Black Educators: Florida’s Secret Social Justice Advocates, 1920-1960 Oct. 22 – Dec. 18, 2018

The 2018 three site exhibition,  brings into view the world of  African American institutions, teachers, principals, and professionals behind the veil of Jim Crow. 




Image Descriptions: L to R
Image 1: Lincoln High School Classroom, 1949
Image 2: Letter from Women’s Committee to A. Quinn Jones
Image 3 :A. Quinn Jones Request to Present, Florida State Teachers Association, Annual Conference, 1924
Image 4:Florida Black Principals Conference, Bethune Cookman College, Daytona, Florida 1956

A Secret Meeting. An Agenda For Justice

In 1937, concealed in the shelter of the night, five Black men from the Florida State Teachers Association (FSTA) held a secret meeting at Howard Academy in Ocala, Florida.

Who were these brave educators who risked so much?

Edward D. Davis, principal of Howard Academy and FSTA President

Harry T. Moore, president of the Brevard County branch of the FSTA

Noah Griffin, principal of Gibbs High School (St. Petersburg, FL)

Dr. Gilbert Porter, principal of Lincoln High School (Tallahassee, Fl) and soon-to-be FSTA Executive Secretary  

John Gilbert, principal of Cocoa Jr. High School, who volunteered as plaintiff for the first teacher salary equalization case in the state of Florida. Gilbert was terminated before the case ever went to trial.

Edward Davis, Principal of Howard Academy and President of the FSTA, called the men together. Davis knew that his closest colleagues were ready for action. Gilbert Porter, Principal of Lincoln High School, drove south from Tallahassee. Noah Griffin, Principal of Gibbs High School, drove north from St. Petersburg. John Gilbert, Principal of Cocoa Junior High School, and teacher Harry T. Moore took the trip up the coast from Brevard County. Decades, later, Moore’s murder in 1951 would be memorialized as the first casualty of the civil rights movement.  At the meeting on the grounds of Howard Academy, the five leaders devised a plan that Edward Davis would later call Florida’s “program of equalization”.

Edward Davis went on, in 1949, to fight what he considered to be his last battle, the integration of The University of Florida in the Virgil Hawkins v. Florida Board of Control case.

Serving as Chairman of the informal group that worked with the NAACP-LDF, under the direction of Thurgood Marshall, the Hawkins case took a long nine years to resolve. Ultimately, Hawkins never attended the University of Florida Law School, instead choosing to withdraw his application in exchange for a Florida Supreme court order desegregating UF’s graduate and professional schools. In 1958, George Starke was admitted as the University’s first Black student.

Davis’ diligence and the collective struggle of the FSTA bore fruit. Without the efforts of Black teacher associations, our history and the victories for social justice that occurred in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s-1960s may have had a markedly different end


View other artifacts and the University of Florida’s exhibition website.

View the A. Quinn Jones Museum and Cultural Center exhibition website.

View the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations website.

Exhibition Sponsors: 
Center for the Study of Race & Race Relations, UF Levin College of Law
George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
A. Quinn Jones Museum & Cultural Center, Gainesville, Florida

Dr. Diedre Houchen   Lead Curator
Center for the Study of Race & Race Relations

Post-Doctoral Associate

Flo Turcotte   Curator
George A. Smathers Libraries
Literary Collections Archivist

Desmon Walker  Exhibit Advisor
A. Quinn Jones Museum & Cultural Center

Stephanie Birch  Libraries Liason 
George A. Smathers Libraries
African American Studies Librarian