The Museum of Florida History is unveiling an exhibit honoring Floridians who fought for minority rights. The installation celebrates Florida’s unique place in civil rights history.
As visitors walk through the gallery, they not only see displays with photos and artifacts, but they also move through different soundscapes. At the outset, there’s an area playing the so-called African American national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” In another, visitors hear a speech from C.K. Steele, a prominent Tallahassee civil rights activist. He was instrumental in organizing the Tallahassee bus boycott in 1956.
Hearn says Floridians have been at the leading edge of civil rights agitation.
“The first sit in that we know about was in Miami,” Hearn says, “long before Greensboro Alabama sparked the nationwide sit in movement.”
And Hearn says events in Florida have played a major role in pushing the national civil rights movement forward.
“There’s St. Augustine,” Hearn says, “where Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested, and there was a lot of pressure with the activism in St. Augustine that led to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”
Hearn says the exhibit brings together the different threads of civil rights advocacy in Florida’s history—stretching all the way back to reconstruction.
The collection is on display until April 5th next year.