Brittani Flemons His 329 Section 2 April 14, 2010 The Pain and the Promise: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Tallahassee, FL The Pain and the Promise by Glenda Alice Rabby gives an account of the long, hard struggles blacks had to endure to achieve equality among whites in Tallahassee and throughout Florida. A lot of people had the misconception that Florida wasn’t like its neighboring Southern states. Rabby proves throughout the book that those were just mere misconceptions and in fact, Florida was equally resistant to change as other states below the Mason Dixon line.
Tallahassee, being the state’s capitol, was going to be the city that set the framework for the entire state during the modern civil rights movement if they were able to overcome racial discrimination and segregation. Throughout the book, Rabby tells us of the different local and national civil rights organizations that try to come against segregation and the organizations that try to uphold it. Before the unintentional bus boycott occurred, Tallahassee was one of those towns that were considered to have good race relations amongst its citizens.
Blacks knew their place and quietly accepted it, until May 26, 1956, a day that began the slow progress toward change for many blacks in Tallahassee. Two Florida A&M students, crossed the line when they decided to sit next to a white woman on a crowded, city bus instead of standing at the back like most blacks did when the only seat available was next to a white person. Little did they know, they were about to ignite the flame that started the fight for civil rights in the capitol city. Unlike the Montgomery bus boycott, these students weren’t pushed by any organization to start a boycott.
They had no idea that their decision to sit, rather than stand would have such profound effects on the state as a whole. Rabby tells of this incident in great detail as it shocked both whites and blacks throughout the city. Many people had mixed feelings about what happened, especially among the blacks because it showed the degree of how much racism there really was during that time. Black leaders began to emerge as a result and they wanted change and wanted it quick. These leaders had no idea of how hard this battle against segregation was going to be.
This incident is considered significant to Rabby because it’s the first real attempt of blacks speaking out against inequality and the major start of the civil rights movement in Florida. Rabby gives a detailed account of how organizations such as the Inter-Civic Council (ICC) got their start through the incident. This organization and others like the NAACP, who mostly stayed in the background in Florida, and later CORE began to speak out against segregation and demanded change or else. During this time, Rabby tells us about how much opposition the ICC was faced with through angry white officials.
Angry whites claimed that they sympathized with the blacks wanting equality but felt how much opposition the ICC was faced with through angry white officials. Angry whites claimed that they sympathized with the blacks wanting equality but felt that they went about trying to achieve it the wrong way. White segregationist (which was the majority of whites in FL) in the modern civil rights movement treated blacks as if equal citizenship was a prized possession that was earned through patience and obedience and not a constitutional right granted to them.
They countered everything that the blacks tried to do to gain equality with their own interpretation of the laws and ridiculous city laws. In the book, Rabby continues to give the reader more incidents of blacks attempt to gain equality long after the boycott ends to show just how long and hard the battle was. Whites was stuck in their traditional Southern ways and wasn’t about to let blacks change that. When blacks tried to protest non-violently, the whites was ready to start a riot but the blacks were the ones arrested for “inciting a riot”.
Some blacks even lost hope because they felt they were fighting a losing battle. But the fight continued and some blacks such as C. K. Steele wasn’t going to stop fighting until total integration was achieved. The movement in Florida had both successes and failures but the failures seemed to outweigh the successes because of the length of time it took for total cooperation with desegregation. Even decades later race still seems to be an issue in Tallahassee, although segregation was done away with.
Whites just found different ways of showing their racism. Blacks had to break through many, many barriers to get to where they are today. It’s only been a couple of decades since the first black city officials have been elected into office. Tallahassee didn’t start adopting a unitary school system until 1970, sixteen years after the Brown case. There have been some successes for blacks during the movement years in Tallahassee; they just seem minute compared to how long it took them to achieve it and how much longer they got to go.
I feel this book has contributed greatly to the scholarship written on the Civil Rights era because Rabby tells a story that otherwise, wouldn’t have been known to most people about Florida and Tallahassee, in particular. As I’ve stated earlier, many people didn’t know that Florida was just as bad as other southern states. Everybody thought that it was more liberal in its ideology about race relations. Now we know the truth and the courageous efforts of blacks who wouldn’t give up.