Tallahassee SDS says campus should not honor slaveholder Francis Eppes

By staff |
April 24, 2018
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SDS protests honoring slaveholder on campus.
SDS protests honoring slaveholder on campus. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Tallahassee, FL - The Florida State University (FSU) chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held an April 12 event to raise awareness of the racism on their campus, and gave presentations detailing the history of FSU’s founding. Several SDS members gave presentations mentioning Francis Eppes, the man whom FSU honors as its founder.

“Francis Eppes was a minor bureaucrat and government official when FSU was founded. FSU was not said to have a founder until it had been around for over 100 years. This myth of the founding of FSU was made up by Talbot D'Alemberte, a previous president of the university, just because Eppes was the grandson of Thomas Jefferson and he wanted FSU to have a Jeffersonian heritage,” said SDS Treasurer Maddie Hendrick.

SDS has been campaigning for the Francis Eppes statue to be removed since 2016, when they launched a student body referendum to vote on the issue. The students raised awareness of the fact that Francis Eppes owned 97 slaves, was a staunch supporter of the Confederacy, and started a slave-catching night watch in antebellum Tallahassee. The referendum failed to pass, but SDS members are continuing to raise awareness of the history of FSU’s founding.

“The continued existence of the Eppes statue on campus is in itself an affront to history. Eppes was neither the founder of FSU nor a man worthy of any honors from any institution. The students and faculty of this university have been misled as to the reality of who this man was, and as a result we continue to be given false information as to why the powers that be want the statue to remain. So long as the statue remains and a revision of history is presented to the student body, the university remains complicit in the erasing of its own history and the history of the Tallahassee community,” said SDS member Jake Alvarez during their presentation.

The students also talked about B.K. Roberts Hall, the main building of the FSU College of Law. B.K. Roberts was a former chief justice of Florida who defied the Supreme Court to deny Virgil Hawkins, a prospective law student, admission to University of Florida College of Law because he was Black.

“Like the rest of this country, Florida State University was built was built on indigenous land and by the labor of Black people, yet the University maintains a system of discriminatory admissions and hiring while honoring a slave owner and a segregationist. If we are ever going to change this campus and eventually this entire country we are going to need students to join the movement and fight back,” said SDS member Zachary Schultz.

The students ended the event by discussing future plans to continue raising awareness of FSU’s history and to continue fighting racism on campus.

Students planned to speak out and demonstrate their opposition to Francis Eppes at the next President’s Advisory Panel on April 27 at 9 a.m. in the Stadium Place Training Center.