Today in 1983, a disgruntled reader sent in this letter to the editor of the Flambeau. In it, the reader describes the outcome of a trial and the potential effects that outcome will have on the City of Tallahassee.
It is such a beautifully written letter that I still can’t tell whether or not it’s satire. Do you think the author is being serious or sarcastic? Leave a comment below telling us what you think!
Friday August 28th marks the 65th anniversary of the abduction and murder of Emmett Till. Till’s murder is regarded as a significant catalyst for the mid-century African-American Civil Rights Movement. Calls for justice for Till still drive national conversations about racism and oppression in the United States.
In 2015, Florida State University (FSU) Libraries Special Collections & Archives established the Emmett Till Archives in collaboration with Emmett Till scholar Davis Houck, filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, and author Devery Anderson. Since then, we have continued to build robust research collections of primary and secondary sources related to the life, murder, and commemoration of Emmett Till. We invite researchers from around the world, from any age group, to explore these collections and ask questions. It is through research and exploration of original, primary resources that Till’s story can be best understood and that truth can be shared.
Saturday will mark what would have been Emmett Till’s 79th birthday. Conversation and scholarship around Emmett Till and his place in the mid-century American Civil Right Movement usually focuses on his 1955 kidnapping, murder, and the ensuing trial, and rightfully so. But today, to commemorate the anniversary of his birth, FSU Special Collections & Archives shares here some primary sources documenting his abbreviated life.
Social Security, minimum wage, and the National Institutes of Health. These are just a few of the ways that Claude Denson Pepper left his mark on American politics. He was born in rural Alabama, the eldest of four children to Joseph and Lena Pepper, on September 8, 1900. From these humble beginnings, Pepper would come to serve the people of Florida as a U.S. Senator (1936-1950) and Representative (1963-1989). In his later years as a U.S. Representative, he was a champion of the elderly; crafting and supporting legislation that was geared toward ensuring elder Americans were allowed to age and finish their lives with care and dignity.
This Saturday, May 30, marks the 31st anniversary of Senator Pepper’s passing. When he died on May 30, 1989, Pepper was the eldest sitting member of Congress. He was honored by laying in state under the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for three days before making his way to Tallahassee to be laid to rest next to his wife Mildred. Special Collections & Archives honors the Senator and encourages you to visit our online resources on Pepper, including diaries, photographs and manuscript material, to better acquaint yourself with one of the most active figures of 20th Century American politics.
Today marks the 64th anniversary of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott. In the spring of 1956, Florida A&M students Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson boarded a Tallahassee bus and took seats of their own choosing. Because these seats were in the “whites only” section of the bus, Jakes and Patterson were arrested by the Tallahassee Police Department, prompting fellow students, citizens and city leaders to take action. The two students were arrested on a Saturday. On Sunday, May 29, the area Ku Klux Klan burned a cross outside of the residence hall where Jakes and Patterson lived. By Monday the 30th, the student body of Florida A&M University convened and voted to boycott the city buses. That evening, a meeting was called by Reverend C.K. Steele to discuss the boycott and seek support from the community, thereby creating the Inter-Civic Council (ICC).
Over the course of the next seven months, the African American community of Tallahassee worked together to support themselves in making their way to work, school and religious services through a carpool service, which was eventually suspended after growing violence over the boycott. On January 1, 1957, Governor LeRoy Collins, himself a Tallahassee native, officially suspended the bus service until segregated seating was removed. However, due to poorly disguised rephrasing of the policy that included seating based on “tranquility and good order”, the bus system in Tallahassee would not truly be desegregated for another year. Those who joined Wilhelmina Jakes, Carrie Patterson and the students of Florida A&M University including Rev. Steele, Daniel Speed, and many others from the then 10,600 African-American residents of Tallahassee, were met with resistance from most white members of the Tallahassee community who felt racial segregation should remain in place.
The voices of many of the participants of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott of 1956 can be accessed through the transcripts available through the FSU Special Collections & Archives department. The Tallahassee Civil Rights Oral History Collection and the Reichelt Oral History Collection provide glimpses into this important moment in Florida, and national history, with researchers being able to read the words of Rev. Speed, King Solomon Dupont, LeRoy Collins, Daniel Speed and others. Though 64 years may feel like a long time, we are not that far removed from the events of the Bus Boycott. With racial tensions still ever present, immersing ourselves in and understanding our history can better help us plan for the future.
Today, April 22 2020, is the 50th anniversary of the first celebration of Earth Day. The first Earth Day in 1970 was a major mobilizing event of inestimable historical significance. The event was such a success because it came at the right time as awareness of human effects on the balance of nature was growing. Rachel Carson’s 1962 best-selling book, Silent Spring, laid the groundwork for a growing concern over man’s negative impact on the environment. 1969 was a year rife with high-profile environmental disasters; there was a major oil spill off the coast of southern California and Ohio’s Cuyahoga river caught fire. At the end of the year, concern for the environment rivaled concern for the Vietnam War.
Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) announced his intentions for an Earth Day event six months prior to April 1970, which was enough time for the excitement to spread and for countless groups to become involved. A wide range of participants helped to organize Earth Day events and the offerings varied from speeches, teach-ins, movies, workshops, and more. The event inspired lifelong environmentalists and lead to the formation of many new environmental groups, lobbies, and services.
Florida State University participated in the first Earth day with a series of events on Landis Green including speeches, information booths, music, and movies. The theme was “Do Not Ask For Whom the Bell Tolls, It Tolls For Thee.”
The immediate effects of Earth Day were significant: the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency, the passing of the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The power of Earth Day extends beyond the day itself, the momentum gained by the event leant credibility to events that followed and engendered a generation of activists.
The twentieth anniversary celebration of Earth Day in 1990 united people in countries on all seven continents in unprecedented numbers to voice their concerns for environmental issues. Whereas the 1970 celebration was a grassroots effort, the 1990 celebration was run like a political campaign with advisors and consultants and a budget 15 times larger than the original event. The worldwide turnout for Earth Day 1990 was double what the organizers expected, the event united the most participants ever concerned about a single cause. The greatest success of Earth Day 1990 was the worldwide participation and attention it brought to the environmental issues plaguing the entire world. Environmental troubles were no longer simply viewed as the problem of white Americans but as a growing global concern.
Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives and FSU Sustainable Campus are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with the launch of a digital exhibit, Earth Day 50: Environmental Activism at FSU and Beyond. This exhibit was originally curated to be installed as a physical exhibit in Strozier library, but installation was postponed due to covid-19. Changing to a digital platform allows the story of Earth Day and environmental activism at FSU to continue to be shared. Please visit https://fsuearthday50.omeka.net/to learn more about the celebration of Earth Day at FSU, in Florida, and beyond.
Valentine’s Day gained popularity in the United States with the introduction of mass-produced Valentines cards around the middle of the 19th century. Most of these early cards have long since disappeared, but we are fortunate to have many examples of early 20th century valentines here in Special Collections & Archives.
Aside from being a repository for manuscripts and rare books, Special Collections & Archives is also the home of the Heritage & University Archives for Florida State University and its predecessor, the Florida State College for Women (FSCW). A popular pastime for the students of FSCW was to construct scrapbooks full of precious items from their everyday lives. These scrapbooks are full of photos, articles, notes, and other ephemera that provide a snapshot into what life what like at that time. Some even contain valentine cards from the time period.
This valentine is found in the scrapbook of Florida State College for Women student Florence Gregory (B.A. Sociology, 1940) and dates to circa 1931-1937.
This valentine is found in the personal files of Dr. Melvene Draheim Hardee. The card is from Dr. Draheim Hardee’s childhood and dates to approximately 1920.
This valentine is found in the scrapbook of Florida State College for Women student Marion Laura Stine and dates to circa 1917-1921.
This valentine is found in the scrapbook of Florida State College for Women student Annie Gertrude Gilliam and dates to circa 1925-1931.
This valentine is found in the scrapbook of Florida State College for Women student Janet MacGowan West (BS 1922) and dates to circa 1917-1954.
Wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day from Special Collections & Archives!
An iconic structure of Florida State’s campus, the gothic-styled Westcott Building was once threatened by a massive blaze on April 27, 1969. The fire started in the roof above the fourth floor, spreading beneath the sheetrock ceiling and causing intense damage throughout the fourth floor. The Westcott Building housed the University’s administration as well as the art department at the time and attention turned to not only saving the building and human lives, but the innumerable valuable documents and pieces of art stored within the structure.
As the April 28, 1969 edition of the Florida Flambeau notes, the art department was deemed a total loss but a painting by Reubens valued at $30,000 dollars, as well as work by FSU faculty member Dr. Karl Zerbe, valued at $50,000 were safely extracted from the inferno by brave students. Florida Flambeau editor Sam Miller details some of the more memorable moments from the scene:
“After the fire was out, students again poured in to try to salvage the paintings from the third floor. Perhaps the first comic relief of the evening came when two students carried out a bigger-than-life painting of a psychedelic nude.”
For those interested in taking a step into the University’s past, we invite you to view the linked 13 minute video that includes a variety of moments from FSU in 1969, including the Westcott Fire (skip ahead to 3:25). You can check it out here.
This blog post is an updated version of a previous post by Hannah Wiatt Davis which can be found here.
Happy 167th Birthday, Florida State University! In 1851, the first steps were taken by the Florida Legislature (then the General Assembly of the State of Florida) to create the institution we now know as Florida State University. However, it wasn’t until recently that 1851 was accepted as the founding date. Previously, FSU had used 1857, when the State Seminary West of the Suwannee River, the predecessor institution of FSU, first opened its doors. However, the 1857 date isn’t entirely accurate. The process of starting the school began long before students were allowed to study here.
On January 24, 1851, the General Assembly of the State of Florida passed an act establishing two seminaries of learning, one to the east and one to the west of the Suwannee River. It wasn’t until 1854 when the Tallahassee City Council offered to pay $10,000 to finance a new school building on land owned by the city in an attempt to “bid on” being the location of the seminary west of the Suwannee, which the legislature had yet to decide. The $10,000 consisted of the value of the property, the yet-to-be-constructed building, and the remaining balance in cash. Approximately $6,000 was originally committed, with the Council promising to give the city the remaining balance if Tallahassee was determined as the final location. Later in 1854, construction on a school building began and Tallahassee’s city superintendent approached the state legislature to present the case for the seminary to be in Tallahassee. However, state officials failed to make a decision regarding the location of the seminary before the end of the legislative session.
By 1855, the newly constructed building, which was often described as “the handsomest edifice” in Tallahassee, was ready for students. Because of the state legislature’s lack of a decision on whether it would be one of the legislature-designated seminaries, it was not given an official name. Instead, it was alternately called “The City Seminary” and “Tallahassee Male Seminary.”
In 1856, the ball got rolling as the City Council of Tallahassee (hereafter referred to as the Board of Trustees of the Florida Institute) met and designated “The City Seminary” as the “Florida Institute.” It also indicated that “government of the institution or seminary shall be under the direction of a president” and decided that “a preparatory school will be established in connection with the academic or collegiate department of the institute.” It was established that one of the president’s duties would be to publish a “Catalogue Course of Studies” for the institution. Later in 1856, William (W.Y.) Peyton, previously principal of The City Seminary, was unanimously elected by the Board of Trustees of the Florida Institute as the first president of the Institute.
By late 1856, the General Assembly passed legislation declaring that “the Seminary to be located West of the Suwannee River be, and the same is hereby located at the City of Tallahassee in the County of Leon.” There were several conditions that needed to be granted for this to occur – “the proper and authorized conveyance of said Lot and College edifice thereon be made to the City of Tallahassee to the Board of Education,” that Tallahassee “guarantee to said Board of Education the payment of the sum of two thousand dollars per annum forever, to be expended in the education of the youth of said City, in such manner and on such terms as shall be agreed between the corporate authorities of said City and the Board of Education,” and that Tallahassee “shall pay to the Board of Education as much money in cash as shall be found necessary after a valuation of the Lot and College edifice aforesaid, to complete the sum of ten thousand dollars.”
With all of the requirements fulfilled, the State Seminary West of the Suwannee River was allowed to open its doors and so began FSU’s long history.
From all of us here at FSU Special Collection & Archives, we wish you and your family a safe and lovely Thanksgiving holiday.
Special Collections & Archives will close at 11:30am on Wednesday, November 22 and remain closed Thursday and Friday, November 23 and 24. We will return to our normal operating hours on Monday, November 27. For up to date information about the Libraries’ hours, visit the Hours page on the website.