Florida’s First Black Congressman Leaves an Enduring Legacy

“Driven from public service by the same white supremacists he had conciliated while in office, Josiah T. Walls fought successfully to have public land set aside near Tallahassee for the establishment of a training school for black students. Initially known as the State Normal College for Colored Students, it later became the Agricultural and Mechanical […]

Florida’s Summer of Black Political Enthusiasm

“An awakening black interest in registration, voting and politics poured into this already complicated milieu in the summer of 1867. This was true in Alachua County as elsewhere in Florida, Josiah Walls soon found himself a new and rewarding career. In Alachua County, black registrants far exceeded whites, a result more of the conservative boycott […]

Josiah Walls Succeeds Against Political Headwinds

“Political conditions in Florida began to change rapidly in the early 1870s. Republican expectations of permanent control of state government quickly dissipated into a struggle for survival. Two developments forced the moderate Republican leadership to consider nominating a Negro for statewide office. First was the increased violence and terrorist activity that swept Florida during this […]

A Black Law Firm Comes to Gainesville

“[Josiah]Walls also began to practice law. During the spring term of the Alachua circuit court in 1873, he applied for and was granted admission to the Florida Bar. He went before an examination committee appointed by the judge of the circuit court. Three Gainesville attorneys, Robert Taylor,  George Arrow, local prosecutor, and Samuel Y. Finley, […]

The Political Rise of Josiah T. Walls

“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 […]

Florida Congressman Speaks in Support of Civil Rights

“Men may concede that public sentiment, and not law, is the cause of the discrimination of which we justly complain and the resultant disabilities under which we labor. If this be so, then such public sentiment needs penal correction, and should be regulated by law. Let it be decidedly understood, by appropriate enactment, that the individual […]

Dirty Politics — 19th Century Style

“… demonizing [Josiah] Walls as both a Northerner and a product of miscegenation served a doable purpose. It robbed Florida’s black people of a hero. It sustained whites in their illusion that half-breeds and Yankees caused all that trouble.” Source: Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State by T.D. Allman  Grove Press, 2013 […]