Today marks 50 years since two brave Florida A&M students, Patricia and Priscilla Stephens, led about 8 other members of the Congress of Racial Equality in one of Tallahassee's first sit-ins. Neatly dressed, the group entered the Woolworth's on Monroe Street (a main thoroughfare in the city) as a part of a regional sympathy sit-in less than two weeks after the nation's first nationally recognized sit-in by the Greensboro Four on February 1, 1960. They sat immovable as threats of bodily harm intensified from angry whites until the store manager closed the counter. They spoke to reporters and left the store.
But they returned the next week. On February 20th, while sitting quietly at the lunch counter, the Stephens sisters were among 11 arrested at that same Woolworth's for "engaging in riotous conduct." When they were convicted, five decided to stay in jail rather than pay a fine to support the system of segregation they were fighting to change, marking the nation's first jail-in in the student sit-in movement. They continued to make history in the weeks, months and years after that first step 50 years ago. For more information, the book Freedom in the Family is a great resource. This spring I will complete my film on two brothers, Dan & Jim Harmeling, and the Stephens sisters, and the affect of Florida's little-known Civil Rights Movement on their lives. But for today, I'm grateful for the many people, names known and unknown who paved the way for so many things I can do today!