Introduction

Integration Commemoration Photo

Lax, Bill (Photographer). (2012). Integration Statue [photograph]. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Photography Services. 

In May of 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court declared public school segregation unconstitutional and ordered schools to integrate “with all deliberate speed” (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka). However, in 1955 African American graduate student Virgil Hawkins was denied admission to the University of Florida. By 1956 the case reached the Supreme Court, who ruled that Hawkins should be admitted immediately, but the Florida Supreme Court refused to comply. 

The Hawkins case is just one example of the frustration civil rights activists faced in the struggle for equality. In May of the same year, Tallahassee citizens boycotted the Tallahassee bus system in protest of segregation. The city bus service was suspended, students were warned to stay away from the protests (some were arrested), and members of the black community were placed under increased scrutiny. Students from both FAMU and FSU joined together to protest. They faced significant push back from state authorities and university administrators.

This exhibit documents the ways in which state authorities and university administrators responded to integration. Though the mishandling of institutional power delayed integration, students and community members continued to push back and demand equal opportunities. The exhibit ends with a celebration of the change that has occurred but acknowledges that much work remains.