Patricia Stephens Due (December 9, 1939 – February 7, 2012) was one of the leading American civil rights activists, especially in her home state of Florida. Along with her sister Priscilla and others trained in nonviolent protest by CORE, Due spent 49 days in the nation's first jail-in, refusing to pay a fine for sitting in a Woolworth's "White only" lunch counter in Tallahassee, Florida in 1960.
Her eyes were damaged by tear gas used by police on students marching to protest such arrests, so she has had to wear dark glasses the rest of her life. Due served in many leadership roles in CORE and the NAACP, fighting against segregated stores, buses, theaters, schools, restaurants, and hotels, protesting unjust laws, and leading one of the most dangerous voter registration efforts in the country in northern Florida in the 1960s.
Due and her sister Priscilla started fighting segregation when Due was 13 by insisting on being served at the "white only" window of their local Dairy Queen, instead of the "colored" window.
The summer of 1959, the sisters attended a nonviolent resistance workshop organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). On Feb. 20, 1960, eleven FAMU students, including Patricia and Priscilla, were arrested for ordering food at a "white only" Woolworth lunch counter. On March 12, dozens of FAMU and Florida State University students who participated in sit-ins at McCrory’s and Woolworth’s were arrested. A thousand students began marching from the FAMU campus toward downtown Tallahassee, but were stopped by Police officers with teargas. At the head of the march, Due was tear gassed in the face, and suffered permanent eye damage.
Due and the other sit-in participants were tried and found guilty on March 17, 1960. Eight refused to pay the $300 fine, deciding instead to go to jail. Eight students served 49 days at the Leon County Jail.
The "jail-in" gained nationwide attention, and the students received a supportive telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Due sent a letter to baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, who published it in a column he wrote. Robinson later sent the jailed students diaries so they could write down their experiences.
After the jail-in, Due and the others traveled the country in speaking tours to publicize the civil rights movement. Due met Eleanor Roosevelt, author James Baldwin, and many other activists on those tours. She went on to be jailed multiple times as a leader in the movement.