Passing: Dr. Patricia Stephens Due

February 8th, 2012 by Black Gospel Choir
Patricia Stephens Due

Dr. Patricia Stephens Due died after a long struggle fighting thyroid cancer. She passed away at a skilled nursing facility near Atlanta, where she had moved to be close to her three daughters. She was 72.
At the age of 13 Dr. Due and her sister Priscilla started fighting segregation in Florida by insisting on being served at the “white only” window of their local Dairy Queen, instead of the “colored” window. In the summer of 1959, the sisters attended a nonviolent resistance workshop organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). On Feb. 20, 1960, eleven FAMU students, including Patricia and Priscilla, were arrested for ordering food at a “white only” Woolworth lunch counter. On March 12, dozens of FAMU and Florida State University students who participated in sit-ins at McCrory’s and Woolworth’s were arrested. A thousand students began marching from the FAMU campus toward downtown Tallahassee, but were stopped by Police officers with teargas. At the head of the march, Due was teargassed right in the face, and suffered permanent eye damage.
Due and the other sit-in participants were tried and found guilty on March 17, 1960. Eight refused to pay the $300 fine, deciding instead to go to jail. Eight students served 49 days at the Leon County Jail: FAMU students Patricia and Priscilla Stephens, John Broxton, Barbara Broxton and William Larkins, and three other students—Clement Carney, Angelina Nance, and 16-year-old high school student Henry Marion Steele (son of activist pastor Rev. C.K. Steele).

The “jail-in” gained nationwide attention, and the students received a supportive telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Due sent a letter to baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, who published it in a column he wrote. Robinson later sent the jailed students diaries so they could write down their experiences. After the jail-in, Due and the others traveled the country in speaking tours to publicize the civil rights movement. Due met Eleanor Roosevelt, author James Baldwin, and many other activists on those tours. She went on to be jailed multiple times as a leader in the movement.


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