WELCOME TO THE FLORIDA CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM℠
Preserving the History of Civil Rights in the Sunshine State
The Florida Civil Rights Museum, Inc.℠ takes seriously, its role and mission to display, protect and preserve the rich history, stories and legacies of civil rights and educational pioneers who shaped the history and forward trajectory of Florida. Through partnerships and statewide efforts aimed at telling a comprehensive story, the FCRM℠ hopes to inspire a generation and offer hope and help through the establishment of programs and initiatives designed to encourage civic participation, and motivate all citizens.
CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS WHO SHAPED THE STATE
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GOVERNOR LEROY COLLINS (1955-1961)
"That all men are created equal is not an empty cliché. It was not put in our Declaration of Independence by Jefferson merely to stir our revolutionary forces to greater sacrifice. It is a mighty idea that is the keystone of our nation's whole meaning and perpetual commitment. It is the basic idea that supports the dignity of man as an individual. It is an idea that can never be stopped. Not by custom — not by prejudice — not by hate — not by murder — not by armies — not by any mortal force. It may be thwarted. It may be delayed. Its triumph may be at great cost and sacrifice. But it will keep coming on and on, for it has the invincibility of simple truth, justice and right."
- LeRoy Collins
GOVERNOR REUBIN O'D. ASKEW (1971-1979)
Askew was known as a champion for racial and gender equality and was the impetus for many “firsts” in Florida. He integrated the Florida Highway Patrol, appointed the first black Supreme Court justice of a Southern state, appointed the first black member of the Cabinet in over a hundred years, created the five regional water management districts, made the Public Service Commission appointed rather than elected, and appointed the first black woman to countywide office in Leon County. One of his most notable acts was to pardon Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee, two black men wrongly convicted by an all-white jury and sent to Death Row in the killing of two gas station attendants in Port St. Joe, Florida.
U.S. SENATOR CLAUDE PEPPER
In 1929, as a Florida Representative, Claude Pepper voted against a Florida State Legislature resolution condemning First Lady Lou Henry Hoover's White House invitation for tea to Mrs. DePriest, the wife of the first Black congressman since Reconstruction. This stand contributed to his defeat in the legislature in 1930. When Claude Pepper was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1936, he continued to play an active role in civil rights. In June of 1945, after issuing public statements and rallying support, the US House passed an anti- poll-tax bill that Pepper had advocated for years. He unsuccessfully attempted to establish a Fair Employment Practices Committee, extending equal rights in hiring to blacks and women. In 1945, he attempted to get through the Senate a bill giving equal rights to women, but it was defeated in a conservative-led filibuster. Pepper realized the significance of extending civil rights to all Americans, and consistently supported such legislation through his years in the House. He was the only congressman from Florida to vote in favor of the Civil Rights of Act of 1964, and also supported the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
DR. MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE
Renowned educator and reformer Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955) dedicated her life to organizing and empowering African American women to work for equality. In 1914, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Training Negro Girls that gave Florida students the tools they needed to become community leaders. In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her director of the Division of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration, making her the first African American woman to head a federal agency. During World War II, Bethune thought that the struggles of black women in the United States mirrored fights against colonialism being waged elsewhere in the Americas, Asia and Africa. Leading the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), which she’d founded in 1935, Bethune worked to ensure that the Women’s Army Corps included black women. In 1945, delegates from 50 Allied nations met to draft the United Nations Charter at a conference in San Francisco; Bethune lobbied Eleanor Roosevelt for a seat at the table—and got one. Working with Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India and Eslanda Robeson, an unofficial observer for the Council on African Affairs, Bethune helped solidify the U.N. Charter’s commitment to human rights without regard to race, sex or religion. As she wrote in an open letter, “Through this Conference the Negro becomes closely allied with the darker races of the world, but more importantly he becomes integrated into the structure of the peace and freedom of all people everywhere.”