Patricia Stephens Due, the lifelong Florida civil rights crusader who led 1960s-era demonstrations and voter-registration drives and went to jail for 45-days for trying to integrate a lunch counter died Tuesday. She was 72.
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.
Florida officials honored her contributions last year by naming May 11 Patricia Stephens Due Day in the state.
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