TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida A&M University (FAMU), with the support of Leon County and the City of Tallahassee, will hold a two-day celebration to honor FAMU alumni Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson, who are credited with igniting the 1956 Tallahassee Bus Boycott.
The theme for this celebration is “Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson: Foot Soldiers for Change.” On Thursday, January 29, FAMU will pay tribute to Jakes and Patterson starting at 6 p.m. in Lee Hall Auditorium. Vicki Crawford, Ph.D., a professor at Clark Atlanta University and author of Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, will be the keynote speaker.
As students, Jakes and Patterson lived on Jennings Street, so County officials will rename the street Jakes & Patterson Street in their honor. There will be a celebration and unveiling of the new street sign at 11 a.m. Friday, January 30.
“It’s an honor to take part in this special recognition of Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Patterson,” said Bryan Desloge, the chairman of the Board of Leon County Commissioners. “Leon County recognizes the importance of the efforts and sacrifices of these two individuals – and all those who bravely fought for equality – whose great contributions to the movement of 1956 shaped history and still resonate with us today.”
In 1956, Jakes was a 26-year-old Education student from West Palm Beach, Fla., when she and her close friend, Patterson, a 20-year-old English major from Lakeland, Fla., were arrested for refusing to move to the back of a crowded Tallahassee city bus.
After sitting in the front of the bus next to a white female passenger, the two brave and defiant FAMU students were placed under arrest.
When news of their arrest reached the FAMU campus, the student body, under the leadership of Student Government Association President Brodes Hartley, planned and
initiated the beginning stages of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott, a strategic 10-month long economic protest.
“I am extremely honored to participate in recognizing the historic contribution and significant impact of two courageous admirable advocates for change,” said Tallahassee Mayor John Marks.
After graduating from FAMU in 1956, Jakes went on to enjoy a productive and lengthy career as a Florida schoolteacher. Her first position was as an elementary teacher in Broward County, where she taught for 22 years. She later served 11 years as an educator in Lee County before retiring in the late 1990s.
Patterson graduated from FAMU in 1957. She went on to serve as a teacher for some 12 years at her alma mater, Rochelle Junior and Senior High School in Lakeland, before her untimely death in 1969.
“The recognition for these trailblazing civil rights activists is appropriate and long overdue,” said FAMU President James H. Ammons, Ph.D. “The marker and the street will stand as a permanent testament to the sacrifice, diligence and contributions of these two women. They will also acknowledge the hundreds of other FAMU students, Rev. C.K. Steele, members of the Inter Civic Council and other members of the local, state, and national community who were unwavering in their valiant stance against social injustices.”
During FAMU’s 2006 Spring Commencement activities, both Patterson (posthumously) and Jakes received the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award and its first Freedom Award.
FAMU has also scheduled an unveiling of a historical state marker in honor of Jakes and Patterson on Friday at 10 a.m. in front of the H. Manning Efferson Student Union. Following the unveiling, FAMU students, administrators, faculty, staff and members of the community will march to West Jennings Street for the renaming ceremony.
For more information, call the FAMU Office of Communications at (850) 599-3413 or (850) 412-5211.
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