The Virgil Hawkins Collection is a special collection of books in the FAMU College of Law Library, named in honor of Virgil Darnell Hawkins, whose determination to obtain a legal education led to the founding of the original Florida A&M University College of Law in 1949. As public universities were being integrated, the Florida Legislature voted to close the FAMU College of Law and open a new law school at Florida State University. The FAMU law library collection was, then, transferred to FSU. When the College of Law was reopened in 2002, the collection from the original law library was returned by Florida State University. The Virgil Hawkins Collection stands as a monument to a tumultuous time in the history of our nation. We should be hopeful that it is, indeed, history. But the story of Virgil Hawkins will live on as a testament to one man's dedication for equal opportunity in education, and the dedication of librarians to the preservation of information.
This hypothetical project is designed to show the reader how a typical research project might have proceeded at the original FAMU College of Law, using the resources, then, available to the law students. While some topics in the law have changed drastically since the time Virgil Hawkins was trying to gain admission to law school (see Historical Research Project No. 1: Abortion), not all have had major shifts in their jurisprudence. To show an example of an area of law that has changed very little since the early 1960s, this exercise will look at the topic of defamation in Florida using items from the Virgil Hawkins Collection.
During the time that Virgil Hawkins was fighting for the right to attend law school at the University of Florida, the research process was quite different than it is today. Computers and the Internet had not been invented, and legal researchers had to rely on print resources to find the information they needed. To demonstrate how law students of this era would have performed the process of finding the law they needed, this exercise will use materials from the Virgil Hawkins Collection to answer the legal question: What are the elements of defamation?