“For [Josiah] Walls, the entrance into Florida politics had proved auspicious. In Alachua County he had established a firm power base and had indeed become a force in Florida, at least as a spokesman for his race. Because he could advance no farther in state circles, it seemed natural that he would in time set his sights for higher office.”
“The most telling measure of the very real division between the Seminole and the Seminole Negro was the separation of their villages. There was always space — a mile, two miles — between them. Put simply, the Seminole Negro were considered allies, but not blood kin. The Seminoles clearly felt themselves to be superior.”
No serious fan, student or advocate of black history in the Sunshine State should be without Florida’s Minority Trailblazers: The Men and Women Who Changed the Face of Florida Government. Susan A. MacManus book is a must for anyone who’s serious about the subject — period, end of story.
Disguised as a reference book, MacManus presents plenty of readable material detailing the lives of the men and women of color who our government. The book offers a wide ethnic diaspora of individuals who broke Florida’s color line and transformed a male-dominated, Democratic-run state into one whose political makeup reflects the modern age.
The bios contain revealing anecdotes that show the tenor of the times as these individuals made history by becoming the “first” to win elective office or gain a coveted appointment to a high-ranking position.
Each appendix contains easy-to-digest red-letter dates of political importance, including the dates, political affiliations of Florida’s Asian, black and Latino elected officials and the events that shaped their involvement in state politics.
MacManus has long been recognized as an astute political scientist in her role as a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida. Her insights into Sunshine State political and election trends are typically on point.
Her research into the lives and motivations of Florida’s minority trailblazers is both must and a much-needed possession to anyone who appreciates the Sunshine State.
“What’s a nice lady like you doing up here? Wouldn’t you rather be home with the kids?” — Questions from male colleagues to Gwen Cherry, the first African American woman elected to the Florida House of Representatives.
“In thus traveling about through the country, I was sometimes amused on arriving at some little railroad station town to be taken for and treated as a white man, and six hours later, when it was learned that I was stopping at the house of the colored preacher or school teacher, to note the attitude of the whole town change.”
“We ended up getting a meeting with [Lt. Gov.] Frank Brogan — this was the day before Governor [Jeb Bush] was releasing his budget. Frank said, ‘Ok, you know, we’re going to talk about education issues.’ I said, ‘Well, I really want to talk to the Governor about One Florida.’ ‘Oh, the Governor’s working on the budget.’ I said, ‘Well, we’ll be here when he’s available.’ ‘Why don’t we call you when he’s available?’ Frank said. ‘No, no, we’ll sit right here. We’ve been trying to meet with him for three weeks now, and it just can’t happen.’ Frank said, ‘You’re not going to do this, are you?’ ‘Yeah, we’re going to be right here.’
Brogan left and the Governor came back. He had a big ink blotch in his pocket, like he just put his pen in his pocket I guess out of anger. He came in and looked directly at me, and he said, ‘Kendrick, what’s going on here?’ I said, ‘Governor, how are you doing?’ He said, ‘Listen, if you all expect for me to change my One Florida plan, then you might as well get some blankets, you’re going to be here a while.’ So Tony Hill, being secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO at that time, just leaned back in the seat and put his hands behind his head. I said, ‘Well, I guess we’re going to be here.’ And so the sit-in commenced.” — Former State Sen. Kendrick Meek explaining how the protest against Bush’s executive order to end affirmative action policies in state government started.
“Without knowing when or how, I moved into profound focus; the direction of the future opened wide its doors. My life seemed whole again and the strains of an unknown melody healed my inmost center. It was glorious. When I returned to London and went on to Paris and Geneva. I was aware that God was not yet done with me, that I need never fear the darkness, nor delude myself that the contradictions of life are final. I was ready now for my journey.”