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Daughter: Spirit of Tallahassee civil rights activist Patricia Stephens-Due lives on

Posted at 5:51 PM, Jul 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-03 17:51:09-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — As protests for equal rights continue across the country, the daughter of Tallahassee activist Patricia Stephens-Due says her mother's memory lives on with each demonstration for equality and justice.

From the civil rights era to 2020, protests in the streets of American cities continue despite the century-long journey for equality.

In the 1960s, demonstrations were met with powerful arguments.

"Firehoses being turned on protesters, police officers with dogs attacking children," Tananarive Due explained.

Tananarive Due is an author and educator born in Tallahassee. Her mother, Patricia Stephens-Due, was a 1967 graduate from Florida A&M University and a local activist in the 1960s.

Stephens-Due died in 2012 and is remembered in the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame for her activism.

"My mother always said she was not going to pay for discrimination," Due said.

But she did. Not long after serving a 60-day sentence in a Tallahassee prison for a sit-in demonstration, a peaceful movement ended with a violent outcome.

"When she was just a college student, about 20-years-old, leading a peaceful march in Tallahassee, a police officer said, 'I want you,' and threw a tear gas canister in her face, and the impact of that was with her for the rest of her life."

That truth was documented in Due's book "Freedom in the Family-A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights."

Due says although police force against protesters may not be as intense as they once were, the use of technology has allowed people to show daily injustices, especially with what she calls a modern-day lynching after the murder of George Floyd.

"We've been screaming this from the top of our lungs," said Due. "What part didn't you hear about this?"

Due says she's encouraged by people of all races joining the movement. One thing she says they should prepare for is the struggle.

"What activists from the sixties learned and, unfortunately, a lot of activists today are learning, is that once you ally yourself and align yourself with a Black cause you can also be dehumanized just the way Black people have been dehumanized," Due said.

Although more tragic deaths of black people surface every day, Due says if her mother was here today she would support protesters fighting for the justice long overdue.

"If she could come back for this she would really be inspired by this because the work of the civil rights movement was unfinished," Due said.

Now, many in the same city her mother marched in are working to finish what that generation started.

Due now lives in California where she continues her activism and teaching while honoring her mother's memory.