Famous Bastards of Florida, Ep. 3
She had a way with words......
In case I haven’t clearly explained what a racist, white supremacist agenda Florida has had since it became part of the US, here’s the story of one of Florida’s worst. I wish that I had more to say as way of intro; she…she just sucked……
Caroline Mays Brevard was born with a silver grapefruit spoon in her mouth. Her mother, Mary Laura Call, was the daughter of Richard Keith Call, who served as the third and fifth territorial governor of Florida. He also served as the personal aide to Andrew Jackson during the First Seminole War and commanded Florida’s militia during the Second Seminole War. Although he vocally supported the Union, he was an enslaver, holding 118 people in servitude at the time of his death. Her father, Theodore W. Brevard, Jr, was the privileged son of a Tallahassee judge so prominent that a county bears his name, while Jr served as a Confederate general.
She was born in 1860 on her family's plantation near Tallahassee. Being only four years old when the Confederacy surrendered, she missed her chance to live – or even be aware of – her best life as a member of the southern aristocracy bolstered by chattel enslavement. But she wasn’t about to let that stop her from pining for the salad days of her pre-conscious toddler period.
As is the American way, even being a general in an army of insurrectionists did little to change the fortune of the Brevard family, who educated Carrie in private schools in Tallahassee and a small seminary in North Carolina. Upon graduation, Carrie began teaching history and English in the original incarnation of Florida State University at the age of 18. The version of history she taught was….. unique, and the Florida Department of State website lists her as a “historian, preservationist, and educator” but also critically mentions her “inaccurate and idealized version of antebellum plantation life based on white supremacy, which would have featured benevolent masters, southern belles, and African Americans who accepted enslavement without resistance.”
Carrie was so enamored with her version of Florida history that she wrote a book on the subject. In it, she was incredibly sympathetic to the colonizers and perpetrators of genocide who’d made their way through Florida, from Juan Ponce de Leon to Andrew Jackson. Using appropriate vernacular to show that she was “down”, Brevard spiced her reporting of interactions with Native leaders with such phrases as “Great Spirit,” “forked tongue,” and “buried the hatchet.” Portraying the betrayals of Florida Natives on the part of early governor William Pope DuVal as “generous” and “lenient” she also painted DuVal as “courageous” in his disgrace of the leader, Enamathla. To call these or her relaying of several events inaccurate would be complimentary. Surprisingly, there are also four pages devoted to the life of her grandfather, R. K. Call. But wait, it gets better.
Carrie was a firm believer in the inalienable right of states to secede from the union as easily as they had entered. Unapologetically, she describes the bravery required to split with the union that only fifteen years earlier had admitted the state and provided ample opportunity for early Floridians to make their fortunes on the federal teat. Although Florida was the Confederacy’s bitch, being looted for food, livestock, and able bodies for cannon fodder, she rhapsodizes the sacrifices made and the bravery of those who worked for the “Lost Cause.” She creates a glorified, Washington Irving-esque portrayal of the Battle of Olustee, in which traitor troops, led by her father, massacred Black Union soldiers. But at least she was honest in her acknowledgment of enslavement being a major cause of the Civil War because she was all about it.
After the longest chapter in the book hails the victories against the Union oppressors and glorifies Confederate heroes, in the next chapter she launches into the untenable horrors of The Reconstruction as perpetrated on white people in the south. Only three pages into the chapter, a section starts: “Negroes Franchised; Whites Disenfranchised” which proceeds to describe the noxious policies that allow “Negroes” to vote while many of their traitorous-ass former enslavers are denied the same right. After a short diatribe about “illiterate” Blacks writing laws in the first post-war meeting of the legislature and congress being accepting of same, she moves on to describe the suffering of whites under heavy taxation and the “Negro” excitement about politics that left them loathe to work the fields anymore when they could aspire to elected office. Now “Carpet Baggers” held the majority of offices with the rest held by Blacks, leaving the honorable, white insurrectionists without voice or power.
The rest of the book, amended since its first publication in 1904, describes Florida’s plucky boot-strapism of thriving during Jim Crow, gives an accounting to increased coffers from convict leasing, and glorifies the Spanish-American war before ending with a quick mention of World War I and the sacrifices made by Floridians to aid the cause. Yay, White Floridians!
Her special breed of revisionist history was not limited to her writing, though. Carolyn Mays Brevard served as the first president of the Anna Jackson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which she organized in 1898. Under her leadership, the DoC was responsible for funding and placing multiple Confederate memorial statues throughout Florida. These statues served to memorialize a time and way of life that Brevard wasn’t even old enough to remember but also served as a reminder to Blacks throughout the South that white people had not forgotten the indignities of the Lost Cause and reconstruction. There was always a rebel soldier in the town square to keep them in line.
The only worthwhile thing that Brevard ever did in her public life was to be a strong supporter and organizer of the Suffrage movement. Unfortunately, given her track record, one can safely assume that her desire to vote came with a very stringent agenda. She died in 1920, just months before the ratification of the 19th amendment.
Now for the Great Reveal – Brevard’s twisted History of Florida a textbook. It was REQUIRED READING in Florida public schools from the time it was published until the 1920s, when even the racist legislature at the time said, “Uhm, this is problematic.” Present-day Governor Ron DeSantis is doing everything that he can to ensure that the history taught in Florida schools is whitewashed and sanitized. What a fucking amateur. It’s one thing to just keep things from evolving in a way that you don’t want. It’s a completely different, more entirely impressive thing to create the “truth” that he is ensuring is still taught. Brevard wins.