Published in connection with University Press of Florida’s 75th anniversary, This Day in Florida History is a 365-day tour through five centuries of Florida history. Featuring one entry per day of the year, this book is an enlightening collection of moments that illustrate the depth and complexity of the state’s past. It is the perfect starting point for discovering the diversity of stories and themes that make up the Sunshine State.
Below is the preface to the book.
The seventy-fifth anniversary of the University Press of Florida offers an opportunity to reflect on the events, people, and themes that best illuminate the history of Florida. Much has changed over the past seventy-five years, both in terms of the development of the state and in the maturation of the history profession. Florida’s population today is roughly ten times larger than it was in 1945. The population has moved southward, transforming the small towns of Orlando and Miami into cosmopolitan cities, and the state has become a destination for immigrants and tourists from across the globe. The history profession also has changed as scholars have expanded the range of historical inquiry to include people and topics that were once deemed inconsequential. It is in this spirit that we offer This Day in Florida History and its 366 entries.
In 1945, when UPF opened, the events for this type of volume would have been simple to choose. It would have been filled with elections, important legislation, city incorporations, inventions, and famous politicians. It would have emphasized the perspectives of the wealthy, of white communities, and of men. The entries would have been a celebration of achievements and progress without much awareness of the costs of development and change. In 1945, few paid much attention to the presence of the Spanish in the colonial era or of enslaved Africans in the Old South. Residents from Cuba and the Caribbean who called Florida home for centuries were deemed unimportant, and Native Americans were dismissed as savages who were inevitably on their way toward extinction. The volume would have had a different geographic feel as well; the entries would have largely focused on the Panhandle, as the population shift in the state that followed World War II had not yet occurred.
This Day in Florida History reflects these changes in Florida and in historical sensibilities more generally. Rather than representing the 366 most important and best-known events in Florida history, the entries that follow illuminate the state’s diversity and the various themes that explain it. The topics of some entries would fit comfortably in the imagined volume from 1945, even if the interpretations of them may not. Most of the topics, though, would not have been included in such a volume. Some entries may be familiar to readers; others may not. Entries cover civil rights protests, revolts by Apalachee Indians, crashes at the Daytona 500, and disputes over the drainage of the Everglades. They include the capture of the Seminole warrior Osceola, the establishment of Disney World and of Fort Mosé, and the recurrence of hurricanes. The 366 entries hardly encompass the entirety of Florida history, of course, and we hope that this volume sparks interest in learning more. To this end, we have listed suggested reading for each entry in the volume.
Andrew K. Frank is the Allen Morris Professor of History at Florida State University. He is the author of several books, including Before the Pioneers: Indians, Settlers, Slaves, and the Founding of Miami. J. Hendry Miller is collections manager at the Georgia Archives and former archivist at the State Archives of Florida. Tarah Luke is an archivist at the Georgia Archives and former instructor of history at Florida State University.