Documentary, discussion will unearth the legacy of ‘Johns Committee’ at UF

Published: March 5th, 2013

Category: Happenings, InsideUF

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A film screening and panel discussion will be held Monday to examine the legacy of the so-called “Johns Committee” at the University of Florida. The documentary film screening will take place from 5:30 to 6 p.m., and the discussion will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m., in Smathers Library East, Room 1A, on the UF campus.

Under the direction of Florida Sen. Charley Johns, the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee from 1956 to 1965 was designed by the Florida State Senate to investigate and reprimand individuals across Florida for engaging in “potentially subversive activities,” defined as including desegregation and homosexuality. In 1958, the committee chose the University of Florida as its first academic target.

Organized by the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, this event will begin with a screening of the 28-minute documentary film “Behind Closed Doors: The Dark Legacy of the Johns Committee” by Allyson Beutke and Scott Litvak. The four visiting and UF panelists will then discuss the impact of the committee on civil rights and academic freedom at UF.

Led by a moderator, participants will explore the political climate of Florida in the 1950s and 1960s, and the culture wars still raging in Florida today. This event will link to ongoing conversations at UF about political influence in higher education, support for gay and lesbian students, staff, and faculty, and decisions about how to record our collective memory of individuals and events, including the naming of buildings.

The panel will be moderated by Churchill Roberts, UF professor of telecommunications. Panel participants will include Allyson Beutke DeVito, filmmaker and UF alumna; Stacy Braukman, independent writer and editor; Kim Emery, UF professor of English; and Jim Schnur, historian and USF librarian. Their prepared remarks will be followed by a period of question-and-answer and general discussion led by Roberts.

Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act’s creation of land-grant universities, this panel is the third of five “humanizing conversations” in spring 2013 that address the historical and contemporary context of student, faculty, and public life at the University of Florida.

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