The exhibit at the Matheson Historical Museum will focus on the civil rights movement in Gainesville

The 1971 “Black Thursday” protest aimed at improving conditions for black people at the University of Florida will be part of the focus of a new exhibit at the Matheson Historical Museum.

Titled “We’re Fated of Asking: Black Thursday and Civil Rights at the University of Florida” was researched and curated by UF graduate Alana Gomez and also commemorates students and local residents who fought in the movement civil rights.

Gomez, a recent UF graduate with a double major in history and English, is an intern at the museum and has agreed to turn her senior thesis on Black Thursday into an exhibit.

On April 15, 1971 (known as Black Thursday at UF and in the local community), approximately 70 students marched from the office of UF President Stephen C. O’Connell to Tigert Hall with a list of demands, including that the university address the shortage of black faculty and students at UF.

“It was surprising how hard it was to find information about it,” Gomez said. “Not many people want to talk about it.”

The exhibition will be held at the Museum at 513 E University Ave. and its goal is to show the civil rights movement in Gainesville from the 1960s through the early 70s and how it affected the racial atmosphere on the UF campus.

She became interested in African American studies when she took a class on race and disability with her advisor, Steven Noll, during her sophomore year.

After taking this course, she was inspired to work with Noll on her senior thesis dedicated to uncovering the history of Black Thursday at UF.

“I want community members to feel a connection to UF and I want UF students to feel a connection to the community,” Gomez said. “I want people to feel empowered to make a change.”

According to the exhibit, it was not until the desegregation of the UF in 1958, when George H. Starke Jr. enrolled in UF law school, that black people began to have access to public spaces with white people on campus.

The issue of civil rights was pushed even further with the partial integration of Alachua County’s public schools in 1964.

The exhibit also notes that even with great strides toward equality, social status and way of life remained virtually unchanged for black people in Gainesville.

“It was helpful that I did my thesis on the subject so that I could make the information available to anyone visiting the exhibit,” Gomez said.

The exhibit will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday until at least the end of the year, museum director Kaitlyn Hof-Mahoney said.

The online exhibit can be found at https://bit.ly/3uiYbUC.

The online and physical exhibit will be on display for an extended period to give people a chance to learn more about the story, Hof-Mahoney said.

“I’m really happy with how it turned out,” Hof-Mahoney said. “I can’t wait to share it with the community.”


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