Celebrating 50 years of integration at the University of Florida

September 15, 2008

Fifty years ago, Virgil Hawkins entered into a consent decree that ended nine years of litigation to desegregate the student body of the University of Florida. Then on Sept. 15, 1958, an Air Force veteran named George H. Starke registered for classes at the College of Law and became the university’s first African American student.

During the week of Sept. 15 – which marks the official 50th anniversary date – special events will commemorate this historic progress. The events are listed below.

In addition to the events surrounding the anniversary week, the University of Florida is commemorating Hawkins, Starke and other “firsts,” with a year-long series of events. For more information, visit www.urel.ufl.edu/50.

To view a letter regarding the 50th anniversary from President Bernie Machen to the University of Florida community, visit http://insideuf.ufl.edu/2008/09/15/commemorating-the-50th-anniversary-of-integration/.

Sept. 13
The “Community Service Project: Road Clean-Up” will occur from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., with a Welcome Back barbeque at the Plaza of Americas from 12 to 3:30 p.m. The events are sponsored by the University of Florida Black Student Union.

Sept. 14
“Let Us Fellowship Together,” a church service at Community Praise Center, 303 N.E. 39th Ave., will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is sponsored by the University of Florida BSU.

Sept. 15
Laura Ellis, associate professor of music, will play a special selection of music on the Carillon at Century Tower, 12:35 to 12:50 p.m., in recognition of the anniversary. Songs will include “Reflections from the Tower” by Emma Lou Diemer, “Changes” by Gary White and selections from “Fireworks” by G. F. Handel.

A walk from Reitz Student Union to Tigert Hall, “March on UF,” will begin at 12 p.m. George H. Starke Jr., the first black student enrolled at the University of Florida, will speak at 12:30 p.m. on the Tigert Hall steps. The event is sponsored by the University of Florida BSU.

Starke will be presented with a proclamation from Gainesville Commissioner Jeanna Mastrodicasa at 12:30 p.m.

Sept. 16
“Know Your History” will be presented at noon in the Smathers Library, Room 1A. A panel of guests will discuss their personal University of Florida history. The event is sponsored by the University of Florida BSU.

A resolution concerning 50 years of integration will be presented by the BSU before the University of Florida Student Senate at 7:30 p.m. at the Levin College of Law.

Sept. 17
The annual Constitution Day activities at the University of Florida will be dedicated to a remembrance of the beginning of campus integration. A program at the Levin College of Law’s Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event will include relatives of the late Hawkins and his last attorney, Harley S. Herman, as well as the Honorable Stephan Mickle, United District Judge for the Northern District of Florida. Faculty members will provide a perspective on the legal process of desegregation.

A diversity forum, “50 years…Where are we now?” will be presented at 7:00 p.m. at Pugh Hall, Room 170. The event is sponsored by the University of Florida BSU.