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“McCarthy Moment: The Johns Committee in Florida” exhibition
March 12 @ 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
An event every week that begins at 11:00am on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, repeating until March 16, 2020
The “McCarthy Moment: The Johns Committee in Florida” exhibition will be located in the Mary Ann Cofrin Exhibit Hall and is the first Matheson exhibition to focus on local LGBTQ+ history.
In 1956, State Senator Charley Eugene Johns created the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee. Better known as the Johns Committee, it tried to uncover subversive activity in Florida.
Their first target was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Committee used Communists as an excuse to prevent integration in public schools. The NAACP’s members and lawyers proved too hard for the Committee to beat. Soon an embarrassed Johns looked for easier victims.
At this time, Americans thought being gay was a shameful mental disorder. It was something to hide and keep secret. It was also illegal in Florida. This secrecy made gay people more vulnerable to the persecution of the Johns Committee. Committee members threatened people with exposure and prison if they did not cooperate. This reign of terror led to dozens of professors and students leaving the university. Although we will never know everyone the Committee hurt, this exhibition seeks to tell their stories.
The “McCarthy Moment” exhibition does contain sensitive information, including self-harm, sexual acts, and persecution of the LGBTQ+ community. Museum staff is available if any visitor would like more information before entering the exhibition.
The Matheson History Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 11am-4pm and admission is free.