill explains the importance of history

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill remembers her best friends

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill talks about Big Bethel A.M.E. Church in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill describes youth programs at Big Bethel A.M.E. Church

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

9$5

DATitle
Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill remembers her childhood in Holguin, Cuba
Azira Gonzalez Sanchez Hill recalls her and her husband's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement
Transcript
In terms of early memories, can you describe what family life was like when you were in Cuba--holidays, special events, or just daily life in your neighborhood?$$In the neighborhood, we had a pretty large house. And my brothers played all kinds of instruments. And so that she [Hill's mother, Dominga Sanchez Gonzalez] could control us, I suppose, we were not allowed to go out too much. But the neighborhood could come to our house, and so, they would come and play music. At that time, there was no radio. We didn't have any radio, but they did--I had, I had plenty of music--all kinds, not just salsa, and all these other thing. But I knew [Johann Sebastian] Bach, and [Ludwig van] Beethoven, and all that, 'cause my brothers were, you know, serious musicians, and that was fun. And some days, we read poetry, and play music, and everybody play, and had a good time. And holidays are wonderful, because, you know, everybody come. If you were a friend of any of my brothers, you could come to my house, and that was fun. And there was only one family that I was allowed to go to, and they were three sisters. Since I didn't have much--I had a sister about ten years younger than I, so we were not peers, you know. And so, that she would allow me to, you know, interact with those, that family that had these three daughters. And that was fun. In fact then, we all married in the same dress (laughter).$If you could, share with me, maybe, the name of some of the associations that you belong to professionally.$$Oh, I've done so many things. I, you know, during the Civil Rights Movement, you know, I didn't have any other choice but to join. My husband, [Jesse] Hill, was chair of the All-Citizens Registration Committee, so I became a registrar, and, you know, could register people to vote. And so, we used to go to churches, and mass meetings, and places like that, and register to vote people. Then, when [HistoryMaker] Charlayne [Hunter-Gault] and Hamilton [Holmes]'s application, and all the turmoil and went through that, you know, I was there, you know, fixing foods, and just being there. You had to support your husband. Political rallies, and mass meetings, and all that. The only thing I didn't do was to--I didn't march. Only one time, and that was the demonstration on the [Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta] Civic Center [Atlanta, Georgia] at something about they tried to integrate the dentists' professional meeting that they were having there. And other than that, I would--did sit-ins, Mrs. [Otelia Hackney] Russell and I, you know, went to, used to be, store across the street from The Ritz-Carlton [Atlanta, Georgia]--I can't remember the name now, but they had a restaurant and Macy's--$$Which is--$$--but anyway, they--we just went inside in their dining room. And when we got there, they didn't serve us--they just closed. They closed the dining room, so we just got up and left. And then, there was in Lenox Square [Atlanta, Georgia], there was another restaurant, and we did that, too. And the third one was (unclear) that was in Locust Street, and that was the only one that I really got upset and frightened (laughter), because we were--it was a delicatessen. And so, we were trying to get in to order--it was sandwiches and things--and the police came. And the minute police came, I have to go--I couldn't, I just could not. Well, [Jesse] Hill and I had made the promise to each other that we would not get arrested, because--well, I'm a foreigner, you know, I could be deported. At that time, I don't think I was even a citizen. And then, too, the girls [Nancy Hill Cook and Azira Hill Kendall] were small, and we didn't have any relatives in town, so somebody had to be, you know, there to--over them. In addition to that, he was the contact person to bail out those that were arrested. So, he couldn't be arrested himself. So, that was one of the arrangements that, you know, that were made beforehand.