History of Florida/Introduction

Florida, USA

Florida State Flag
Sunshine state plate

Overview of FloridaEdit

The State of Florida is often associated with palm trees, sun, beaches and tourist attractions as it is commonly known as the “Sunshine State”. Including well-known cities like Miami, Orlando, Tampa and its capital city Tallahassee, all these locations have something in common: history, sunshine, and tourist appeal. Florida is the southern most U.S state with much Latin influence from it's Spanish decent. Over 18 million people reside in Florida. Nearly 25 percent of Florida’s population is Hispanic, which is reflected in the culture of many areas of the state. The second spoken language in Florida is Spanish, and it is especially prevalent in Miami. There is a large population of immigrants in modern day Florida. Florida is in close proximity to Central and South America so the majority of immigrants come from Cuba, Haiti, and Colombia.

Since warm weather is typically constant, Florida has also become famous worldwide for their exports of grapefruits, sugar and oranges. The citrus industry in Florida's popular culture brings state-wide pride. In 1967 for example, a Legislature was passed that stated that orange juice is "the official beverage of the State of Florida". Florida is also well known for its native animals like the American alligator. Although they were once hunted to near extinction, these alligators now thrive in the state and are mentioned throughout Florida’s popular culture. This ranges from tourist attractions to postcards and team mascots. Florida has a lot of biodiversity in general, and is also known for a large variety of species of birds (including the very popular flamingo), insects, turtles, snakes, lizards, among others.

Florida has also been prominently involved in America’s Space Age. Space has become an integral part of Florida’s economy and culture, offering thousands of jobs, as well as motels and restaurants adopting space themes to attract visitors and residents. Apollo 7, the first manned mission in the United States Apollo space program, was launched from Cape Kennedy Air Force Station in Florida on October 11th in 1967. Every U.S. astronaut that has gone into space has been launched from the station. Kennedy Space Center is a field center for NASA the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Built beginning in 1962, it has played a significant role in U.S. History as it is the location from which the first journey to the moon from the U.S.A. was launched. The creation of the Kennedy Space Center changed many things for the surrounding areas, such as shifting the main economic activity from agriculture to space. It is still in operation today and is a very popular tourist attraction as well.

Florida also has a rich sporting tradition encompassing a wide range. In baseball, it has 2 major league franchises, and hosts 17 spring training sites – the most of any state – a tradition that began in 1888. These 17 training camps make up what is known as the Grapefruit League. Golf has been a major game since its introduction in the late 1800s due to the flat land and climate of Florida. Football is also very popular, especially the University of Florida team, who attract, on average, over 85,000 fans every home game at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainseville. Florida also has a rich tradition and history in the movie industry. The state was once referred to as “Hollywood East”, with many films being produced there from the early 20th century to the modern era. Florida is ranked 3rd in the nation for producing films.

Historical OverviewEdit

Early BeginningsEdit

Before the Florida that the world knows today came to be, it used to be a land of dense woods, swamps, sand and coast upon which the waves beat restlessly. Beginning with Spanish conquests for gold, massive amounts of wealth was gained from traveling to the New World and soon enough passage was discovered by their explorer Ponce de Leon through a Florida channel. In 1513, Ponce de Leon lead the first European expedition to the unexplored territory of what would be Florida. The Spanish soon had royal orders from the homeland to protect their Florida territory by fortifying the coast in order to expel other nations and to avoid the robberies of their fleets. Ponce de Leon named the State in tribute to Spain’s Easter celebration, which is known as “Pascua Florida” or “Feast of Flowers”.

Later in 1565, another Spanish explorer, Pedro Menedez de Aviles, established the first permanent European settlement in St. Augustine. America’s first Christian church, first hospital, and first school were all established in St. Augustine. During the time of the American Revolution, the possession of Florida was still unresolved and the Spanish, French and English were battling the aboriginals for the territorial rights of the land. While not completely ideal with its swampy areas, parts of Florida was quite sufficient for plantation agriculture but also its navigable rivers made trade very attractive. The attention given to Florida by the Spanish made it appealing for others interested in expanding. Florida bounced between Spanish and British rule for the majority of the 16th and 17th centuries before it gained statehood after the Louisiana Purchase and the revolutions of East and West Florida. Prior to being sold to the United States, Florida was both a state within Spain and Britain at two separate times.

Overview of Historical Injustice in FloridaEdit

The history of Florida demonstrates a large amount of liberty and the struggle to define the state, achieve power and recognition. The portrayal of Florida as a land of equal opportunity and remaining the diverse territory it was, makes the struggle for equality a crucial and interesting part of the state's history. Over the course of Florida’s development toward becoming the world recognized state it is today, it was marked by both success and failure, dealing with racism and white supremacy. The state remarkably handled both integration and segregation seamlessly to construct the illusion of acceptance while being pro equality and inequality. Florida was perceived by Northern migrants as progressive, granted the sizable black population residing in the state alongside an influx of new coloured immigrants from places throughout the Bahamas and Caribbean. Prior to becoming president, General Andrew Jackson led an invasion of Seminole Indians in Spanish-controlled Florida in 1817. The underlying reality after going under American control depicted Florida as far from progressivism as the State actually decreed many laws that would belittle and even dismiss the rights the black community had received under Reconstruction.

Florida had a massive plantation culture during the antebellum period, with cotton being produced at a very high rate. Just before the Civil War in 1860, slaves made up for more than half of Middle Florida’s population. Florida was one of the more unique Confederate states in the Civil War, mainly contributing goods than manpower to the war effort. This was due to their geographical location and proximity to the sea. Only 15,000 soldiers were supplied by the state. Florida became the 27th State to join the Union on March 3rd, 1845.

The state also went through internal wars with different Native American tribes which underwent severe racial segregation. When white settlers began to increase in Florida, this put pressure on the U.S. government to remove the Indians from the state. The war between the Seminole Indians and the United states lasted for many decades and was not only a land dispute but as well a struggle for freedom and struggle for power played out over a wild landscape that shaped the future for both sides and possession of the state. In 1832, the U.S. government signed the Treaty of Payne’s, which was imposed in order to eliminate Seminole Indians from Florida, but most refused to leave. The government had to resort to force in order to get them out of Florida and this lead to the second Seminole War.

Even throughout the 1950's and 1960's Florida continued to enforce segregation, installing a “whites only” and “blacks only” bifurcated society. Lynching became a common phenomenon. In the first half of the century, Florida led the nation with the highest number of lynchings per capita. Along with “black” and “white” street signs, other forms of blatant racial intolerance included Florida’s rejection of segregated school systems, decreasing black voters, harassment and persecution, termed “red-baiting”, and rejecting all legal attempts of integration and giving aid to the black community within the State of Florida. These acts are quite surprising in comparison to the image the State liked to uphold for the tourists, however misleading it may have been. The racist undertones of Florida are almost understandable when thinking of the State’s neighbors, Georgia and Alabama, who were rabidly segregationists. Florida was a divided State, where the “New South” pushed for integration and equal opportunity while covering up the “Old South” who firmly held onto their past of racial prejudices and white supremacy. Many African-Americans from Florida played a pivotal role against this in the wider Civil Rights Movement, with a couple of examples being the Tallahassee Bus Boycott which lasted for 7 months in 1956 and the first sit-in in at Tallahassee on February 13, 1960.

Early Economic GrowthEdit

The State of Florida was not as affected by the United States economic expansion during the nineteenth century like other settlements around the newly formed nation. While Florida possessed ample land and an inviting climate, this was not enough to encourage settlers and travelers to ignore the aboriginal warfare that occurred up to 1850 and the tropical diseases like malaria that was known to wipe out entire communities. By 1880 however, travel to Florida began to grow and expand during its first industrial and agricultural boom. From this point and for the rest of the century, the capitalistic "Gilded Age" had began that resulted in a great contrast in wealth and huge corporations now dominated the consumer market. The wealthy upper class now looked to spend their great amounts of disposable income on sources of entertainment and often turned towards Florida for their beaches and warm weather.

Florida, during this era also become attractive to new settlers as, in order to lure tourists to their own resorts in 1880, Henry Flagler and H.B. Plant began their development of new rail networks to encourage travel. As well at the time, orange groves during the citrus boom attracted many new settlers to Florida. By 1890, orange groves had become a status symbol for Florida as they provided a profitable and trustworthy crop that could be depended on. The search for the so called "Florida Dream" expanded in the 1920's and again after Second World War due to improvements to transportation and communication which made the state more attractive and accessible to tourists in particular. A new culture of beaches, architecture and commercial attraction showcased a lifestyle of leisure that was evolving into the modern Florida known today.

In the late 19th century, Florida hit its peak point, population began to grow rapidly, railroads were being built and the social scene began to develop. However this expansion slowed when Florida was hit by the beginning of the overwhelming suffrage caused by the Great Depression. Florida’s economy, up until that point had been booming with exports, tourism and new settlers. Inevitably, the banks, investors and people started running out of money and credit, and this lead to mass poverty throughout the U.S in 1929. Florida, in particular, was hit by hurricane after hurricane during the Depression and this certainly did not help the economy. In 1939, the Second World War began and this offered many jobs to those in poverty and eventually helped the U.S climb out of the depression.

After World War 2, Florida started becoming the state as we know it today. Florida went from once the least populated and developed state in the U.S to the South’s most populated state, and soon on to become the third most populated state in all of the United States. Much economic growth has consequently occurred in Florida since the 1940's due to the commercialization of leisure and vacations that has grown with the expansion of the advertising industry and the rise of a consumer-oriented society. Rising disposable incomes, increasing vacation times and the security of old age pensions have made the tourism and eventually retirement lifestyle possible. Florida's iconic nature expanded with a number of commercial attractions that began to spread around the state as these attraction have the potential to attract tourists from around the world. Much of Florida's growth during this era can be attributed to tourism becoming an increasingly modern experience. Since 1960, the tourist population itself in Florida over the average year, adds six to twelve percent to the states regular residents population. Florida would be an entirely different state had tourism entrepreneurs not spent so much on selling an escape land from the cold and a year round resort.

Florida's Modern Tourism IndustryEdit

Over the years, Florida has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, from Walt Disney World to relaxing in Key West and Miami Beach. Florida's great beauty develops international attraction and is crucial in upholding the state’s booming economy which began in the late 19th century due to Northerners traveling south to “escape” the harsh winters. Florida’s economy now is widely supported by recreational and leisure travelers; many of the businesses located in Florida and the wildlife habitats rely on and support the needs of visitors. During the 20th century, Florida dedicated its territory to tourism, which would inevitably expand and prosper. To be successful, however, Florida had to sell itself as a place of civil rights quiescence, a land rejecting racial turmoil on the one hand and offer a stable climate for economic growth and lucrative tourism on the other. This is an intriguing part of Florida’s past as it conflicts with the mainstream values and widespread understanding of racial subcultures of the time.

Florida's increasing tourist development era most certainly aided in its rapid population boost between 1950 and 2000 as the state's initial population of 2.7 million increased six times. Florida, the fourth most populated state with its more than 18 million residents, is now an important cultural region of the United States due to travel and tourism. The desire for the "Florida Dream" with its tropical landscape of leisure has gained increased widespread appeal with the rise of a consumer culture at the turn of the twentieth century. Tourists are imperative to the financial state of Florida as they have accumulated 57 billion dollars into Florida's economy which is about ten percent of its gross state product. In 2005 for example, Visit Florida announced that the state had hosted a record 86 million visitors. Since the 1950s, Florida has truly become what its advocates has hoped for, exposure to the rest of the world and the armies of tourists that travel year round. Travel and tourism is integral to the understanding of Florida and its interesting and important history of development into its modern statehood.