In Her Own Words: Remarkable Women in 20th-Century Florida
Patricia Stephens Due, 1939-2012
Priscilla Stephens Kruize, 1938-
"Every night before I go to sleep I thank God that in some small way that I am able to help those of us who are denied our equal rights. I do not consider going to jail a sacrifice but a privilege."
On February 20, 1960, during a sit-in at the segregated Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Tallahassee, sisters Patricia and Priscilla Stephens, along with nine others, were arrested for disturbing the peace. At their trial a month later, all 11 were found guilty and told to pay a fine or face jail time. The Stephens sisters and six other students chose “jail over bail” and spent 49 days of their 60-day sentence at the Leon County Jail. This first “jail-in” of the mid-20th century Civil Rights Movement received national news coverage and the students were sent hundreds of letters of support, including from civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Jackie Robinson.
The Stephens sisters had honed their nonviolent demonstration tactics at a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) workshop in Miami during the summer of 1959. When they arrived back in Tallahassee to start the fall semester at Florida A & M University, the sisters founded a new CORE chapter and used support from the national organization to challenge racial discrimination in their home state. After being released from jail, the students went on a national tour organized by CORE to tell others about their experiences. The Stephens sisters returned to Florida at the end of the tour to continue fighting for racial equality.
A draft of a letter written at the Leon County Jail by Priscilla Stephens in 1960, describing the arrest of her and other students on March 12, the sentencing of the students on March 17, and the conditions in jail.
A letter written by Patricia Stephens from "Sit Ins: The Students Report," a booklet from the Congress of Racial Equality published in May 1960. Stephens writes about the events leading up to being jailed and the conditions at the Leon County Jail.
A May 16, 1967 report from Patricia Stephens Due to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund relating her efforts to encourage African American families in Leon County, Florida, to sign their children up to attend white schools. She also writes about the challenges she faced during this process.
More from Florida Memory
- Historical records: Stephens Sisters Jail-In Papers, 1960
- Floridiana article: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
- Selected documents: “Suggestions for CORE Pickets” leaflet, 1960
"FAMU and Civil Rights" flier, ca. 1963
- Photographs: Patricia and Priscilla Stephens
At the Archives
- Patricia Stephens Due Papers, ca. 1946-2011, Collection N2015-1, State Archives of Florida.
- ^Draft of a letter written by Priscilla Stephens from the Leon County Jail, ca. 1960, State Archives of Florida.