The African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) condemns the recent white supremacist massacre perpetrated against Black Americans in Jacksonville, Florida. As an organization dedicated to studying Black thought in all of its forms, we are also aware of the importance of condemning incidents of violence determined to destroy Black life. The violent shooting in Jacksonville has no place in a civilized, humane society.
Florida’s recent history must be taken into context when thinking about the shooting. The NAACP issued a travel advisory for the state in May of this year, arguing that the Sunshine State was “openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.” The recent battles over Critical Race Theory and the teaching of African American history in Florida classrooms has further added to a hostile climate towards Black Americans in Florida. That the shooter originally targeted Edward Waters University, the oldest historically Black college in Florida, is a telling sign of the continuing relationship between education and race in American history and life.
The state’s overall history is also worthy of consideration in this time of crisis. Going back to the age of colonization and conflict in North America, Florida became a site of enslaved African resistance in the 16th and 17th centuries. The 1739 Stono Rebellion in South Carolina was an attempt by enslaved Africans to make it to Spanish-controlled Florida, where they would have received freedom in exchange for military service on behalf of the Spanish crown. The state was the site of clashes between Seminoles and United States Army troops under Andrew Jackson in the early 19th century over the fate of Africans escaping slavery by fleeing into Spanish-controlled Florida. During Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement, Florida was time and again a place of both Black hope and white backlash.
Finally, we stand in solidarity with Black Americans living in Florida, trying to make the state a better place for all of its citizens to live in. We also stand in support of educators in the state who are actively resisting the state’s efforts to whitewash United States history.
We remind our readers that this is but a pattern of violence directed at Black Americans and other minority groups throughout the United States in recent years. A pattern of “lone wolf” violence reminds us all that anti-Black violence can take many, and equally insidious, forms. This weekend’s anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom gives us the fuel to continue the struggle for justice and human rights. As a son of Florida, James Weldon Johnson, wrote, “let us march on till victory is won.”permission.