We follow the southward-racing juggernaut of modern Florida, from statehood in 1845 to the 1930s – the insatiable quest of visionaries and megalomaniacs, from Jewish utopians, to slave-driving planters, to evangelical missionaries, to black politicians, to hotel magnates, to messianic cult leaders, to women’s suffragists, to Cuban revolutionaries, to bohemian poets, to impose a sense of order upon the chaotic and unruly wilderness of tropical Florida. Though ignored in our national mythology and dismissed as a southern backwater, the state was the site of the first confrontation of the Civil War, and of the longest-lasting and most aggressive Reconstruction regime, which created the first universal public school system in the South and fostered the first booming tourist economy in America, spearheaded by none other than Harriet Beecher Stowe. We conclude our journey through Florida with an examination of Florida literature, ending with an analysis of Wallace Stevens’ ode to Florida, “The Idea of Order at Key West.”
Suggested Further Reading: Foster & Foster, “Beechers, Stowes, and Yankee Strangers: The Transformation of Florida”; J. T. Kirby, “Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South.”
Also see all 6 episodes of Fortresses on Sand: The History of Florida
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