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February 6, 2004

Frances Marine
(850) 245-0413
(850) 251-6868 mobile

Department of Education Kicks Off Series of Black History Month Activities
Students, teachers and general public invited to visit historical exhibit and participate in panel discussions, book readings during the month of February

TALLAHASSEE - Education Commissioner Jim Horne this week kicked off a series of activities to celebrate Black History Month. Joined by state officials including Secretary of Health Dr. John Agwunobi, Secretary of State Glenda Hood, Secretary of the Lottery Rebecca Mattingly and education leaders from across the K20 system, Horne opened the Department of Education's first ever Black History Month exhibit on Monday. The first school tours of the exhibit came Thursday, when students from Gretchen Everhart School, 3rd graders from John G. Riley Elementary, and 1st graders from Ruediger Elementary visited the Turlington building.

"As we strive to continue closing the achievement gap in Florida, Black History Month provides the perfect opportunity for us to reflect on the challenges African Americans have already overcome in education," said Commissioner Horne. "I am pleased to host this celebration and encourage educators across the state to participate in our activities."

The exhibit, which honors the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka, recognizes the contributions of African American leaders in Florida's education history and features displays of Florida's heritage, including pictures, sculptures, and artifacts. The opening included a musical performance by the FAMU choir and a keynote address by Colleges and Universities Chancellor Debra Austin.

"As you will learn from our displays here in the Turlington building, Black History is deep and broad," said Chancellor Austin. "It is a story, among many others, of those who secretly gained an education even when the ability to read was a crime of frightening punishment. In this powerful way, Black History is American History - the pursuit of liberty and justice for all."

School tours of the exhibit will include book readings from Just Read, Florida!'s list of suggested Black History selections. Celebrity readers throughout the month will include Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings and Secretary of Health Dr. John Agwunobi.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Florida Lottery and Winn Dixie. Contributors include the FAMU black archives, the Department of State, the State Museum of Florida and numerous school districts. The exhibit will be open during business hours Monday through Friday throughout February. On Saturday, February 21, 2004, the exhibit will be open from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., when the Department of Education hosts Family Day.

The month-long celebration will also include two panel discussions to be hosted by Colleges and Universities Chancellor Debra Austin and Community Colleges Chancellor David Armstrong on Tuesday, February 24. College and university students are invited to come to the Department of Education to discuss the Brown versus Board of Education case and its implications on the future of education.