Primary Source Set
Patricia and Priscilla Stephens and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)

In the summer of 1959, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organized the Miami Interracial Action Institute and taught attendees principles of non-violent direct action to combat inequality in the South. Two attendees, sisters Patricia and Priscilla Stephens, took these principles with them when they returned to Tallahassee for school and formed the Tallahassee chapter of CORE.

Using tactics they learned at the CORE workshop, the Stephens sisters held their first sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Tallahassee on February 13, 1960 and a second sit-in at the same lunch counter a week later, leading to the arrest of the sisters and a group of other students. Rather than pay their fines, eight students opted for jail time, effectively launching the first jail-in of the civil rights movement.

The eight jailed students and CORE were suddenly thrown into the national spotlight. CORE used the opportunity to draw attention to their organization.

Image credit: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) letterhead, 1960.

(State Archives of Florida)


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