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Contact: Brittany Lesser
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Civil Rights in the Sunshine State Exhibit at the Museum of Florida History

Tallahassee –

The Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, announces the opening of a new special exhibit produced by the Museum of Florida History, Civil Rights in the Sunshine State. The temporary exhibit will be on display from November 7, 2014 to April 5, 2015 in downtown Tallahassee at the R.A. Gray building. Through artifacts, videos, interactive elements, and narratives, visitors can explore the significant contributions Florida made to the state and national civil rights movement.

“Fifty years ago, the United States watched as President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” said Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “This exhibit explores the actions of Floridians that led to this historic legislation and the struggles the civil rights movement faced in Florida. I encourage everyone to attend this exhibit and experience the stories of the courageous Floridians who stood up to ensure equality.”  

The opening reception for Civil Rights in the Sunshine State is on November 6, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Civil rights veteran Dr. Robert Hayling will speak about St. Augustine’s 1963–64 civil rights movement at 6:00 p.m. 

The Museum of Florida History produced Civil Rights in the Sunshine State in collaboration with multiple universities, organizations, and individuals. Many of the photographs on display are from the State Archives of Florida, and there are artifacts from across the state, loaned from organizations such as the Ritz Theatre and Museum in Jacksonville, HistoryMiami, Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Cultural Center, ACCORD Civil Rights Museum, Stetson Kennedy Foundation, and Meeks-Eaton Black Archives and Museum at Florida A&M University.

Among the items on display are a Bible of the Reverend Theodore Gibson, who was a leader of the civil rights movements in Miami, and a stool from Woolworths Department Store in Jacksonville, which was the site of a famous “sit-in” demonstration in 1960 that made national headlines. Complementing the artifacts are videos of numerous civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Patricia Stephens Due, Theodore Gibson, and Reverend C. K. Steele.

Civil rights activists from Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and other cities served as advisors on the exhibit, along with historians from Florida State University, the University of Florida, Florida A&M University, and the Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network (FAAHPN). 

Senior curator Michelle Hearn noted that, “Our advisors were integral to helping us highlight the complexity of the struggle for civil rights in Florida. They helped put us in touch with some of the most prominent leaders in Florida’s civil rights movement.” 

One of the most involved advisors, Dr. Anthony Dixon of the FAAHPN, said he hopes the exhibit helps visitors, “examine both the overall struggle for civil rights in Florida, while also highlighting the unique struggles of different regions of Florida, such as Miami and Jacksonville.”

The exhibit is one aspect of a number of initiatives undertaken by the Florida Department of State to commemorate the historic signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Other events include a collection of photographs compiled by the State Archives on Floridamemory.com, and a calendar of statewide events can be found at floridamemory.com/events/civilrights50th/calendar/. For more information about the Museum of Florida History or the exhibit, please visit museumoffloridahistory.com.

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About the Museum of Florida History
The Museum of Florida History is part of the Florida Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs and is located in the R. A. Gray Building at 500 South Bronough Street, Tallahassee, Florida. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday and holidays, noon to 4:30 p.m.  Free parking is available in the garage next to the R. A. Gray building.

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