Approximately 14, 000 years ago when it was allegedly explored for the first time by Juan Ponce de Leon (a Spanish explorer), Florida was just a piece of land sparsely populated with not more than 350,000 natives inhabitants and abundantly endowed with rich plant life. Fast forwarding the history to the current Florida, the population has rocketed to an estimated 18 million multicultural people-as of 2006- with hundreds of multibillion industries booming right in it.
This however, would not have been possible without the generous contributions made by the civil rights leaders, industrialization godfathers and most importantly, Florida governors who labored through dark times to make it the “Sunshine State” that we now nobly appreciate (Morris, 2009). Power shifts amongst the Florida governors can be traced back to the French, Spanish, British and American settlement in Florida just after Juan Ponce de Leon’s 1513 exploration.
During this period, power was dictated by the country that could stamp its authority through colonizing the most number of regions. Based on the positive prospects relayed by the surveys conducted by different, Florida was just the right place to catapult these colonialists to power (Morris, 2009). Consequently, these nations fought for domination and power changed from the Spanish, to the British, back to the Spanish and finally rested in Americans in the 19th century who since then has been in control of Florida (Division of Historical Sources, 2010).
In March 3rd 1845, Florida became the 27th state of U. S. A and William D. Mosley declared as its First governor. Some of the roles stipulated for a governor at during this time included: championing rule of law in the state, ensuring apt governance and working in tandem with the president to ensure that the county’s goals are achieved. At this time when Moseley took over, the white Americans were in control of most of the things.
African Americans -who were nearly half of the populace of Florida-, were constrained to working for the white farmers in their plantations. Being a democrat, Moseley tried to establish equality and disentangle the nappy roots of racial segregation. However, his efforts were soon thwarted with the coming of Governor Thomas Brown into power. A snail paced movement towards change was witnessed during Brown’s rule but Moseley’s dream was -before long resuscitated- with the election of the democratic Governor James E.
Broome-a democrat in 1852 (Morris, 2009). Based on the established governor’s policies which allowed four year duration in office, one chance for a second term through re-election and two-time governors being able to vie again after 4 years; the period between 1850s and 1900 witnessed power change mostly between democrats and republicans which translated to fluctuating policies from both ends.
In general, this period witnessed more popularity and power for governors which in-turn led to: the evacuation and surrender of Seminoles in the late 1850s, pioneered the fight for civil rights through the civil war in1860s, led to the readmission of Florida to the United States in 1868 and laid a platform for the reconstruction of Florida that included amendment of US constitution (Morris, 2009). By the early 20th century, 44 percent of the total population in Florida was African Americans.
In spite of the many civil rights forums that proceeded this time, the African Americans were still not allowed to vote, get elected into local offices or even federal offices. This greatly curbed this segregated lot by inhibiting their freedom of expression and limiting their involvement in vital institutions of power. The African Americans therefore continued to operate in the shadow of their subduing white masters. Meanwhile, industrialization was picking up and thus ensuring that Florida continued flourishing through cheap labor from immigrants.
This also meant that the governors got more powerful with the ever increasing population and escalating profits from the tourism sector (Division of Historical Sources, 2010). World war one (WWI) and the period following it, however, saw a reduction in power by the governors based on the massive destructions witnessed. It also led to the revival of ‘bad blood” between the blacks and whites which, prior to the war, was fading away. This increased insecurity, limited socioeconomic facilities and unstable political control was further made worse by the competition for jobs.
In effect, many blacks were lynched, their houses torched and their schools and churches destroyed by the superior white democrats. Governors Sidney J. Catts and Cary A. Hardee tried solving the racial cases by formation of special juries or opening of trials in court but more often than not, there was insufficient evidence thus the cases being left pending or simply being closed(Morris 2009). In an effort to revive the lost economic glory, Governor John Martin in conjunction with the government and the private sector decided to subsidize prices of investing in real estate.
This was aimed in attracting more people into it. However, their efforts faced a resounding blow from a series of hurricanes and the legendary 1929 Great Depression which saw the economy plunge further in a descending spiral (Morris 2009). This jinxed chain of mishaps made the governor less popular with the people as he was viewed as an underperformer. It was only until the pre-world war two (WWII) periods that the economy began to note an upward trend. This was fostered by the inventions in the military. A further boost came in 1949 from construction of the Kennedy Space Center as a test site for U. S.
A’s nascent missile program. An influx of people was noted by the immigrations department and by 1950; Florida was 20th in the rankings of most populous states in America. The immigrants came from many racial backgrounds leading to an increased multicolored population. This is what pioneered the passage of Civil rights Act of 1964 as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Morris 2009). From that point forward, there was been an increased representation of multicolored people in governance. Governors also became more powerful based on the many corporations, laws and responsibilities that they have to oversee.
The growing popularity of courts also acted as a fall-back for most of the governors that it almost made them untouchable and incorrigible. However, recent changes in laws and acts have ensured that a governor’s powers are regulated through checks and balances done by independent bodies. The main challenge that was present in the past and still poses threat to Floridians is the occurrence of hurricanes. It is therefore recommended that a lasting solution is found to this disaster that constantly robs Florida millions of dollars (Morris, 2009).
Currently, there has also been decentralization of power and despite governors still being powerful; their areas of jurisdiction have been trimmed. This has in effect made them more effective since they only have to focus on specific things like ensuring good governance of his state. In conclusion, Florida has cumulatively witnessed changing of power from the Spanish, French, British and finally to Americans. With the Americans in control, there has been constant struggle between democrats, republicans and independents. Underlying in this power quest, there has been racial segregation.
Throughout these struggles, there have been both bitter and sweet lessons. It is therefore important that we learn from our mistakes; focus on the future and be cautious not to forget our past or we will be doomed to repeat it! References. Morris, A. (2009). The Florida handbook. Rose. 32nd Biennial Edition. Retrieved April 29, 2010, from http://www. roseprinting. com/index. php? pageid=24 Division of Historical Sources. (2010). A brief history of Florida. MyFlorida. com. Retrieved April 29, 2010, from http://www. flheritage. com/facts/history/summary/
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