Civil rights pioneers paved the way for today’s politicos

Fifty-seven years ago Patricia Stephens Due spent 49 days in the Leon County Jail rather than pay a fine or post bail after her arrest for sitting at a “whites only” Woolworth’s lunch counter in Tallahassee.

Due, who was a Florida A&M University student, went on to become a prominent civil rights leader in Florida, participating in more civil disobedience events leading to more arrests as she fought against segregation and for full rights for African-American citizens.

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Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carrol and John Due

Due, who died in 2012, former state Sen. Arnett Girardeau of Jacksonville and Orlando civil rights leader Willie H. Williams were inducted into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame this week.

The event drew some of the top African-American leaders in Florida, including former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who was the keynote speaker; former state Sen. Tony Hill of Jacksonville; former state Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee; state Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville; and state Sen. Daphne Campbell of Miami.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who has a chance to become Florida’s first African-American governor, said civil rights pioneers like Due, Girardeau and Williams were critical in helping Florida improve its racial equality.

“We have to all submit and admit that but for their work, but for their service, but for their sacrifice, we couldn’t enjoy this view,” Gillum told the audience gathered on the scenic 22nd floor of the Florida Capitol. “We couldn’t sit in a room as diverse as the one we get to sit in but for their service.”

“Here in the city of Tallahassee we have a very, very strong legacy and important place in the history of civil rights in Florida,” Gillum added.

Posted by Lloyd Dunkelberger