This Day in History

Jan. 23, 1963: Patricia Stephens Due Arrested in Florida

Time Periods: 1961
Themes: Civil Rights Movements

On Jan. 23, 1963, Patricia Stephens Due was arrested in the segregated lobby of the Florida Theater in Tallahassee for entering the whites-only section.

Although the city dropped the case, Stephens Due filed a suit against the city for their support of racial apartheid. While an agreement was made that Due would drop the suit if the city desegregated their court room, the city went back on their promise, sparking a new wave of student protests of the two movie theaters.

Over 200 students were arrested and 37 teargassed in their efforts to desegregate the theaters. Stephens Due’s eyes were damaged by tear gas used by police during one of those protests. As a result, she head to wear dark glasses for the rest of her life.

Picketing at the State Theatre in Tallahassee on May 29, 1963. Patricia Stephens Due is wearing sun glasses and her husband John Due is close behind her. Source: Florida Memory

The city later changed its legal tactics, allowing students to peacefully protest in front of the theaters without police interference.

A few years earlier (Feb. 20, 1960) in Tallahassee, Stephens Due was fined and arrested at a Woolworth’s lunch counter that denied African Americans the right to be seated. Due refused to pay a fine and instead, chose to stay in jail — a “Jail, No Bail” tactic.

To learn more about Due, read the book she wrote with her daughter, Tananarive Due, Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights.

Parts of this description were excerpted from Ideal Citizens: The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement.