Commemorating the 50th anniversary of integration

Published: September 15 2008

Category:Voices Column

Members of the University of Florida community:

Fifty years ago today, on Sept. 15, 1958, a black Air Force veteran named George H. Starke Jr. registered for classes at the University of Florida College of Law. It was the beginning of integration at UF, and one more step toward the end of racial segregation in the South.

The University of Florida never experienced the racial violence that occurred at other college campuses in the Civil Rights era, but there is no question that our first black students were often ignored, shunned or made the targets of insults. Yet Mr. Starke and the black students who followed him were courageous and persistent. They came, and they kept coming, and by the late 1960s this university had grown beyond the exclusively white institution of its roots. As of this year, we have had nearly 12,000 black graduates.

We are commemorating Mr. Starke and the other “firsts” with a year-long series of events, “Celebrating the Firsts.” I would like to ask the entire campus community to join us in this commemoration. It is an opportunity to reflect on a period in this university’s history when prejudice and injustice ruled the day. It also is a chance to reconfirm our present commitment to fairness, equality and diversity.

Today’s carillon program at 12:35 p.m. will be dedicated to the 50th anniversary commemoration. To learn more about or participate in other events planned for this year, I urge you to visit www.urel.ufl.edu/50 or contact Florida Bridgewater-Alford, director of community relations, at 392-4567.

Sincerely,

J. Bernard Machen

Category:Voices Column