Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk
The Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk, located along Jefferson Street, serves as a memorial for 58 civil rights activists. This location was the site of lunch counter sit-ins in the 1960s, which are also depicted in the Heritage Walk. The walk also memorializes the Tallahassee Bus Boycott-- the second-largest bus boycott in the US. The sidewalk is made of terrazzo panels that feature bronze footsteps bearing the names of important individuals associated with the Civil Rights Movement in Tallahassee.
Backstory and Context
On May 26, 1956, college students Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson were arrested after sitting in the "white section" of a city bus. The women were charged with "placing themselves in a position to start a riot," and were bailed out by the Texas A&M Dean of Students later the same day. Their act of resistance enraged the local Ku Klux Klan, who later burned a cross on the women's' lawn.
Following news of the cross-burning, students of A&M called for a student protest of city busses and for students to encourage wider community participation in a bus boycott. The Black community demanded employment of Black bus drivers and the end of racial segregation on city busses. After three months of protest, the demand for Black employment was met and a new policy of assigned seating (supposedly non-segregated) was implemented for city busses. The assigned seating mandate was ultimately unsuccessful and eventually gave way to a truly integrated bus system.
In 1960, in response to the North Carolina Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins, a group of eight Texas A&M and local high school students staged a similar sit-in at the Tallahassee Woolworth counter, staying for about 2.5 hours on February 16, 1960; no one was arrested. The following week, February 20, eleven students returned to Woolworth for a second sit-in but were met by both the mayor of Tallahassee and the police force. The students were arrested after refusing to leave. Larger demonstrations were held on March 5 and March 12, now joined by white students from Florida State University. This resulted in mass arrests, which sparked further protests. Officially, Texas A&M and local civil rights groups did not support the sit-ins and protests, though they continued until December 1960.
Both the bus boycott and lunch counter sit-ins are memorialized in the Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk, along with fifty-eight individuals who were active in the movement, including Patricia Stephen Due who spent 49 days in jail following a lunch counter sit-in, and Rev. Dr. Charles Kenzie (C.K.) Steele who was instrumental in the bus boycotts.
"Local civil rights activists honored with memorial sidewalk." Florida State University News. October 1, 2013. http://news.fsu.edu/More-FSU-News/24-7-News-Archive/2013/October/Local-civil-rights-activists-honore...
"Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk." Florida State University - Master Craftsman Studio. December 11, 2014. https://www.facilities.fsu.edu/depts/mastercraft/civilRights.php.
Rabby, Glenda Alice (1999). The Pain and the Promise: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Tallahassee, Florida. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820320519.
Spagna, Ana Maria (2010). "The Tallahassee Bus Boycott". Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus: A Daughter's Civil Rights Journey. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 9780803233928.
Dunn, Marvin (2016). A History of Florida Through Black Eyes. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1519372673.
Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk, Atlas Obscura. Accessed January 28th 2021. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/tallahasseeleon-county-civil-rights-heritage-walk.
Tallahassee-Leon County Civil Rights Heritage Walk, Florida State University. Accessed January 28th 2021. https://cfa.fsu.edu/tallahasseeleon-county-civil-rights-heritage-walk/.
Kim, Jeewon. Tallahassee, Florida, students sit-in for U.S. Civil Rights, 1960, Global Nonviolent Action Database. December 9th 2010. Accessed January 28th 2021. https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/tallahassee-florida-students-sit-us-civil-rights-1960#:~:text=In%20response%2C%20eight%20Florida%20A%26M,time%20counteractive%20tactics%20were%20ready..