Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Joanne Melish

Second Advisor

Dr. Ronald Eller

Abstract

This dissertation examines the emergence of Florida from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the twentieth century through the lenses of Jacksonville, Pensacola, Tampa, and Miami as they became the major economic and social centers within the state. Influenced by Union and Republican ideologies, early immigration tracts promised egalitarian land development rooted in the promise of citrus, diversified agriculture, real-estate, and the promise of tourism. As more northerners came to rely upon cheap black labor to make their dream a reality, the earlier narrative of egalitarianism began to loose ground to the demands for inexpensive labor. The need for quicker and faster conveyance for the new fruits and vegetables also required large land grants to entice railroads to the state, which in turn, threatened the subsistence lifestyle upon which many of the immigrants and farmers depended. As higher land prices pushed poor whites and African Americans deeper into the Florida frontier, unprecedented corporate and railroad land subsidies gobbled up much of the remaining unclaimed lands leading to unprecedented social, economic, and political turmoil across the state. As greater profits via shipping rates, agricultural production, and industrial output came to dominate the political economies of each of the cities, the earlier social and economic needs and desires of farmers and laborers that Republican and northern ideologues tried to protect increasingly lost ground to calls for a two tiered economic and social system that put the monetary needs of Florida’s white citizens, businesses, and corporations over those of its African American and ethnic populations resulting in statewide disenfranchisement, social segregation, and economic stratification that placed whites at the top of the economic ladder with African Americans largely relegated along the bottom rungs of the social and economic order. Although this outcome reflects a regional pattern that swept across much of the South, this work shows that for a brief period of 35 years, Florida offered a unique moment when the state and its cities moved to protect and encourage the individual desires of freedmen, poor whites, laborers and ethnic immigrants to promote and encourage growth, settlement, and development.

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