Wednesday, August 25, 2010

FAMU Mourns the Death of Civil Rights Icon and Alumna Wilhelmina Jakes Street


Civil Rights icon and Florida A&M University (FAMU) alumna Wilhelmina Jakes Street passed away at the age 80. Jakes Street is highly celebrated for her role in initiating the Tallahassee Bus Boycott of 1956.

Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, August 21, at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens Central, 499 Northwest 27th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The viewing will begin at 1:30 p.m., and the funeral will follow at 2 p.m.

“We are deeply saddened and devastated over the loss of one of our trailblazers and activists for civil rights,” said Carmen Cummings, director of Alumni Affairs. “Her sacrifice, diligence and contributions to FAMU, to this community, and to the State of Florida will never go unforgotten. She will be sorely missed.”

Street was born September 14, 1929, in Hardeeville, S.C. As a result of her father’s untimely death, Jakes Street moved with her mother and siblings to West Palm Beach, Fla., where she was raised. She attended FAMU to major in education. During her time as a student at FAMU, she and her close friend, Carrie Patterson, a 20-year-old English major from Lakeland, Fla., were arrested for refusing to move to the back of a crowded city bus. This courageous act sparked what is known today as “The Tallahassee Bus Boycott.” Many prominent figures such as Rev. C. K. Steele, Rev. Herbert C. Alexander, Dr. C. U. Smith, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and several others were actively involved in supporting these students with a systematic approach to integrating the city’s public transportation system.

After graduating from FAMU in 1956, she went on to fulfill her professional aspiration as a Florida schoolteacher for 33 years. Jakes was an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Federated Women’s of Club of Fort Lauderdale; FAMU National Alumni Association; and life-long member of National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She was also a dedicated servant of New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

As a FAMU student, Jakes Street lived on Jennings Street with Carrie Patterson, who is also credited with igniting the 1956 Tallahassee Bus Boycott. On January 30, 2009, Leon County officials renamed Jennings Street in Tallahassee, Fla. to Jakes & Patterson Street in their honor.

During FAMU’s 2006 Spring Commencement activities, both Patterson (posthumously) and Jakes received the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award and its first Freedom Award.

She was married to the late Neopoleon Street. She had one daughter, Priscilla Lewis (deceased).

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