Florida State University attracted a diverse crowd for the debut of its Civil Rights Institute.
The guests included administrators, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. The event last week took place at the Dunlap Champions Club, to celebrate a new institute dedicated to the study of the civil rights movement in America and the promotion of social change.debut
The FSU Civil Rights Institute was created by Doby and Fred Flowers, both of whom are FSU graduates. The siblings made history by helping to integrate FSU. Doby was elected as the first African-American Homecoming Queen and Fred was the first African-American athlete to represent the university.
Doby opened the event by reminiscing on her childhood experience with segregation in Tallahassee and the integration of the university.
“We struggled socially, but we had each other, and look what happened here today,” she said.
With assistance from the Office of the Provost, FSU Libraries, the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, the College of Communication and Information and the College of Criminal Justice, the institute was able to come into being.
Provost Sally McRorie applauded the siblings for their dedication and determination.
“Thank you Doby and Fred for your continued contributions to the betterment of FSU and thank you to everyone who is taking part in this important institute,” she said.
Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy, was the keynote speaker. Meade led the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative movement, which became Amendment 4 on the ballot. The amendment works on restoring the rights for felons who complete their sentence including parole and probation.
“We are a campaign that is based on love and inclusion. Not fear, not hate and not exclusion,” he said.
The event included work from Ted Ellis, an artist and historian from New Orleans. His paintings focus primarily on African Americans culture and heritage. Portraits of Emmet Till, Bloody Sunday and women holding signs decorated his exhibition.
“My responsibility is our culture identity and what it looks like, hopefully I can educate folks on the importance of our culture being including in museums,” Ellis said.
The Rev. Henry Marion Steele, son of Charles Kenzie Steele, expressed his excitement for the institute.
“I was glad to learn that this institute was being initiated because most of my life has been dedicated to civil rights. An effort such as this one, is so important for the community and I am glad to see that it is at FSU. Not too long ago, African-Americans were not allowed to come to school here, in fact FSU denied my brother’s application in 1960; he had to go out of state to go to college because neither school had his interest of studies.”
Darius Young, a FAMU grad and associate professor of history at his alma mater, was invited to the event and felt that it was necessary.
“It is important for FAMU students, professor, faculty and administrators as well as the FSU community to support each other. Especially since we are studying similar issues.”