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A People's History of Florida 1513-1876

Book Excerpts
People's History

Beneath the normal tropical romanticism that has comprised Florida history, lies a long bloody history of struggle of runaway slaves and Seminoles fighting the U.S. military for land and freedom. Beneath the fancy tourist hotels, theme parks, and lily-white suburban enclaves, lie the bones of black Seminole maroons who fled from their masters, seeking freedom under Spanish and Seminole protection. Underneath the shore-front retirement homes of Northern migrants, the wealthy mansions of South Florida, and the overdeveloped downtown areas, lie the bones of Florida's poor whites who fought against an aristocracy of big banks, wealthy speculators, and aristocratic planters. Underneath the Civil War tourist attractions, gift shops, and battlefield renditions, lie the bones of poor whites who were drafted into the Confederate army to fight for the privileged, only to desert and return to fight Florida's Confederate government on the home front. You get the picture. This is not a postcard image of Florida as a sunny beach found in a tourist-based gift shop in the middle of a Gulf-front town. This is the blood, sweat, and tears of countless people who fought for land, freedom, and autonomy. 

Florida history was defined by runaway slaves who formed free maroon settlements in proximal location of their Seminole allies, fighting the U.S. military for decades until they successfully achieved their freedom on the field of battle. It was defined by Seminoles, Miccosukees, and Red Stick Creeks fighting against the encroachment of white settlers. It was defined by poor whites seeking independence from an aristocratic planter class that considered them of no higher standard than the "negroes and savages" they all despised. It was defined by runaway slaves who fled in mass from the plantations during the Civil War, organizing and undermining the Confederate Florida government from within. It was defined by the poor whites who evaded the draft and deserted from the Confederate army, organizing into bands and undermining the Confederate Florida government from within. It was defined by the freemen during the Reconstruction era, seeking to create autonomous religious and educational institutions, form autonomous homestead communities, and arm themselves in defense against the reaction of former slaveholders. These people defined the real character of historical Florida. Underneath numerous governments, there was always turbulent unrest that compromised their rule.

The People's History movement is expanding into numerous historical areas, reshaping the way that they have traditionally been told and redefining the way that we generally look at history. Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, predicted that the bottom class perspective of history would eventually gain ground, enveloping the old way of narrating history as told by the powerful. Since then, numerous historical events have been redefined through the outlook of common people that were involved from the bottom-up, forever altering how we understand history. No more romantic diatribes glittered in patriotic myths. No more traditional heroes, standardized viewpoints, unquestionable "facts," or generalized falsehoods. Just plain raw truth that is not afraid to stampede powerful governments with the herd of popular outrage. A People's History of Florida follows the People's History tradition, documenting the active involvement of African-Americans, indigenous people, women, and poor whites in shaping the Sunshine State's history.


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