Tallahassee Democrat
Tallahassee Democrat

Civil rights legend Patricia Stephens Due has died, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.


The 72-year-old, whom they called the Joan of Arc of the civil rights movement in Tallahassee, Fla., succumbed on Tuesday after a long fight with thyroid cancer. She died in Atlanta, where she had moved to to be closer to her three daughters.

During the civil rights era's peak in the 1960s, Due led demonstrations at segregated theaters and pools and conducted voter-registration drives. Her landmark moment was a "jail-in" at Florida A&M when she and eight other black students tried to integrate a Tallahassee lunch counter. When faced with paying a fine or going to jail, she chose the latter. Her courage attracted the attention of Martin Luther King Jr., who sent her a letter in jail. Her activism garnered her an FBI file that ran more than 400 pages.


A member of several civil rights organizations, Due went on to become the local field secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality.

"Patricia Stephens Due was the heart of the civil rights movement in Tallahassee,'” said author Glenda Rabby, whose book, The Pain and the Promise, details the Tallahassee civil rights movement. "Her bravery and lifetime commitment to the advancement of racial justice and equality is legendary in this community and in the annals of civil rights history."

Florida officials honored her contributions last year by naming May 11 Patricia Stephens Due Day in the state.

Throughout her life, Due wore dark glasses because her eyes became sensitive to light after a policeman threw a teargas bomb at her face in 1960. But despite her hampered vision, she kept fighting and saw the light at the end of the tunnel clearly. The same fight she gave cancer in her final two years is the same energy and strength she gave to the civil rights movement.


She may never have received the media attention of Malcolm X, Rosa Parks or King, but one thing we can be assured of is that her legacy and her spirit will endure. May she rest in peace.


Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter