September 4, 2007

Ditch the Disney Goggles

The mythology of Disney and commercialization of every paved inch of Orlando has created such a Mouse-shaped media monster that Florida--the lore, history, and violence--has gotten lost. Florida is part of American history too, and it didn't begin with Mickey.

It takes a lot of driving and mapping and studying, but if you get off Interstate-4 enough times, you see it sometimes. You see it when you walk the Lawton Chiles Trail.

And when you get home and hit the books, you find some shocking stories. After the 70s, tourists started to judge each region of Florida by how many miles to Disney World. But before and after Disney, the real social and political question in Florida is: how far are you from Georgia? Madison County is close to Georgia:

As late as 1952 several Florida counties with a majority black population had few registered voters. For example, even though they represented almost 50 percent of the population, no blacks registered to vote in Madison County. But 586 African Americans bravely marched to the Madison County courthouse in 1954 where they were finally allowed to register. Five hundred and fifty-eight of them registered as Democrats. Similar conditions existed in other counties, including Gadsden, Flagler, and Jefferson.

Credit goes to The New History of Florida, edited by Michael Gannon, for the excerpt.

The number of miles to Georgia will tell you a lot, and none of it is on the Disney tour.

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