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Florida State students host call-in day, slave-owner statue removed once again

By Jonce Palmer |
July 24, 2020
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Protest against slaveholder Francis Eppes statue.
Protest against slaveholder Francis Eppes statue.

Tallahassee, FL - On July 23, The FSU chapter of Students for a Democratic Society held a call-in day demanding the administration immediately remove a statue honoring slave-owner Francis Eppes, and the immediate renaming of several buildings located on campus that are named after slave owners and segregationists. The statue of Francis Eppes, as well as Eppes Hall, B. K. Roberts Hall and Doak Campbell Stadium were the campus buildings included in the demands.


Participants in the action called the offices of FSU President John Thrasher and Vice President of Student Affairs Amy Hecht to speak out against the glorifying of racist figures,


During the course of the call-in day, President Thrasher released a statement that went out by email to FSU students, faculty and staff announcing that the statue would be “immediately placed off campus,” making this the second time the statue has been removed from FSU campus. The announcement also names the members of the President’s Task Force on Anti-Racism, Equality & Inclusion.


Sure enough, a photo surfaced on Twitter from user @alicia_c_devine showing the vacant spot from which the statue was hauled away by truck.


“Thrasher removed the Eppes statue and put it back - once already, two years ago. I’m glad it’s gone, again! President Thrasher must keep it gone for good this time, and also rename the criminal justice building and any other FSU recognitions bearing Francis Epps’s name,” stated community member Satya Stark-Bejnar.


Despite protest from students and community members culminating in the formation of an advisory panel and the removal of the Eppes Statue from Wescott Plaza in 2018, it was relocated within view of its original space in the summer of 2019.


“We’re thrilled to see the Eppes statue removed, but we’re also aware of the fact that this has happened once before. SDS has pushed for Eppes’s removal since 2018, so we’re keeping a close eye on this situation to make sure that statue is gone for good. Our fight isn’t over yet,” says former SDS president Isabela Casanova.


This call-in day comes on the heels of an in-person protest surrounding the statue on July 4, where SDS students demanded not only the removal of names and a statue, but affirmative action programs for increasing black enrollment, placing the FSU police department under community control and decoupling it from theTallahassee police department, and justice for the police murders of Mychael Johnson and Tony McDade.


Francis Eppes owned 91 slaves during his lifetime, using the profits and land acquired via his cotton plantation to fund and provide real estate for the Confederacy and what would become Florida State University. During his tenure as Mayor of Tallahassee, Eppes established a militia for the purpose of catching runaway slaves, which would later become Tallahassee Police Department.


B. K. Roberts was a Florida Supreme Court Judge whose career includes managing a gubernatorial campaign of then Ku Klux Klan member Fuller Warren and denying Black student Virgil Hawkins the right to attend law school. The university accredits Roberts with the founding of the FSU College of Law.


Doak Campbell was president during the transformation from the Florida State College for Women to Florida State University. He is remembered for his anti-integration views after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, suppressing calls for campus integration, suppressing coverage of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott in the campus newspaper Florida Flambeau and expelling a graduate student who voiced support for a Black city commission candidate.


President Thrasher’s statement says that a final recommendation from his new task force will affect whether or not the Eppes statue will return to campus for a second time, as well as name changes of Eppes Hall & Doak Campbell Stadium. The students say they will continue the struggle like they have in past years until each of their demands are met.


Jonce Palmer (they/them) pronouns is a Tallahassee activist.