Four of Florida’s darker moments

When I research civil rights issues for the novel in progress, some of what I’m looking at happened while I was growing up there, and seeing it brings back vague memories of stories I saw in the newspaper. I often wonder if Florida’s current residents hear about these incidents in high school and college history classes. Sad to say, these four incidents aren’t the sum of the KKK violence in the state in the past. The first two happened before I was in Florida but were very much part of the conversation. Each of the blurbs below comes from Wikipedia.

Rosewood Massacre

The Rosewood massacre was a racially motivated massacre of black people and the destruction of a black town that took place during the first week of January 1923 in rural Levy County, Florida, United States. At least six black people and two white people were killed, though eyewitness accounts suggested a higher death toll of 27 to 150. The town of Rosewood was destroyed in what contemporary news reports characterized as a race riot. Florida had an especially high number of lynchings of black men in the years before the massacre,[2] including a well-publicized incident in December 1922.

Before the massacre, the town of Rosewood had been a quiet, primarily black, self-sufficient whistle-stop on the Seaboard Air Line Railway. Trouble began when white men from several nearby towns lynched a black Rosewood resident because of accusations that a white woman in nearby Sumner had been assaulted by a black drifter. A mob of several hundred whites combed the countryside hunting for black people and burned almost every structure in Rosewood. For several days, survivors from the town hid in nearby swamps until they were evacuated to larger towns by train and car. No arrests were made for what happened in Rosewood. The town was abandoned by its former black and white residents; none of them ever moved back, none of them were ever compensated for the loss of their land, and the town ceased to exist.

Groveland Four

The Groveland Four (or the Groveland Boys) were four African American men, Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd, and Walter Irvin. In July 1949, the four were accused of raping a white woman and severely beating her husband in Lake CountyFlorida. The oldest, Thomas, tried to elude capture and was killed that month. The others were put on trial. Shepard and Irvin received death sentences, and Greenlee was sentenced to life in prison. The events of the case led to serious questions about the arrests, allegedly coerced confessions and mistreatment, and the unusual sentencing following their convictions. Their incarceration was exacerbated by their systemic and unlawful treatment—including the death of Shepherd, and the near-fatal shooting of Irvin. Greenlee was paroled in 1962 and Irvin in 1968. All four were posthumously exonerated by the state of Florida in 2021.

Murder of Activist Harry T. Moore

Excellent resource from 1999.

Harry Tyson Moore (November 18, 1905 – December 25, 1951) was an African-American educator, a pioneer leader of the civil rights movement, founder of the first branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Brevard County, Florida, and president of the state chapter of the NAACP.

Harry T. Moore and his wife, Harriette Moore, also an educator, were the victims of a bombing of their home in Mims, Florida, on Christmas night 1951. As the local hospital in Titusville would not treat Blacks, he died on the way to the nearest one that would, a Black hospital in Sanford, Florida, about 30 miles to the northwest. His wife died from her wounds nine days later, on January 3, 1952, at the same hospital. This followed their both having been fired from teaching because of their activism.

The murder case was investigated, including by the FBI in 1951–1952, but no one was ever prosecuted. Two more investigations were conducted in the 1970s and 1990s. A state investigation and forensic work in 2005–2006 resulted in naming the likely perpetrators as four Ku Klux Klan members, all long dead by that time. Harry T. Moore was the first NAACP member and official to be assassinated for civil rights activism; the couple are the only husband and wife to be killed for the movement. Moore has been called the first martyr of this stage of the civil rights movement that expanded in the 1960s.

The Tyranny of Sheriff Willis McCall

Willis Virgil McCall (July 21, 1909 – April 28, 1994) was sheriff of Lake County, Florida. He was elected for seven consecutive terms from 1944 to 1972. He gained national attention in the Groveland Case in 1949. In 1951, he shot two defendants in the case while he was transporting them to a new trial and killed one on the spot. Claiming self-defense, he was not indicted for this action. He also enforced anti-miscegenation laws and was a segregationist.

He lost his bid for an eighth term shortly after he had been acquitted of the murder in 1972 of Tommy J. Vickers, a mentally-disabled black prisoner who died in his custody. McCall’s notoriety outlived him. In 2007, the Lake County Commission voted unanimously to change a road named in his honor 20 years before because of his history as a “bully lawman whose notorious tenure was marked by charges of racial intolerance, brutality and murder.” During his 28-year tenure as sheriff, McCall was investigated multiple times for civil rights violations and inmate abuse and was tried for murder but was never convicted.

For me, this past isn’t that far away. I still get angry about it and find it hard to mention it in my fiction without preaching a sermon. The KKK, the police, and civic leaders were often one and the same group.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the four-book Florida Folk Magic series set in the early 1950s when the Klan was still active.

Re-reading Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’

This is the first time I’ve re-read this book since it came out in 2013. My feelings now are about the same as they were nine years ago. The storyline is another chase scene in which the bad guys are after Robert Langdon and a young doctor who befriends him through Florence.  Florence is one of my favorite cities, so it was fun reading about places I visited. If you’re about ready to travel to Florence, read this book first.

Otherwise, the story drags. Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Florence with a head wound (a bullet grazed his scalp) and has no idea why he’s in Italy. Always a handy plot crutch, retrograde amnesia keeps the main character in he dark about his circumstances while an assassin tries again to kill him–with the help of the U.S. Consulate–along with all the police in the country.

The book is a travelogue with two desperate people running through it. The catcher in the rye is the pariah of a scientist Bertrand Zobrist who advocates letting plagues run wild because that is–according to his research–the only way the Earth’s unsustainable population levels can be brought under control. I must admit that as global warming issues have become more pronounced, his view of the population’s fate is more chilling now than when I first read the book. (I enjoyed Dante’s Divine Comedy more than this book.)

Like all of Brown’s books, the story is heavy on exposition about history and art, in this case, Florence and Dante. If you took all that out of the book, it would be a novella. I re-read this book due to the lack of anything new in the house and really wish I’d picked something else to re-read like one of John Hart’s or Pat Conroy’s books.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, satire, and contemp[orary fantasy novels including The Sun Singer.

‘We need to re-do the kitchen: it’s soooo dated’

Not that we’re addicted, but we watch several of the house hunter shows on HGTV. They’re not quite what they seem. If the rules are the same as when I last looked, those hunting for a house have to actually buy a house before they visit three potential properties on the show. One of them, they already own.

My historic preservation background makes me a bit of a purist in that I think older houses should generally not be redone so that the inside looks like an open-concept 2022 house.  Well, nobody asked me, so it is as it is.

It’s hard for me to imagine looking at houses and making a list of move-in projects. Quite often, the prospective owners want to overhaul the kitchen with new paint, new appliances, removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room, new countertops, and a larger, more-spectacular island. Sometimes they ask the real estate agent how much a new kitchen would cost, and hear that it’s a mere $10,000 to $20,000.

Hell, the people are already spending a million bucks on the place, so what’s another twenty grand? It all seems so materialistic and excessive. I don’t get it. If I buy a new house with cream-colored kitchen cabinets, I’m not going into a snit to repaint them white just after we close on the house. I didn’t grow up with this kind of money and, with parents who lived through the depression and ran the household on a teacher’s salary, I’ve ended up with more of a make-do attitude than the spoilt brats buying the houses.

And here ends today’s rant.

Malcolm

That fried egg for breakfast

Before falling asleep at night, I have grand plans to cook a fried egg for breakfast. After all, that’s what I got used to as a child, eggs and bacon in a cast-iron frying pan with the grease saved in a small metal container on the stovetop for later.

Looks good, but over easy would look better – Wikipedia photo

But then when morning comes, I’m too sleepy to cook an egg–over easy with a few red pepper flakes scattered over it–much less having to wash the frying pan afterward. So, I toss two Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits in the microwave for 58 seconds and there’s breakfast.

A lot of things are like that fried egg for breakfast. The idea sounds good, but then when it comes time to do it, it’s simply too much trouble. When it comes down to it, most chores are too much trouble as are the more important things in life.

After a trip to Scotland, my brother said that nobody there knows how to cook a fried egg over easy or over medium. If you ask for it, they don’t know what you’re talking about–and still “don’t get it” after you explain how to do it. “Lads, it’s like anything else you fry on both sides!”

This probably explains why Scotland has been under the English thumb for so long. When a chance came to vote for independence, the idea sounded good but nobody quite knew how to flip a government.

But, I digress.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the comedy/satire Special Investigative Reporter.

New Title: ‘I’m Tired of Racism: True Stories of Existing While Black’ by Sharon Hurley Hall

Writer and educator, Sharon Hurley Hall (Exploring Shadeism), released this book of essays on October 1, bringing the information and wisdom of her Anti-Racism Newsletter to a wider audience.

From the Publisher

To feel empathy, you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. If the experiences of racism in a white supremacist system seem too far away from your daily reality, I’m Tired of Racism will change that. If you think of racism as something that only happens where you are, I’m Tired of Racism will change that, too. And if you’re wondering how you can be a true ally and avoid performative nonsense, this book is an excellent starting point.

“I’m Tired of Racism” collects many of Sharon Hurley Hall’s anti-racism essays, sharing her global perspective on racism, anti-racism, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy, born out of experiences in the Caribbean, the UK, the US, and elsewhere. Hurley Hall has lived and worked in multiple countries, enabling her to accurately reflect what’s the same and what’s different about experiences of racism in different locations.

The foreword, by Ashanti Maya Martin, says: “Because Sharon’s experience is rooted in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Europe, she’s able to tell us how the U.S. looks from the outside in (not great at the moment), and explain how even being a citizen of a Black-majority country comes with its own layered burdens rooted in colonialism and white supremacy.”

The book is available on Kindle and in hardcover. The audiobook and paperback editions will be available soon. I have known Sharon online for possibly 20 years and look forward to seeing her newsletter in my in-basket.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series about a conjure woman fighting the KKK in a 1950s-era town in the Florida Panhandle. The series begins with “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

Weak, unintelligent people are trying to control the books you and your children read

  • From July 2021 to June 2022, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 unique book titles.
  • The 1,648 titles are by 1,261 different authors, 290 illustrators, and 18 translators, impacting the literary, scholarly, and creative work of 1,553 people altogether. —Banned in the USA

PEN America’s “Banned in America” summarizes what many of us have seen more and more often in the news: book bans.

They are a weapon used by weak people and weak groups who have so little confidence in their beliefs, they are fearful of what might happen if people are free to read about alternatives. The German government, controlled by the Nazi party, burnt the books in town squares, a more uncouth version of the book bans.

Book bans in government schools and government libraries are, of course, unconstitutional since they run counter to the Bill of Rights. And yet, how easily people flock to this method of stifling the free flow of ideas when a particular book bothers them.

In a September 22 news release, PEN said, “With free expression and the freedom to read being undermined in America’s schools, Congressman Jamie Raskin today introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives condemning the spread of book bans in schools nationwide, as Senator Brian Schatz leads a companion resolution in the U.S. Senate. PEN America commends the lawmakers’ efforts, which reaffirm Congress’ commitment to upholding free expression in the classroom and beyond.”

While I think this is good, I doubt that most people will even know that it happened, much less change their gutless, book-banning behavior if they did hear about it. I would like to hear more protests from those who abhor the book bans. Let’s put the banners under a microscope and embarrass the hell out of them for being too weak to admit they are weak.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Fok Magic Series.

I had to mow the yard because I couldn’t find the house–or the cat

I think we’ve had rain for 10000000 days. When it’s not raining, the grass is too wet to mow, and/or the flu we’ve been fighting has kept us inside. I finally cut the grass after supper last night because I wasn’t sure whether I was coming home to my house or a neighbor’s house. Plus, when the cat went outside, he disappeared into the pasture primeaeval.

The grass was not only higher than the cat, it was higher than the mower. Dark clouds were rolling in. Vicious lightning owned the horizon off to the east. I had to move quickly or darkness would swallow the world and I’d run into the black Angus cattle in the adjoining pasture. (Before the farmer put in a new fence, the cattle got out on numerous occasions at night. I could hear them in the yard, but couldn’t see them. When cattle get out, the whole community comes out to round them up.)

The riding mower really wasn’t built for grass this high. Seriously, tall fescue needs a tractor with a bush hog. We used to have one, but the bush hog was shot and the tractor was old, so we sold it off. The mower stalled out numerous times and gulped gas faster than a sailor swigs beer on liberty. So, I ran out of gas before I got done and had to tow the mower back to the garage with my Buick about the time the rain hit.

In the light of day this morning, the yard looks like the cut grass is piled up and ready to bale. At least the house is visible from the road and doesn’t look like an abandoned homestead. I’m getting too old for this kind of crap. At least I had the presence of mind to put the cat in the house and to use the mower’s headlights in case any cows got in the yard. None did, but they raised a ruckus on the other side of the fence.

Frankly, I think it’s about time to hire a landscaping company and hope they show up for work.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell grew up in the Florida Panhandle and sets his stories there.

“Wanda J. Dixon’s warmth and gorgeous singing voice are superb in this story about Conjure Woman Eulalie, which is told through the voice of her cat and spirit companion, Lena. Dixon zestfully portrays Eulalie, who is “older than dirt” and is kept busy casting spells, mixing potions, and advising people–that is, when the “sleeping” sign is removed from her door. Most distinctive is Eulalie’s recurring sigh, which conveys her frustration with Florida in the 1950s, when Jim Crow laws and “Colored Only” signs were routine. Dixon’s Lena is fully believable when she spies around town and reports to Eulalie that rednecks have raped and murdered a young woman. They almost escape until Eulalie persuades a witness to come forward. Listeners will marvel at the magical realism in this story and benefit from the helpful glossary of the charming local dialect. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016″

Sunday’s potpourri

  • Coming soon from Robert Hays and Thomas-Jacob Publishing, An Empty House by the River: “Lacy, who sees beauty wherever she looks and expects others to be as good as she is, can no longer count on her big brother to protect her from an abusive husband, and the family learns a hard truth: No one is immune to the quirks of fate, be they blessings or tragedies, and the river takes more than it gives.” Hays is also the author of A Shallow River of Mercy.
  • I have a good case of the flu or the flue (not sure which) that isn’t being made better by the daily rain storms.
  • Best I can tell, this typical Joan Crawford film that we watched last night didn’t improve my health either. Where are all the happy movies when you need them, stuff like The Exorcist or Juliet of the Spirits or Cape Fear?
  • Plus, the cats chose last night to squabble over which of them got to lie where in the bed. Chances are good that if you’re waked up at 4 a.m. with those kinds of shenanigans, you’re not going to get a good night’s sleep. And I didn’t! Got up at 6 a.m., had two sausage biscuits, and fell asleep on the couch for two hours. When I woke up, one of the cats was lying on top of me.
  • We watch a few programs on HGTV. (Don’t quote me on this.) Everyone wants an open concept floorplan these days, you know, where the main floor’s about the size of a gymnasium that’s bigger than our house–including the yard. People want stuff to “flow.” Those who do the family’s cooking want to be able to see what their children and/or guests are doing while they (the cooks) are burning stuff in the oven. Ten years from now, homeowners will be hiring contractors to add a few walls and a little privacy. I guess if you can afford a house that costs $2 million, you can waste that money however you want.
  • I read The Satanic Verses as soon as I could get my hands on a copy. I thought it was a hoot. The book’s in the news again after the cowardly attack on Rushdie. A lot of commentators say it’s dangerous. Is it? I don’t think so even if it offends some people. But if it is dangerous, that’s good because people need to be shaken up enough to question why they believe what they believe and why they’re angry when others don’t agree with them.

Malcolm

Has anyone tried this new age experiment?

Systems of new age and/or old wisdom often include exercises designed to enhance one’s imagination, “see” things at a distance and determine diseases and other problems others may be suffering.

These experiments always represent a practical application of the day’s lesson inasmuch as true understanding and mastery require more than reading about a technique or method.

I’ve seen a lot of these experiments over the years and have enjoyed both the successes and failures of following the recipes. However, I balked at one of them, one in a book I read in junior high school with a title I no longer remember. I started out several times and always stopped, not because I thought it wouldn’t work, but because I thought it would. I’ve never had the courage to go back to it.

Basically, you’re supposed to sit in a chair in a room at one end of your house, calm yourself, and then get up and walk to the other end of your house, turn around, and go back to the chair.

Next, you imagine doing that, thinking of everything–doors, shelves, furniture–you see en route. Pretend to walk from one end of the house to the other and return to the chair.

Then do it physically. Then do it in your imagination. If you do this long enough, you will supposedly return to the chair and find yourself already sitting there.

It’s a good experiment, I think, but I never could face the possibility that it might work. Something just bothered me about that. What about you? Have you seen this experiment? If so, have you tried it.

I’ll be curious to hear your results.

Malcolm

So long, David McCullough, and thanks for all the books

“David McCullough, a towering force in American literature and biography, winner of the President’s Medal of Freedom, two Pulitzer Prizes and two National Book Awards, died on August 7. He was 89 years old.

“He died of natural causes at home in Hingham, the family confirmed, where he had lived for the past few years, with all five children by his side.

“Mr. McCullough devoted his writing life to telling the American story, beginning with his first book about the Johnstown Flood, published in 1968, and continuing to chronicle events, politicians and structures that made up the American experience. He followed up his debut with a book about building the Brooklyn Bridge, then headed to the creation of the Panama Canal (his first National Book Award). A book about Teddy Roosevelt followed (his second National Book Award) and then books on Harry S. Truman and John Adams, both of which won the Pulitzer Prize.” – Bill Eville in The Vineyard Gazette

In his story, Eville notes that everything McCullough wrote began on a 1940 Royal Typewriter that he bought second-hand in 1965 for $25. It works fine after all those words. In a 2011 interview, McCullough said that sometimes he thought that Royal was writing the books.

The subhead in the New York Times story said, “His research — on Adams, Truman and so much more — was deep, his writing was lively, and his narrator’s voice in documentary films was familiar to millions.”

The books found large audiences and spent weeks on the bestseller lists in part because readers who seldom read history read what McCullough and/or that old Royal typewriter wrote. My wife and I have most of his books, not because they look good on our shelves, but because we like them and respect his approach.

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but my long-time fascination with Teddy Roosevelt prompts me to say I like Mornings on Horseback, the 1981 biography of Roosevelt, the best. Kirkus began its review, “The biographer of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal has written a marvelous book, now, about the making of an exceptional being—and nothing that has appeared before, including Edmund Morris’ recent The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, diminishes its interest or freshness or emotional force.”

The New York Times wrote, “Mr. McCullough tells his busy, interlocking story without ever losing track of his hero. Always at the center of things is T.R., evolving from a shrill semi-invalid into the robust warrior who would become the dominant figure of turn-of-the-century America. But though he writes with a novelist’s skill, Mr. McCullough never resorts to the novelist’s license to invent, never draws a conclusion not backed by hard facts. The result brings us as close as anyone will ever get to understanding the unique alchemy of the Roosevelt family – and its power to help and hinder Theodore in his rise.”

McCullough’s books on the Johnstown flood, the Brooklyn Bridge, Presidents Truman and Adams, and 1776 (among others) drew similar praise. McCullough’s narrations include the 2003 film “Seabiscuit” and multiple films by Ken Burns including “The Civil War” (1990).

I think it’s fair to say that McCullough’s words will be with us forever, if not longer.

Malcolm