Miller, who earned a Ph.D. in educational administration from Florida Atlantic, became an administrator with Broward County schools. He helped start the district’s diversity programs, focusing on equal educational and employment opportunities for all.
“King was dedicated to the uplifting of his people,’’ he said. “My life has also been dedicated to the uplifting of people.”
King’s message revolved around non-violence. If people throw stones while you march, do not throw back. If they yell insults, do not yell back. If you are arrested while sitting at the whites-only lunch counter, do not fight back.
“At that time many people found his message more palatable,” said David Jackson Jr., a professor of history and chairman of the Department of History, Political Science, Public Administration, Geography, and African-American Studies at FAMU. “Malcolm X’s message at a given point was to fight fire with fire. But King’s message had a more popular appeal because of its non-violent aspect.”
It was the emphasis on non-violence that drew Priscilla Kruize to King. She met him for the first time at a 1959 Congress of Racial Equality meeting in Overtown.
“Everything Dr. King said made sense to me. He was saying that you could have peace and harmony and integration through love,” said Kruize, 74, who lives near Palmetto Bay.
Kruize and her sister, Patricia Stephens Due, started a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter as students at Tallahassee’s FAMU, a historically black university. They went from room to room in the dorms and signed up 10 people, two of them white students at Florida State University.
They organized sit-ins at diners and the local swimming pool. In 1960, the sisters, several fellow students and a maid were arrested for sitting at the whites-only Woolworth’s lunch counter near FAMU. They spent 49 days of a 60-day sentence in jail, rather than pay $300 in fines.
King sent the jailed students a telegram: “Through your decision you have again proven that there is nothing more majestic and sublime than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for the cause of freedom.’’
Kruize and her sister, who died last year, became well known in civil rights circles. Due and daughter Tananarive Due, a former Miami Herald reporter, co-wrote, Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights. The book has won numerous awards.
Kruize, after a stint of teaching English in Ghana, founded the Black Heritage Museum in 1987, a nonprofit that teaches black history by hosting exhibits and speeches at museums and cultural centers across the country.
“Instead of protesting, I was exhibiting,” Kruize said. “The lunch counters are desegregated, so you look for other needs. It’s a continuation of his dream.’’
King’s dream didn’t come easy. Civil rights advocates faced tear gas, high-pressure water hoses, billy clubs and lynch mobs.
“I was so afraid that this was going to happen to us,” said Renée Kilpatrick, who grew up in Albany, Ga., about three hours south of Atlanta. “I was scared because my parents were scared. For Martin Luther King to come to Albany and even suggest that we could do better, it scared us to death.”