Leon County unveils historical marker at North Florida Fairgrounds

Published: Aug. 14, 2018 at 4:32 PM EDT
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By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News

August 14, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — Leon County unveiled a new historical marker at the North Florida Fairgrounds, honoring the sacrifices of hundreds of students made during the Civil Rights movement.

"Year after year, people will come to this site to eat cotton candy. To cheer on their high school football team,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson. “(And now) people will be able to reflect upon the great history."

The Fairgrounds served as an overflow jail during September of 1963. Because of the sheer number of arrests occurring due to protests, the county jail was filled to capacity.

More than 350 students were instead jailed at the Fairgrounds after being arrested for disrupting the peace while picketing segregation at Tallahassee theaters. They were held in barns for several days, sleeping on the ground with blankets from the jail.

"There was no overflow of compassion, there was no overflow of empathy, there was no overflow of love for these students,” said County Commissioner Bill Proctor.

Proctor, who pushed for the marker, said the recognition was long overdue.

"They were brave enough to not let the inconvenience of being in jail, or being in barns. They were willing to go to hell for a heavenly cause,” he said.

Murell Dawson, a research associate for Meek-Eaton Southeastern Regional Black Archives at FAMU, helped the marker become reality. She said it will help connect Leon County to the national narrative of the Civil Rights movement.

"Tallahassee, our students, our leaders our stories, they shouldn't be in a silo,” she said. "People can come here, whether they are tourists, whether they are local members, and feel proud of what we have done, not just for our area, not just for our state, but for America."

The marker can be seen at the Fairgrounds entrance on South Monroe Street.