Join T.D. Allman as he explores the “true history of the Sunshine State” in this engaging, fascinating presentation at The Studios of Key West. Allman’s book, Finding Florida was just released this month by Atlantic Monthly press.
By T.D. Allman
Atlantic Monthly Press
978-0-8021-2076-2 • $27.50 • Cloth • Mar. 2013
Over its long history, Florida has been many things: an Edenic realm protected by geography; a wilderness that ruined Spanish conquistadors; a place to start over; and “god’s waiting room.” With a native population as high as 900,000 (who all died), it became a pestilential backwater with a few thousand inhabitants, but today is our fourth most populous state, with nineteen million people. The site of vicious racial violence, including massacres, genocide, slavery, and the terrorist campaigns that undid Reconstruction,Florida is now one of our most diverse states, a dynamic multicultural place with an essential role in twenty-first centuryAmerica.
From the very first, however, the story of Florida has been distorted and whitewashed. In Finding Florida, T. D. Allman reclaims this history from the mythologizers, apologists, and boosters. He showsFlorida as it was and is, tracing its history through the pre-Columbian era, and under Spanish, French, and British rule. He describes the American maneuvers to take the territory, and the importation of slavery and racism following Andrew Jackson’s military campaigns, and the terrible violence of the Seminole Wars. Florida became a state in 1845; sixteen years later it would secede.
In Florida, Allman writes, two Civil Wars unfolded: first was the actual war, then came the imaginary one, where brutality and ruin were transformed into a selfless struggle to defend a noble cause that never existed. Reconstruction took dramatic form in Florida, but hope ended in heartbreak, as white supremacists broke a legislative tie with a shotgun blast and returned to power. In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Florida was sold as a paradise: Palm Beach,Key West, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando boomed, fortunes were won and lost, land was stolen and flipped, and millions came and went.
The product of a decade of research and writing, Finding Florida is a highly original, stylish, and masterful work, the first modern comprehensive history of this fascinating place.