Economic and Political Change
Working for Change
Strengthening Voting Rights
Political Change in
in Modern Florida
After years of planning and building,
Walt Disney's dream came true. Today Disney World in Orlando
is the most popular tourist destination in the world. Florida's
many attractions bolster the economy. The beaches, parks, and
theme parks draw millions of visitors from across the United
States and around the world. Tourism is Florida's largest industry.
It represents about one-fifth of Florida's total economy. In
2002, tourism generated nearly $50 billion in taxable sales.
Tourism provided nearly $3 billion in state sales tax revenues,
or total income.
Next to tourism, agriculture is the biggest
part of the economy. Florida is the nation's top producer of
citrus, sugarcane, tomatoes, and strawberries. Florida is also
a leading producer of eggs, beef cattle, and potatoes.
Florida's economy still relies strongly on tourism and farming,
Florida's job growth has developed with light industry and the
service industry. The state has been expanding its manufacturing
because of its good climate, improved air transportation, and
deep water port system. Florida's booming population also provides
Florida's economy has become more diverse in the last
50 years. Electronics, construction, and banking are important
industries. Florida is home to major international airports
and plays an important role in global trade. Among the largest
corporations with headquarters in Florida are Office Depot at
Delray Beach and Winn-Dixie Stores at Jacksonville.
Today, laws at the federal, state, and
local level protect the people of Florida against unlawful discrimination.
Discrimination is unfair treatment because of a person's race,
religion, ethnic background, age, or place of birth. All people
have the right to expect fair treatment in employment and housing
opportunities. They also have the right to expect fair treatment
in the state's hotels, restaurants, and other areas of entertainment.
This was not always the case, however. Many citizens were denied
their rights. Sometimes, racial violence erupted. One such incident
occurred in the town of Ocoee near Orlando. In November 1920,
two whites and at least five African Americans were killed in
a dispute over voting rights. Twenty-five houses and two churches
were destroyed. Most African Americans left the town. By 1925,
all the African Americans had moved away from Ocoee. In January
1923 mobs destroyed the homes of African Americans in Rosewood,
3 located in Levy County. Seventy years later, the Florida legislature
agreed to compensate survivors of the Rosewood tragedy.
Many Floridians worked to make sure that their fellow citizens would be able to live their lives without fear or discrimination. Mary McLeod Bethune worked for the right to education and freedom from discrimination for African Americans. Bethune founded a school in Florida for the children of African American railroad workers. Gradually, she raised enough money to found the Daytona Educational and Training School. This school later became Bethune-Cookman College. She served as an adviser on African American affairs to four presidents. In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt named her director of the Division of Negro Affairs. Bethune was the first African American woman to serve as head of a federal agency.
In 1934, an African American school
teacher named Harry Moore started the Brevard County National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Moore soon
built the NAACP chapter into a strong organization. Moore supported
equal pay for African American teachers, helped organize African
American voters, and fought against discrimination. When Moore
first began his efforts for voter registration in 1934, only
5 percent of Florida's African Americans who were eligible
to vote were registered. Sixteen years later, the percentage
had risen to 31 percent—a higher
percentage than in any other Southern state. Moore's efforts
to raise the status of African Americans angered many whites
who felt threatened by the prospect of equality of the races.
Moore and his wife, Harriette, were killed when a bomb was
exploded in their Mims, Florida home on Christmas Eve in 1951.
women won the right to vote in 1920 after the Nineteenth Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution became law. Mary Mann Jennings was
one of the strongest supporters for woman suffrage. She also
campaigned for better treatment of prisoners, highway beautification,
and Seminole Indian reservations. In 1928, Floridians elected
Ruth Bryan Owen to Congress. She was the first Democratic woman
elected to Congress from Florida. She sponsored bills to develop
Florida's rivers and harbors, including Port Everglades, which
today is among the nation's top seaports.
Doing away with the
poll tax in 1937 allowed poor Floridians to have a greater voice
in government. In 1944 the Supreme Court outlawed the all-white
primary elections that had limited African American voting in
In the late 1950s and early 1960s,
some Floridians pushed to challenge segregation. In Tallahassee
two Florida A&M students
were arrested for sitting in a whites-only section of a city
bus. A six-month bus boycott led to the desegregation of the
city's public transportation.
Robert Hayling, an African American
dentist, organized campaigns against segregated public facilities
in St. Augustine. Hayling was singled out and beaten by Ku Klux
Klan members for his activities, but refused to stop organizing
campaigns. He persuaded Martin Luther King, Jr., to take part
in the protests against segregated beaches, swimming pools,
and motels. The publicity surrounding the protests pushed Congress
to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act gave the federal
government broad power to prevent racial discrimination in a
number of areas.
Change in Modern Florida
The foundation of state and local
government in the state is set forth in the Florida Constitution.
The current constitution was ratified in 1968. Like the U.S.
Constitution, the Florida Constitution provides for three branches
legislative, and judicial. The 1968 constitution includes 23
sections on the rights of citizens and the limits of government
power. Once every 20 years a committee reviews Florida's Constitution
and proposes changes for the voters to consider. The committee
completed its last review in 1997–1998.
Leaders in Modern Florida
From the period of Reconstruction until well into the 1900s,
the Democratic Party was the strongest party in Florida politics.
Florida's first Republican governor since the Civil War, Claude
Kirk, was elected in 1967. Jeb Bush was elected the state's
43rd governor in 1998 and re-elected in 2002. He is the first
Republican to be re-elected governor in Florida's history.
individuals have made important contributions in government.
In the 1970s, Governor Reubin Askew of Pensacola opposed segregation
and supported busing students to schools outside of their district
to end racial segregation. Askew was praised for his courageous
stand, even by those who disagreed. Senator Barry Goldwater
of Arizona wrote to Askew, saying
"I do not agree with your feelings about busing, but
I must tell you I have great admiration for you, not only
for the courage it takes to maintain your position, but for
the forthright, understandable way in which you discussed
Askew was also instrumental in placing the
"Sunshine Amendment" on the ballot. This amendment established
Florida's commitment to open government.
Claude Pepper served
Florida in a long and distinguished career in both the state
and national governments. Pepper became an important spokesperson
for the elderly and worked to protect Social Security.
his two terms as governor, Bob Graham worked to preserve Florida's
rivers and beaches. He endorsed laws protecting wetlands and
managing growth. As a United States senator since 1987, Graham
has continued working for the concerns of Floridians.