Museum honors local civil rights leader

The Tallahassee Urban League commemorated Charles Kenzie Steele’s 100th birthday at the Taylor House Museum on Monday.

The museum was open to the public to showcase the C.K. Steele exhibit.

Patricia McGill, the museum’s manager, said the exhibit preserves Steele’s legacy in the civil rights movement and his contributions to Tallahassee.

McGill described Steele as “our Dr. Martin Luther King in Tallahassee and for Florida.”

According to McGill, it was important for the Taylor House Museum to have this exhibit showcased because most of Steele’s strategies for the civil rights movement were housed in the historical Frenchtown.

“Mr. C.K. Steele was a giant, brilliant pastor at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church on the corner [of] Martin Luther King and Tennessee Street,” McGill said. “He led the bus boycott movement in Tallahassee. He ultimately led the civil rights movement …. He’s one of the founders of the inter-civic council.”

The Inter-Civic Council, known as the ICC, was founded in May 1956 to initiate bus boycotts with African-American students at Florida A&M. The ICC included laborers, domestic workers, businessmen and teachers.

Curtis Taylor, vice president of the Tallahassee Urban League, said Steele led the rallies and marches in Tallahassee. He said Steele was about making a difference in Tallahassee, whether it was civil rights or housing.

“No matter what the cause was, no matter who he had to bail out, he would not back down for his people,” Taylor said.

The Taylor Museum’s civil rights room shows the life of Steele, from him walking alongside Coretta Scott King on Tennessee Street to his obituary and his statue in Frenchtown.

“We have a wall in our civil rights room dedicated to him,” Taylor said. “We have pictures of when he was leading a lot of marches in Tallahassee.”

Delaitre Hollinger, the museum curator from Tallahassee, said Steele is a leader of the civil rights movement.

“Whenever you think of the civil rights movement in Tallahassee, you should think of C.K. Steele because not only was he out in the trenches doing the fighting, but he was the person keeping the peace in the black and white community, ” Hollinger said.