Cynthia Figgers Evans: Strength In Shaw Quarters
Cynthia Figgers Evans was born in Smokey Hollow, Tallahassee but raised in Shaw Quarters, Gadsden County. She describes the area as a small, tight-knit community that was built on family values. Cynthia loved growing up in Shaw Quarters and describes it as the best time of her life.
Most residents in the community worked on tobacco farms or in the packing plant. Homeownership was the norm in Shaw Quarters as the tobacco plant would provide homes for workers in the area to purchase. Residents were able to work at the tobacco plant, purchase a home in Shaw Quarters, and pay off the home over time. Cynthia recalls both her mother and grandmother benefitting from this arrangement, and they were even able to purchase homes next door to each other. This area of Shaw Quarters, known as Chalk Street, today remains the most well-preserved part of the community.
Growing up, Mrs. Evans lived with her mother and seven siblings. Cynthia recalls always admiring her mother’s tenacity and how she always provided for her children. Cynthia’s mother believed obtaining a proper education was important, and she even
went back to school to get her high school diploma while Cynthia and her siblings were in elementary school. Cynthia herself strived to achieve higher education. She went on to receive multiple nursing degrees from FAMU. Cynthia would later be recognized by the state of Florida as the Nurse of the Year. She remembers being proud to win the award because of the joy it brought her mother.
“Growing up as a child it was fun. We did children things.”Cynthia Figgers Evans
Though Cynthia has fond memories of her childhood in Shaw Quarters, she also experienced profound tragedy. In 1970 her older brother, Alphonso Figgers, and four young men from Gadsden County were falsely accused of murdering a Leon County police deputy. The five men were imprisoned and became known as the Quincy Five. At only 17 years old, Alphonso was a beloved figure in the household, admired by all his younger siblings. Cynthia remembers attending all of Alphonso’s court hearings with her mother. The pair also canvassed to get petitions signed and marched from Quincy to Leon County to protest their arrest. The five men were convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. After evidence emerged pointing to their innocence, the Quincy Five were exonerated. They became the first inmates in the United States to be freed from death row in the modern era of capital punishment.
Though charges were dropped and her brother released, Cynthia still feels that he was robbed of his youth. Upon being released, Alphonso became a community activist and founded the community’s first neighborhood watch program. This program later morphed into an organization that focuses on community events for elders, children, and disabled residents. The community park in Shaw Quarters is named after Alphonso, who passed away in 2017. Cynthia describes how this tragedy deeply influenced her life and led her to become more involved in her community and the larger Black community in Gadsden County.
Cynthia and her sisters became charter members of Gadsden County’s chapter of the National Hook-Up of Black Women, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of Black women and their families through arts, culture, health, and education. Though Cynthia currently lives in Tallahassee, she is still an active member of the Shaw Quarters Community and assists with planning community events such as the annual homecoming. Cynthia hopes to bridge the generational gap between residents by inspiring children to be proud of their roots. Although Shaw Quarters has changed over the years, Cynthia admires how tight-knit the community has remained and is excited to do her part to ensure it stays that way.