We’re Tired of Asking: Black Thursday and Civil Rights at the University of Florida

Mary Ann Cofrin Exhibit Hall

Please click on the image below to view an online version of this exhibition.

Researched and curated by University of Florida graduate Alana Gomez, We’re Tired of Asking: Black Thursday and Civil Rights at the University of Florida follows one slice of African American history in Gainesville, but certainly not all of Gainesville’s Black history. Our goal in this particular exhibition is to show the Civil Rights movement in Gainesville, Florida, from the 1960s until the early 70s and how that affected the University of Florida’s racial atmosphere.

It wasn’t until the desegregation of the University of Florida in 1957 that Black people began gaining access to public spaces with White people. The issue of civil rights was pushed even further with the partial integration of Alachua County’s public schools in 1964. Even with these seemingly large strides toward equality, however, social status and lifestyle remained largely unchanged for Black people in Gainesville.

In a great show of strength on April 15, 1971, Black students decided to take a stand in a protest at Tigert Hall on the UF campus. Their interaction with President Stephen O’Connell would change the course of the University of Florida forever.


Return to Forever: Gainesville’s Great Southern Music Hall

Presented by Meldon Law

Main Exhibit Hall

Between 1974 and 1978, the top concert venue in Gainesville was the Great Southern Music Hall, located inside the historic Florida Theatre at 233 West University Avenue. Jeffrey Meldon and Jim Forsman purchased the venue and transformed it into a state-of-the-art concert hall spotlighting national artists of legendary status, those who had cult followings – and others they just plain liked. The Great Southern played host to a who’s who of prestigious performers including Jimmy Buffett, Ray Charles, Muddy Waters, Bob Seger, Steve Martin, Ike and Tina Turner, John Prine, the Count Basie Orchestra, Weather Report, Randy Newman, Rush, Cheech & Chong and dozens more.

This impactful exhibit showcases dozens of John Moran‘s performance photos from his two years as the Great Southern Music Hall house photographer. Also featured is a display of Bo Diddley artifacts, including one of Bo’s signature square box guitars. Written by music journalist Bill DeYoung and designed by historian Rick Kilby, this unique exhibit celebrates a golden age in the University City’s musical history, the likes of which may never be seen again.

Thank you to Jeffrey Meldon and Meldon Law for sponsoring this exhibition!


When Johnny Came Marching Home: Some Gave All – All Gave Some

by Ken McGurn and Matthew Pollard

Outdoor Exhibition – located on the west side of the main Matheson building behind the set of flag poles along Sweetwater Branch

This sculpture was designed by Ken McGurn and fabricated by Matthew Pollard. In partnership with the Matheson, the City of Gainesville and Ken McGurn the artwork will remain here for a year or more. Next time you’re downtown spend a few minutes viewing the artwork and remembering those who came home from war with both physical and mental wounds.

McGurn: “We honor the dead, but often ignore the wounds, both physical and mental, carried by those who returned. I did this to remind people that war leaves wounds and to heal some of my own memories. The first represents the soldier in his shiny new uniform marching off to war, rifle over his shoulder. The second is unfinished, rusting brown representing the soldier as he patrols in the jungle, rifle across his chest in the ready position. The third is the soldier home from war. The ‘rifle’ is now a crutch where his missing a leg. The material is steel representing the soldier’s strength.”

Ken McGurn served in the Army and Army Reserves from 1963 to 1979. He was deployed to Vietnam in 1965 and Germany from 1968-1970. We honor all of those who served.


Lights of Conversation

by Sylvi Herrick and Janessa Martin

Outdoor Exhibition – located on the front of the Matheson History Museum and Matheson Library & Archives buildings

Installed outside of buildings, in public space weaving luminous colorful lights with poetry by Janessa Martin, artist Sylvi Herrick’s ‘Lights of Conversation,’ builds on the current activism and discussions about racism and inequalities in America and hopes to evoke enduring new discussions and clarity about underlying prejudices, how they impact us all, how we must respect and learn from each other to create and nurture a new and equal future for everyone.

There is still power in the written and spoken word. The conceptual elements in the work will leverage opening up real time conversations and aid in the transformation of fears and misinformation, spread compassion and hopefully nudge hearts towards the fight for solutions.

A call and response, on opposite sides of the street/buildings/walls. Common ground in public space. A pair of neon poetry panels displaying texts from Janessa Martin’s poems, “fear of crows (and blackness)” and “a crow’s message.” Flashing back and forth mimicking dialogue.

The two neon verses face each other and represent a conversation which requires more than one person. Creating a brave, inclusive, contemplative, encouraging peace. People activate the work by being in the delicate meeting place in between while their perception/discussions become the soul of the work. Passersby, the community, are in it, part of it, expanding on it, an opportunity to address the why.