Col. Brodes Hartley Jr. was the keynote speaker for Stories from the Civil Rights Part 2, held Monday in the Florida A&M University’s School of Journalism and Graphic Communication Lecture Hall, honoring the 60th anniversary of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott.
As people gathered to their seats, you could hear the chatter across the room from the mass of people in attendance. Students discussed how much of an honor it was to be in the presence of a foot solider as the civil rights activist.
This Jacksonville native, and son of a Baptist preacher came to FAMU in 1952. He served as president of his freshmen and sophomore class, and later became the Student Government Association (SGA) President. In 1953, Hartley became a member of the Beta Nu chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
Col. Hartley vividly described his time on the hill. He replayed memories in his head of Ella Fitzgerald, movies in the Lee Hall auditorium, parties in the Jake Gaither Gym and even seating assignments for his classes. His most vivid memory was the Tallahassee Bus Boycott, at the time of President George W. Gore’s tenure.
“On a beautiful spring day, we got word that two of our co-eds had been jailed,” Hartley said. “The students lobbied outside of Lee Hall wondering what was next on the agenda to do about this situation. We knew we would have to do something about our fellow students, and we called a meeting with our student body. I told the student body I cannot tell you what to do, but I suggest we refrain from riding the bus until appropriate actions were made.”
Col. Hartley described the reactions of the students as the bus passed near the Jackson Davis Hall on FAMU’s campus.
“Students rocked the bus as if they were going to turn it over. We were responsible and rational leaders, and we did not need to have a type of thing on this campus. Once things ended they allowed the bus to precede through campus,” Hartley said.
With research, the SGA leaders noticed that 90 percent of the bus’ ridership were African-American. Without these patrons, the bus company could not stay in business. The students relied on carpooling and non-violent protests.
He announced how vital communication amongst each other was.
“We talked and communicated with one another. I knew that I could call you, and you can call me. Be effective with what you have, and get the message out, and get them involved,” Hartley said.
Hartley said his experience at FAMU got him into his position of success.
“I owe everything that I achieved to Florida A&M University,” Hartley said.
He also emphasized the importance of giving back to the university.
“We need to give something to this university because you are getting something valuable,” Hartley said. “The marketplace wants you, you just have to be ready to compete. You have to prepare yourself, and perform to the best of your ability. That is the best and only way to overcome the bigotry.”
Students, like fourth-year food science student Ryan Kornegay, discussed how much of an honor it was to be in the presence of a foot solider as the civil rights activist.
“If you don’t know where you come from, you can’t say where you’re going. I believe this event gives students the opportunity to see FAMU’s Glory days,” Kornegay said.
President Elmira Mangum made an appearance and said it’s important to manage ourselves.
“If you look at what’s going on now in the world and amongst the candidates who are vying for presidency for our country, you will notice how much we have to handle and manage ourselves even at our university,” Mangum said.
Hartley closed by stating battles have been won but the war isn’t over.
“It’s not over yet folks. We talk about a post whatever, but it’s not post. Remember we are not in a utopia, and you never know what to expect,” Hartley said.
Darius Young, moderator and professor of history, hoped the students were inspired.
“Hopefully the students can be inspired by someone who made history, and to continue to be inherent information to become and remain leaders in our community.”