FLORIDA'S CIVIL RIGHTS HISTORY-THE JIM CROW ERA-Andrew Stelzer

06/03/04

This week at the University of South Florida’s St Petersburg campus, scholars, activists and historians and gathering for a conference of the history of the civil rights movement in Florida. The conference is being held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown versus board of education decision, which allowed black children to go to school with white children. This morning featured a panel discussion called “Florida in the age of Jim Crow: seeds of the civil rights movement. WMNFS Andrew Stelzer has more.

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Each of this mornings’ speaker told stories of struggles for racial equality over the last 200 years in Florida.

Florida State University History professor Maxine Jones told the story of the Rosewood massacre in 1923, in which a mob of white people killed black people, whites who defended blacks, and burned the entire black section of the town to the ground.

ACT ‘In the meantime, rosewood residents fled into the swamps. Black church is burned…governor goes hunting…he was forced to dig his own grave…

ACT “On the 29th of January, a grand jury convened and came to the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence. For

Jones said that given Florida’s past, racial tension is understandable.

ACT “Imagine being 8, 9 or 10 years old and being and not hating..�

Robert Cassanello, Assistant Professor of History at Miles College, spoke about Comedian Bill Cosbys recent remarks which have caused controversy, and how we might compare them to other similar instances in history.

ACT “A week ago he gave a talk…castigated the black underclass.�

Cassanello also told the story of the movement in Florida to integrate the streetcar lines.

ACT “???it started in Jacksonville..leaders give public speeches…its not us, we understand, its these working class who don’t understand.�

Susan Greenbaum, a professor of anthropology at USF, compared black Cubans struggle to black Floridians struggle.

ACT “During the against Spain, but in Florida…there were not so many similarities by poor whites and blacks..afro Cubans….and for a brief period y0ou had alliance between black Cubans and black Americans. But in between, there separation.

WMNF asked some of the panelists how historians will look at the civil rights struggle in the Tampa bay area in 2004. Heres Maxine Jones said the biggest obstacle right now for understanding between whites and blacks is a lack of communication.

ACT—Maxine Jones “We don’t talk to each other, I think white American does not understand …and black America does not understand, we need to try to understand, and we don’t listen “

Stetson Kennedy is the historian who first brought the story of the rosewood massacre back to the publics s and governments awareness.

ACT-- “Well I just hope we don’t have a racist regime, terrorism is a threat from abroad and within, homegrown terrorists, if no one does anything. It’s a matter of thinking, but we are being bombarded by an avalanche of misinformation, which makes us not think clearly.

ACT—Arnett doctor is a descendent of a resident of rosewood, before the town was destroyed. ‘Me: there was a lot of talk about history today they will look upon it as the same…unfortunately St Pete has not learned…�

During the question and answer period, one member of the audience said she thinks keeping these stories alive will help Florida move forward as the struggle for civil rights continues.

ACT “Racism is alive and well in this state…my Florida was having tear gas thrown into my eyes. We wanted to get negroes.as I sit here I’m glad to have the pieces of the puzzle come together….one day we wont be here to tell these stories..that will become our history�

The conference on the civil rights movement in Florida continues at the USF St Petersburg campus through Sunday. For more information, call 727-553-4840.

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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