Photos chronicling Florida’s role in the civil rights movement are now on display at Tallahassee’s Museum of Florida History. The exhibit opens just ahead of next week's 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Everyday racial segregation, sit-ins and arrests that happened in Florida are all depicted in photos that will be presented in a slide show at the museum Friday night.
At the museum Thursday, the Florida State Department’s Johnathan Grandage points to one image of a black mother and her kids looking in the window of a Tallahassee department store.
“On the other side of the glass was a Santa Claus with a white child on his lap like you would at Christmas. But the black family wouldn’t be allowed, you see, to come into that department store," he says.
He says Tallahassee Democrat news photographers took many of the images throughout the 1950s and '60s.
“But the editors at the time were opposed to the civil rights movement, so they didn’t run them in the paper," he says. "So they sat in the collection of the Democrat for a number of years, and then they sat in our collection until we’ve digitized them in 2014.
Because of a lack of recordkeeping, many images are of unidentified people or places. He says the state hopes the exhibit will encourage people who were around back then to step forward and help fill in the gaps.
The show will open with a slide presentation and reception Friday at 6 p.m.
Friday’s opening reception will also feature a speech by Priscilla Stephens, one of the activists who’s depicted in a photo getting arrested for participating in a sit-in at an all-white restaurant at the Tallahassee Airport.
The event is free to attend and runs until 8 p.m. And several of the photos will hang in the museum through the rest of the year.
The Museum of Florida History is at 500 S. Bronough St. in Tallahassee.
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly referred to the guest speaker as Patricia Stephens Due. She is also depicted in several photographs and was the sister of Priscilla Stephens, who will be speaking. But Patricia Stephens is deceased. We regret the error.