Florida Reacts to the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 4, 1968)

Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by gunshot on April 4, 1968 as he stood on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The reaction across the United States was a mixture of disbelief, grief, and at times violent anger. Tensions boiled over in scores of U.S. cities such as Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C. as young people took to the streets to vent their frustration at the untimely death of one of the era’s greatest forces for peaceful change.

Reactions to King’s death were just as passionate in Florida, where memorials, demonstrations, and rioting took place in several cities across the state. Police in Pensacola, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Fort Pierce, Pompano Beach, Tampa, and Jacksonville reported widespread rioting and the use of Molotov cocktails to firebomb businesses and residences owned by whites. At least one fatality resulted from these activities in Tallahassee, where one man aged 19 died when a firebomb was thrown into his family’s grocery store.

Local and state officials moved quickly to restore order. The city of Gainesville instituted a curfew shortly after news of the assassination broke out, requiring everyone except emergency personnel to remain off the streets between 11pm and 6am. In Gainesville and Tallahassee, law enforcement temporarily closed liquor stores, bars, and gas stations. Governor Claude Kirk met with state law enforcement officials to plan a statewide strategy for maintaining the peace, and kept in close contact with local sheriffs and police.

Organizations both inside and outside of the government encouraged the public to remain calm and avoid any further violence. Governor Kirk asked that all flags flown on public buildings in the state be flown at half mast for two days, and in a press release he called on Dr. King’s followers and admirers to live by King’s example and seek nonviolent solutions for their grievances. George Gore, president of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, closed the campus for a weeklong “cooling off” period following the assassination. The Florida Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) released a statement calling for Floridians to observe the day of King’s funeral (April 9th) as a “time of sober reflection” rather than demonstration.

Although anguish and disillusionment over the death of one of the Civil Rights Movement’s foremost leaders would remain potent long after these events, the most dramatic reactions ended by the middle of April 1968. Rumors circulated that Governor Kirk would call a special session of the Legislature to discuss the crisis, but this proved unnecessary. The brief period of unrest in Florida that followed Dr. King’s untimely death has been captured in a number of documents and photographs, some of which are shown below.

Governor Claude Kirk meets with state law enforcement officials to discuss a response to the unrest following Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination.

Governor Claude Kirk meets with state law enforcement officials to discuss a response to the unrest following Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination.

Crow's Grocery Store, located at 1902 Lake Bradford Road in Tallahassee, Florida, was damaged when a Molotov cocktail firebomb was thrown inside during the unrest following Dr. King's death. Travis Crow, age 19, died of suffocation before he could escape the building.

This photo from the Tallahassee Fire Department Collection depicts one of the casualties of the reaction that followed Dr. King’s assassination. Crow’s Grocery Store, located at 1902 Lake Bradford Road in Tallahassee, Florida, was damaged when a Molotov cocktail firebomb was thrown inside. Travis Crow, age 19, died of suffocation before he could escape the building.

This Associated Press news summary describes some of the typical stories emerging from the widespread reaction to Dr. King's assassination.

This Associated Press news summary describes some of the typical stories emerging from the aftermath of Dr. King’s assassination.

The Florida Photographic Collection contains more images depicting Dr. Martin Luther King, his activities in Florida over the years, and the efforts of Floridians across the state to honor his memory.

Teachers and students may also find the Black History Month resources of our Online Classroom helpful, as well as our learning unit entitled The Civil Rights Movement in Florida.

Animated Map Series: Matanzas River

Florida Maps: Then & Now is an animated map series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. The project uses Google Earth to create animated videos using historic and modern maps, photographs, and primary source documents from our collections.

This episode features historic maps of the Matanzas River, near St. Augustine.

 

Transcript

This map, drawn by surveyor Robert McHardy, shows the confirmed Spanish Land Grant of Joseph M. Hernandez along the Matanzas River, a plantation he dubbed “Mala Compra.” The river along the bottom, or West, edge of the map derives its name from events that took place at a nearby inlet in 1565, when Spaniards under the command of Pedro Menendez de Aviles massacred French Huguenots associated with the Fort Caroline settlement.

This map stands out among the hundreds in the Spanish Land Grants collection because it shows the location of several structures. The small buildings that surround the large house on the left, or North, side of the grant may represent cabins inhabited by African-American slaves owned by Hernandez. The two “big houses” on the property likely housed Hernandez and his family. Hernandez, a Spanish citizen of Minorcan descent, owned several tracts of land in East Florida. Typical of other planters in the area, his slaves cultivated cotton and sugar for export, and vegetables for home consumption. Hernandez remained in Florida after the territory transferred from Spain in 1821 and became a citizen of the United States.

He was known as General Hernandez because of his status as a Brigadier General commanding militia troops during the Second Seminole War. In October 1837, Hernandez, acting under orders from General Thomas Sidney Jesup, captured the Seminole warrior Osceola under a white flag of truce. The deed, which took place near Hernandez’s plantation, in the vicinity of Fort Peyton, forever stained the military career of General Jesup, and came to characterize the dishonorable tactics used by the U.S. Army to wage war against the Seminoles in Florida.

This site is now preserved as the Mala Compra Plantation Archaeological Site. It was added to the national register of historic places in 2004.

For more information and other animated maps: Florida Maps: Then & Now

Remembering Etta Baker

Etta Baker performs on the Old Marble Stage - White Springs, Florida (1994)

Etta Baker performs on the Old Marble Stage – White Springs, Florida (1994)

Although she hailed from Caldwell County, North Carolina, we’d like to remember Piedmont blues guitarist Etta Baker, born March 31, 1913. She was first recorded in 1956 by folk singer Paul Clayton. These recordings of her gently plucked finger style influenced many artists, including Bob Dylan and Taj Mahal, but Etta never released an album of her own until her 1991 One Dime Blues.

Upon retiring from the textile mill where she worked most of her life, Etta Baker began touring extensively, including a stop at the 1994 Florida Folk Festival. Please enjoy this recording of the first song Etta learned at the age of 3, “Railroad Bill,” captured at the Old Marble Stage.

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Catalog Record

Before her death at the age of 93, Etta Baker received prestigious recognitions for her talent, including the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship, and recorded two more albums—one of which was a collaborative effort with Taj Mahal.

More recordings of Etta Baker can be found on the Florida Folklife Collection sampler CDs More Music From the Florida Folklife Collection and Where the Palm Trees Shake at Night.

Then and Now: The Breakers

Open for more than 100 years, The Breakers is one of the landmarks of Palm Beach. Henry Flagler built The Palm Beach Inn in 1896. When Flagler expanded the hotel, he renamed it “The Breakers.”

Now” photos courtesy of VISIT FLORIDA

Entrance to The Breakers hotel

Entrance to The Breakers hotel (1920s)

 

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

 

Breakers Hotel and golf links

The Breakers hotel and golf links (1920s)

 

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

 

Fountain in the courtyard at the Breakers hotel - Palm Beach, Florida

Fountain in the courtyard at the Breakers hotel – Palm Beach, Florida (1920s)

 

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

 

Swimming pool at the Breakers hotel - Palm Beach, Florida

Swimming pool at the Breakers hotel – Palm Beach, Florida (1920s)

 

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

 

North loggia at the Breakers hotel - Palm Beach, Florida

North loggia at the Breakers hotel – Palm Beach, Florida (1920s)

 

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

 

Main dining room of the Breakers hotel - Palm Beach, Florida (1920s)

Main dining room of the Breakers hotel – Palm Beach, Florida (1920s)

 

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

The Breakers (Pete Cross for VISIT FLORIDA), 2013

 

National Agriculture Day

Florida’s second largest industry is agriculture and the Sunshine State ranks second in the United States for production of fresh vegetables. So head to your local farmers’ market—we’re celebrating National Agriculture Day.

Picking fruit in John C. English seedling grove - Alva, Florida

Picking fruit in John C. English seedling grove – Alva, Florida

 

African American farmer standing in corn field - Alachua County, Florida

African-American farmer standing in corn field – Alachua County, Florida (1913)

 

Greetings from Florida

Greetings from Florida

 

Pineapples growing near Tampa (191-)

Pineapples growing near Tampa (191-)

 

Seminole Indian cowboys herding cattle in the pasture - Brighton Reservation, Florida.

Seminole Indian cowboys herding cattle in the pasture – Brighton Reservation, Florida (1950)

 

Stanley Thrift checks the new potato harvesting machine - Hastings, Florida (1947)

Stanley Thrift checks the new potato harvesting machine – Hastings, Florida (1947)

 

Aged man picking strawberries - Plant City, Florida (1960)

Aged man picking strawberries – Plant City, Florida (1960)

 

Yamato farmers at railroad siding - Yamato, Florida

Yamato farmers at railroad siding – Yamato, Florida (1911)

 

Peach picking crew - Plant City, Florida (192-)

Peach picking crew – Plant City, Florida (192-)

 

Turkeys at the Tot's Tender Turkey Farm - Havana, Florida (1952)

Turkeys at the Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm – Havana, Florida (1982)

 

Walter Welkener milks his purebred registered Jersey cattle at the Holly Hill Dairy Farm - Duval County, Florida

Walter Welkener milks his purebred registered Jersey cattle at the Holly Hill Dairy Farm – Duval County, Florida (1960)

 

 

Animated Map Series: Wacahoota

Florida Maps: Then & Now is an animated map series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. The project uses Google Earth to create animated videos using historic and modern maps, photographs, and primary source documents from our collections.

This episode features historic maps of Wacahoota.

Transcript

Welcome to Florida Maps: Then & Now, an animated map series from the State Archives of Florida. This episode highlights historic maps of Wacahoota.

Florida’s cattle industry is the oldest in what is now the United States. Spaniards introduced the first cattle to Florida in the 16th century. By the mid-1600s, Spanish ranchos extended from the area near St. Augustine to the Apalachee district in the panhandle, and South to the Alachua Prairie. The largest rancho, known as La Chua, counted thousands of animals worked by European, African, and Native American cattlemen. Raids by Creek Indians and colonists from Carolina in the early 1700s destroyed the Spanish ranchos, including La Chua. Native American immigrants, later known as Seminoles, migrated into the area and began working the former Spanish livestock.

By the mid-1700s, the area around the Alachua Prairie, including Wacahoota (wack-a-hoo-tee), meaning “cow pen” in the Hitchiti language, contained thousands of animals grazing on the wet prairies that dotted the region. William Bartram, an English naturalist, described the scene as he saw it in the early 1770s:

“The extensive Alachua savanna is a level, green plain… scarcely a tree or bush of any kind to be seen… encircled with high, sloping hills, covered with waving forests and fragrant Orange groves, rising from an exuberantly fertile soil. At the same time are seen innumerable droves of cattle… Herds of sprightly deer, squadrons of the beautiful, fleet Seminole horse, [and] flocks of turkeys…”

The leader of the Alachua Seminoles at the time of Bartram’s visit was known appropriately as the “Cowkeeper.” The Cowkeeper and his people traded with colonists living along the St. Johns. They hunted and tilled the soil relatively undisturbed until the early 1800s. During the War of 1812, Georgia colonists known as the Patriot Army, with de facto support from the United States government, invaded Spanish Florida intent on fermenting rebellion against the colonial government.

The war spread into the Seminole country, and a series of skirmishes ensued. The Seminoles soundly defeated the invaders, but two decades later another conflict broke out—the Second Seminole War. This map, from the confirmed Spanish Land Grant of Domingo Acosta, shows lands once occupied by Bowlegs, one of the principal leaders during the Second and Third Seminole Wars. The area became known to the Americans as Bowlegs’ Old Plantation, and then Wacahoota once the Seminoles were evicted. Today, the area is a crossroads near the intersection of Marion, Alachua, and Levy counties, Southwest of Gainesville.

For more information and other animated maps: Florida Maps: Then & Now

Hooked

With thousands of lakes, rivers, springs, and swamps, Florida has a wealth of fishing opportunities. The famous tarpon and marlin swim the southwestern coast and the Keys. Bizarre and unique species include the giant manta rays and sawfish. Florida has attracted the curious and ambitious to test its waters for centuries.

 

[Fishermen with goliath grouper at Jupiter Inlet

Fishermen with goliath grouper at Jupiter Inlet (1910s)

 

Men standing around Sawfish and Bonito shark: Key West, Florida

Men standing around Sawfish and Bonito shark: Key West, Florida (1911)

 

Portrait of author Ernest Hemingway posing with sailfish: Key West, Florida (1940s)

Portrait of author Ernest Hemingway posing with sailfish: Key West, Florida (1940s)

 

Mr. John Hachmeister and Mrs. Earl Baum admiring a 1,200 lb manta ray caught by Forrest Walker (1938)

Mr. John Hachmeister and Mrs. Earl Baum admiring a 1,200 lb manta ray caught by Forrest Walker (1938)

 

The state’s fertile waters have provided a wealth of food species, from small-scale family operations to large-scale industrial enterprises. While the years of harvesting have taken significant tolls on sensitive fisheries and ecosystems, Florida’s marine environments remain principle economic and cultural hallmarks of the state.

 

Grouper caught in the Halifax River displayed at Gene Johnson's Tackle Shop: Daytona Beach, Florida picture (1920s)

Grouper caught in the Halifax River displayed at Gene Johnson’s Tackle Shop: Daytona Beach, Florida picture (1920s)

 

Whale shark recovered from shallow water (1912) The fish weighed 30,000 pounds and was 45 feet long.

Whale shark recovered from shallow water (1912) The fish weighed 30,000 pounds and was 45 feet long.

 

Fishermen and their catch of a 350 lb. mullet shark: Saint Petersburg, Florida (1918)

Fishermen and their catch of a 350 lb. shark: Saint Petersburg, Florida (1918)

 

See “The Lure of Florida Fishing,” an exhibit now on display at the Museum of Florida History, 500 S. Bronough Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301

Tom Gaskins: Ol’ Barefoot

Tom Gaskins (1909 – 1998) spent most of his life trudging through the swamps of Fisheating Creek near Palmdale, Florida. He was a man of ideas and regarded as a salt-of-the-earth character. Gaskins owned the Cypress Knee Museum in Palmdale where he collected and sold cypress knees as decorations, furniture, and other useful items. His knowledge of cypress knees and swamp life was legendary. His friends referred to him as “Ol’ Barefoot,” as he never wore shoes except when paying his respects at a funeral.

Tom Gaskins at his Cypress Knee Museum, Palmdale, 1987

Tom Gaskins at his Cypress Knee Museum, Palmdale, 1987

The Cypress Knee Museum opened in the 1930s when Gaskins fashioned an extra-large cypress knee into a roadside sign to lure tourists to his collection. The museum remained open until 2000 (2 years after Gaskins’ death) when the property was burglarized and most of the collection stolen.

Cypress knee decorated by Tom Gaskins, Palmdale, 1987

Cypress knee decorated by Tom Gaskins, Palmdale, 1987

Gaskins was also an inventor. He held over a dozen patents, including the Tom Gaskin’s Turkey Call that is still manufactured and sold today.

Turkey call invented by Tom Gaskins, Palmdale, 1987

Turkey call invented by Tom Gaskins, Palmdale, 1987

The State Archives of Florida is not the only organization that has taken an interest in Mr. Gaskins. Over the years he was featured in stories by the LA Times, Sun Sentinel, Mechanix Illustrated, Popular Science, Chicago Tribune, and was even a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Gaskins received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1988. His fascinating work and personality piqued the interest of those lucky enough to cross his path; just like travelers going down US 27 in South Florida who stopped by to see “Ol’ Barefoot.”

In 1987, Tom Gaskins was interviewed by the Florida Folklife Program. Below are two excerpts:

Excerpt 1: Tom Gaskins explains the origins of hollow cypress knees

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Excerpt 2: Tom Gaskins talks about the turkey call he invented

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More Information: Catalog Record

Reubin O’Donovan Askew

Known for his overwhelming honesty and integrity, as well as his belief in the benevolence of government, Florida’s 37th governor Reubin Askew died today in Tallahassee.

Askew is considered one of the greatest and most popular governors of Florida and served from 1971 to 1979. He was recognized by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School as one of the top 10 governors of the 20th century.

Reubin Askew was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1928 and moved with his family to Pensacola in 1937. In 1946 Askew entered the Army as a paratrooper, serving for two years. During the Korean War, Askew served in the Air Force from 1951 to 1953.

Reubin Askew in his paratrooper uniform (1947)

Reubin Askew in his paratrooper uniform (1947)

A graduate of both Florida State University and the University of Florida Law School, Askew began his public career as Assistant County Solicitor for Escambia County in 1956. He went on to represent his district in the Florida House and Senate, serving as president pro tempore in 1969-70. In that same year he won the election as Florida’s governor and subsequently was re-elected to another four-year term.

Governor Askew poses for a photo with his family: Tallahassee, Florida

Governor Askew poses for a photo with his family: Tallahassee, Florida

As governor, Askew pushed through corporate income tax legislation, supported desegregation of Florida’s schools through busing, and championed open government laws that endure today and are unique to this state.

Florida's 37th Governor Reubin Askew

Florida’s 37th Governor Reubin Askew

After his term of office ended, Askew served in President Carter’s cabinet as U.S. Trade Representative and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. presidency in 1984.

Jimmy Carter and wife with Reubin Askew and his wife

While continuing his legal career, Askew served as a professor of public policy at the Florida Institute of Government which bears his name. He will be remembered as a consummate leader who was true to his word and values and as a governor who was able to work across party lines for the benefit of the people of Florida.

Letter to Governor Askew from Barry Goldwater, 1972

Letter to Governor Askew from Barry Goldwater, 1972

 

Letter to Governor Askew from John D. Rockefeller IV, 1972

Letter to Governor Askew from John D. Rockefeller IV, 1972