Room 203 Issue: Education Audio Transcript

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The exhibit is this room focuses on a topic always popular in politics – public education. The history of public education in Florida is told through a short video, artifacts and text panels. Before the Civil War there were only two schools of higher learning in Florida and only for whites. After the Civil War, novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe and her brother Charles Beecher, the State Education Superintendent, promoted public education for both blacks and whites. By the late 1800s, eight public institutions offered education beyond the high school level in Florida. The Buckman Act in 1905, reorganized the state colleges into three schools, one for white males, white females and African Americans. This created a public school system that was racially separate, but certainly not equal, as little public funding went toward the African American schools. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, mandated school integration. However, Florida’s public schools remained segregated. In Tallahassee, Florida A&M University students along with civil rights leaders played a major role in almost every demonstration in the Capital, including the bus boycott in 1956. These activities helped bring about integration in Florida’s public school systems.

Among the artifacts in the exhibit is a small pine bench that was used in a Brevard county school for emancipated slaves. The bench was built in the late 1800s by a former slave named Andrew Jackson, who also built the school after inheriting the land from the Dumont family that had owned him as a slave. In the exhibit case are old school books and a slate board that school children would carry back and forth to school. Students used the slate board to practice their alphabet and handwriting

After 1902 this room had many uses, an office by the State Comptroller and State Auditor, and also as a store room for the Supreme Court. However, during the two-month long legislative sessions, this room was converted into a committee room for State Representatives.