Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920

Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920

Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920

Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920

Synopsis

In this penetrating examination of African American politics and culture, Paul Ortiz throws a powerful light on the struggle of black Floridians to create the first statewide civil rights movement against Jim Crow. Concentrating on the period between the end of slavery and the election of 1920, Emancipation Betrayed vividly demonstrates that the decades leading up to the historic voter registration drive of 1919-20 were marked by intense battles during which African Americans struck for higher wages, took up arms to prevent lynching, forged independent political alliances, boycotted segregated streetcars, and created a democratic historical memory of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Contrary to previous claims that African Americans made few strides toward building an effective civil rights movement during this period, Ortiz documents how black Floridians formed mutual aid organizations--secret societies, women's clubs, labor unions, and churches--to bolster dignity and survival in the harsh climate of Florida, which had the highest lynching rate of any state in the union. African Americans called on these institutions to build a statewide movement to regain the right to vote after World War I. African American women played a decisive role in the campaign as they mobilized in the months leading up to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. The 1920 contest culminated in the bloodiest Election Day in modern American history, when white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan violently, and with state sanction, prevented African Americans from voting. Ortiz's eloquent interpretation of the many ways that black Floridians fought to expand the meaning of freedom beyond formal equality and his broader consideration of how people resist oppression and create new social movements illuminate a strategic era of United States history and reveal how the legacy of legal segregation continues to play itself out to this day.

Excerpt

I can live, maybe not in full yet, but I’m proud of the distance that
black people have come because I can’t explain it all but it was, if you
allow me, it was hell back then.

Malachia andrews

Tallahassee, 1994

The presidential election in florida has revealed the state of democracy in America on at least three occasions. Contested Florida ballots played a key role in the election of 1876 that ultimately spelled the end of Reconstruction. More recently, the 2000 Bush-Gore debacle cast a troubling shadow over the nation. People from all walks of life debated the bewildering chain of events that culminated with the Supreme Court’s dramatic intervention in the contested election. the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights noted, “The state of Florida’s electoral process took center stage as the world paused to observe the unfolding drama of identifying the next President of the United States.” Most accounts of the crisis missed the decisive factor in the election’s outcome: the disfranchisement of many African American, Latino, and Haitian voters under dubious pretenses. After sifting through one hundred thousand pages of documents and listening to the testimony of more than one hundred people, the Commission on Civil Rights concluded: “Voting is the language of our democracy. As the Supreme Court observed, ‘no right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live.’ It is clear that many people in Florida were denied this precious right.”

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