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Black Hibiscus - African Americans and the Florida Imaginary

Black Hibiscus

African Americans and the Florida Imaginary

Edited by John Wharton Lowe
Hardcover : 9781496848598, 314 pages, 4 color illustrations, January 2024
Paperback : 9781496848604, 314 pages, 4 color illustrations, January 2024

An exploration of the significant literary and cultural contributions from African Americans in the Sunshine State


Contributions by Simone A. James Alexander, José Felipe Alvergue, Valerie Babb, Pamela Bordelon, Taylor Hagood, Joyce Marie Jackson, Delia Malia Konzett, Jane Landers, John Wharton Lowe, Gary Monroe, Noelle Morrissette, Paul Ortiz, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Genevieve West, and Belinda Wheeler

The state of Florida has a rich literary and cultural history, which has been greatly shaped by many different ethnicities, races, and cultures that call the Sunshine State home. Little attention has been paid, however, to the key role of African Americans in Floridian history and culture. The state’s early population boom came from immigrants from the US South, and many of them were African Americans. Interaction between the state’s ethnic communities has created a unique and vibrant culture, which has had, and continues to have, a significant impact on southern, national, and hemispheric life and history.

Black Hibiscus: African Americans and the Florida Imaginary begins by exploring Florida’s colonial past, focusing particularly on interactions between maroons who escaped enslavement, and on Albery Whitman’s The Rape of Florida, which also links Black people and Native Americans. Contributors consider film, folklore, and music, as well as such key Black writers as Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Gwendolyn Bennett, Colson Whitehead, and Edwidge Danticat. The volume features Black Floridians’ role in the civil rights movement and Black contributions to the celebrated Florida Writers’ Project. Contributors include literary scholars, historians, film critics, art historians, anthropologists, musicologists, political scientists, artists, and poets.


"Convening a range of scholars of Florida’s African American literary and cultural history, Black Hibiscus offers a unique engagement with contemporary scholarship marked by clarity of vision and conceptual verve."

- Keith Cartwright, professor of English at University of North Florida

"Through interviews, first-person accounts, and traditional academic essays, Black Hibiscus disrupts typical racial and cultural narratives about Florida and shows the centrality of the Black experience to the state."

- Julie Buckner Armstrong, author of Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching

"Chapter to chapter, this groundbreaking and visionary anthology provides a dynamic engagement of the legacy of Black Florida. It is anchored by a fine historical introduction that takes the long view and highlights hidden dimensions of Florida history spanning back to 1528, while contextualizing this volume’s rich and revealing array of interdisciplinary essays and acknowledging writers who have foregrounded Florida in literature from Zora Neale Hurston to Edwidge Danticat. This sweeping anthology highlights Florida in the nation’s founding narratives by reminding us of its Black presence spanning back several centuries earlier than chronicled in conventional ones, while introducing innovative and cutting-edge methodologies for examining and thinking about Florida in fields such as southern studies and many more."

- Riché Richardson, professor at Cornell University and author of Emancipation’s Daughters: Reimagining Black Femininity and the National Body

"Black Hibiscus is a remarkable gathering of essays that causes you to re-encounter Florida as much more than its stereotypes. The collection not only makes you discover writers you may have known little or nothing about such as Albery Whitman and Gwendolyn Bennett, but also enriches your understanding of established authors such as Edwidge Danticat, James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, and Colson Whitehead. The essays range beyond writers to explore artists such as the Highwaymen, West Indian folklore in Florida, the history of the Yamasee, the legacy of the Ocoee massacre, and the Academy Award–winning film Moonlight. Be prepared to be enlightened, interested, and entertained."

- Veronica Makowsky, professor emeritus of English at University of Connecticut and editor emeritus of MELUS

"Black Hibiscus is an important collection of interdisciplinary essays on Florida’s Black cultural legacy. Together these essays offer a diverse exploration of the arts and literature of the Sunshine State; they tell a story about the allure of the exotic landscape with its dark undersides that begins in the colonial past and reaches to the contemporary moment. This book is a rich resource and excellent starting point for readers interested in Florida’s central role in the Black cultural experience and imagination."

- Annette Trefzer, professor of American literature at University of Mississippi