While Rollins College and the city of Winter Park were founded around the same time and with similar values, when it came to the Civil Rights movement these two community partners were often in conflict with one another. Using the archival record as a window into three local controversies, I explore here the sometimes extremely tenuous relationship between the campus and the larger community during a thirty-year period of important but challenging transitions in Winter Park race relations.
Rollins Student Arrested on the Wrong Side of the Tracks
In June of 1939, Rollins student Harold Boyd France was arrested on vagrancy charges. France was questioned by Orlando Police on the reasoning of his whereabouts in a predominantly black area of Orlando. France, an aspiring author, claims his reasoning for loitering in the area was to gain information for a short fiction piece he was writing for which her needed to “get color for his story.” After being jailed, Boyd was quickly released on a $10 bond by his father, Rollins faculty member and Civil Rights advocate, Professor Royal France.
Alumna Speaks Out Against Segregated Enrollment Practices
In 1964, Rollins alumna Marion Galbraith Merrill addressed Dean Alfred “A.J” Hanna over her concern that the college was not yet integrating properly. Mrs. Merrill backed up her claim by letting Dean Hanna know that she was in touch with the Head of the U.S Commission on Civil Rights, and she implied that if her concern intensified, she might hand over the information to that powerful body – a threat to Rollins’ financial aid provisions at the time, as the College could be seen in violation of the Civil Right Act of 1964. Rollins administrators quickly disregarded the claims made by Merrill, stating that the College’s process of admitting students was not to be discussed and the racial background played no role in the acceptance of an applicant. Despite, the obvious evasive response from the higher-ups, Rollins enrolled its first African American student that same year.
Local Trespassers Arrested on Campus, Fatal Accident at Winter Park Jail
On the evening of November 21, 1971, two young black men were arrested on Rollins Campus after reports of a robbery at Pugsley Hall. Dewayne Paige and Michael Moore of Winter Park were accused of loitering on the campus, and were (wrongly) suspected of being the perpetrators of recent break-ins. After being questioned by Campus Security, the two men were arrested and taken to the Winter Park Jail on charges of trespassing. The following day a fire broke out in the inmate cell block of the jail, which resulted in the death of Michael Moore. In an investigation launched by Rollins in the aftermath of the fire, administrators determined the arrest of these men was simply the apprehension of two trespassers and that the college should opt for the route of “benign neglect” over addressing any concerns of racial targeting.
Through the lens of these three historical narratives we can observe that divergent and sometimes diametrically opposed viewpoints about integration and race relations caused major local rifts between town and gown in Winter Park from late 1930s to early 1970s. Such controversies reflect the perspectives of students, professors, alumni, administrators, and community members who experienced changing social and cultural norms during the process of integration throughout the long Civil Rights movement.
— Kyndall Fairbanks (Class of 2019)