Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Africa in Florida: Five Hundred Years of African Presence in the Sunshine State

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Africa in Florida: Five Hundred Years of African Presence in the Sunshine State

Article excerpt

Africa in Florida: Five Hundred Years of African Presence in the Sunshine State. Edited by Amanda B. Carlson and Robin Poynor. (Gainesville and other cities: University Press of Florida, 2014. Pp. xviii, 462. $79.95, ISBN 978-0-8130-4457-6.)

Africa in Florida: Five Hundred Years of African Presence in the Sunshine State was conceived by two art historians at the University of Florida, who considered how visual imagery and cartography could be used to redefine the "cultural and geographic borders" of Africa and to more fully "convey the depth of African influences in Florida" (pp. 12, 14). The result is an edited collection of twenty-three chapters that explores the religious, social, artistic, and cultural representations of "Africa" in Florida, past and present. The contributors are multiethnic and represent multiple disciplines, which adds nuance and depth to the volume. In this collection, Florida is discussed as part of the Deep South, the Caribbean, the Spanish colonial world, and the African diaspora. Africa in Florida marginally extends recent scholarship on black experiences in and African influences on Florida, like that found in David R. Colburn and Jane Landers's The African American Heritage of Florida (Gainesville, Fla., 1995) and Canter Brown Jr. and David H. Jackson Jr.'s Go Sound the Trumpet! Selections in Florida's African American History (Tampa, 2005). While consistent with recent scholarship that seeks to integrate individual states into the field of Atlantic studies, Africa in Florida will have less impact than Peter C. Mancall's The Atlantic World and Virginia, 1550-1624 (Chapel Hill, 2007) or Cecile Vidal's Louisiana: Crossroads of the Atlantic World (Philadelphia, 2014).

Part 1 of Africa in Florida introduces the broad range of African influences in Florida. The first essay in this section offers a historical analysis that begins with Spanish colonization. The section ends with an examination of late-twentieth-century southern African-inspired artwork. This section exemplifies the diversity of content throughout the collection. However, it is the least cohesive section and illustrates some of the text's conceptual challenges. For example, Adrian Castro's poem valiantly engages Africa and the diaspora, but the connection to Florida is tenuous at best and only established through an interview with him about the Ekpe Leopard Society.

Part 2 is composed of six chapters loosely centered on the experiences of Africans and their descendants during the antebellum period. Jane Landers and Sagrario Cruz-Carretero contribute two of the more exciting chapters in this section. Both essays situate Florida firmly within the Spanish world, not only challenging traditional narratives of the black Atlantic but also shifting the geographic perspective away from the United States. …

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