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Historical Marker At Fairgrounds Remembers Hundreds Of Students Arrested Fighting Racial Injustice

Ryan Dailey

Those driving on Monroe Street near the North Florida Fairgrounds may notice there’s now a historic marker there. It’s a reminder that in 1963, student demonstrators who had been arrested were held there as the county jail overflowed.

Following the arrest of demonstrators at lunch counter sit-ins and other protests, hundreds of students picketed against racial injustice. More than 350 were arrested.

Many of the students were from Florida A&M University, though students from Florida State University, University of Florida and local high school students picketed as well.

County Commissioner Bill Proctor was one of several speakers at Tuesday’s unveiling.

“After all of the arrests of these brave students and citizens, our jail simply was overflowing,” Proctor said.

As it overflowed, authorities set up a makeshift site to hold them at the Fairgrounds. In covered quarters usually used to house cattle, students were forced to sit and, in some cases, sleep on the dirt floor. But a coalition of individuals and groups raised money for those arrested for bail, fines and attorney’s fees.

FAMU President Larry Robinson said the uniting of many in the community to come to the students’ defense is one thing he finds particularly special about this piece of history.

“I think one of the greatest aspects of the movement here in Tallahassee and all over the nation was the way people of all races – all race and religions – heeded the call to come together to make this country a better place,” Robinson said.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.