Ray Charles in 1968. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
When we think about classic soul and R&B music, we probably think of Detroit and Philadelphia, Chicago and Memphis. But we should think of the Sunshine State, too, writes John Capouya in his new book, Florida Soul: From Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band. Throughout the glory days of soul and R&B, from the late 1940s through the 1970s, Floridians made some of the most memorable music in those genres. Capouya recounts their lives and contributions in this deeply researched and affectionate book, enriched by interviews with many of the musicians themselves. Capouya is an associate professor of journalism and writing at the University of Tampa. He has a keen eye for the deeper context of popular culture, which was evident in his previous book, Gorgeous George: The Outrageous Bad-Boy Wrestler Who Created American Pop Culture. In Florida Soul he looks at the music not only as entertainment but as an expression of the culture and history that surrounded it. The heyday of soul and R&B was also the era of the civil rights movement, and these songs sometimes tell stories that reverberate well beyond their three-minute play times.
“I am Apalachee.” Their name graces scores of things — towns, schools and businesses in our nation.The Apalachee Tribe peopled an area in North Florida bordered by the Aucilla River and the Ochlockonee Rivers as early as the 1500s, but likely living here far longer than that. They were persecuted, run off, tortured and dismissed. They still exist as a tribe living now in Louisiana, and they are coming to Monticello on Thursday, Oct. 5, and Friday, Oct. 6. They were a statuesque people. They excelled at agriculture, creating the “old fields” early Floridians farmed. They grew corn, squash, pumpkin and beans. They traded as far away as Indiana, Cuba and Texas. There were more fields in Jefferson County then than there are now. They were fierce warriors. De Soto noted in his diaries that the Apalachee “were bigger than normal, have more food and are fierce.” Today the Apalachee still drift towards the military and law enforcement. They have been loyal Americans fighting each time they were called.
Jim Lynch witnessed nearly two years of the American military’s involvement in Vietnam through the lens of his camera. As an Army photographer, he went all over country — often with his feet dangling out of a helicopter — shooting photos and telling stories for the Army. When he moved to Gainesville, he worked for 30 years as director of Alachua County’s office of veterans services. Our conversation took place Aug. 18, 2017, at American Legion Post 16 in Gainesville.
If you want to get in a fight with a South Floridian, bring up Key lime pie. Should the crust be graham cracker or pastry? Crown the filling with meringue or whipped cream? And most hotly argued of all—do you have to use true Key limes? Absolutely, says David Sloan, a co-founder of the Key Lime Festival (July 1-4 in Key West), and author of The Key West Key Lime Pie Cookbook. “The main difference is the acidity,” Sloan explains. “Key limes are more tart, acidic, and they’re juicier.” The golf-ball sized limes sport a skin that turns yellow when ripe—those bags of tiny green limes at the grocery store are likely imported fruit picked prematurely, he says. Key limes, or Citrus aurantifolia, are native to Southeast Asia, made their way to Mediterranean Europe, and arrived in America with Christopher Columbus. By the nineteenth century, the limes thrived as a commercial crop in the Keys. “They adapted so well to the climate because they could survive heat and not a lot of rain fall,” Sloan says. By 1917, acres of groves in the Upper Keys shipped 60,000 crates annually.
Earlier this year, Florida’s House of Representatives issued a formal apology to the descendants of the Groveland Boys. Thurgood Marshall might have been pleased to see a historic wrong acknowledged. On this day in 1967, Marshall was confirmed as the first African-American Supreme Court justice. More than 15 years earlier, he had defended the Groveland Boys’ little-remembered case. It’s not commonly cited in histories of his life, even though he is credited as one of the most important lawyers of twentieth-century America, and the case stayed with him his whole career. In 1951, Marshall was the director-counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense Fund. He was known colloquially as “Mr. Civil Rights.” He was already preparing for Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark desegregation case for which he shaped the NAACP’s legal strategy on the doctrine of “separate but equal.”
In the darkest days after the storm, when the basic comforts many take for granted — power, water, toilets, contact with the outside world — were wiped out by Hurricane Irma, the Conch Republic took care of its own. With roads and airports wrecked and waters near the shoreline littered with dangerous debris, rescuers and emergency officials struggled to reach the Middle and Lower Keys by land, sea or air. Residents who stayed found themselves with no means of communication. Amid those conditions, neighbors in the Florida Keys put their own interests aside to help each other — and one act of altruism fed into the next.
After flooding homes and scattering debris across parts of Florida, deadly Hurricane Irma unearthed a dugout canoe that researchers believe may be hundreds of years old. The relic was discovered by resident Randy “Shots” Lathrop, who immediately recognized the historic value of the boat and notified the state’s Division of Historical Resources, according to a Facebook post. “It looked just like a log,” Lathrop told ABC News. “My main concern was to secure it from harm’s way. I was able to go half a mile away and get my friend with a truck and we struggled to get into the back of the truck. “It weighs almost 700 pounds, but to me, it might as well have weighed 1,000 pounds. It’s been water soaked for years,” he added.