The Florida Negro, a FWP project or "special study" that has only recently been published, acknowledges, in the beginning of its chapter on amusements and diversions, just how little of the collective Florida landscape has been accommodated for the presence of African-Americans.

Even the large cities are noticeably deficient in community resources for both white and Negroes; for example, though Florida has thousands of miles of seacoast, a bathing beach and bath house for Negroes is the exception, rather than the rule. In general, there is little provision for diversion for this underpriviledged class, a situation especially unfortunate in the case of children. It may be responsible, among other things, for the large concentration of crime in Negro areas.

In a typically schizophrenic fashion it continues, in the very next sentence, switching tone,

nevertheless, the Negro is a cheerful individual. To a visitor who sees large groups of Negroes for the first time, it is always a matter of surprise that the least favored class in the community should be so care-free and happy; he is apt to conclude that the Negro is a natural-born optimist. At any rate, to observe the Negro at his less commonplace diversions, one must leave the city for the turpentine camps, the phosphate mines, and possibly the small saw-mill towns where the Negro is thrown upon his own resources for amusement. (56)

Read from the present-day perspective, this passage is ironically and breathtakingly blind: in one breath, acknowledging how blacks are plotted right out of the landscape, and in the next, writing them out of the discourse by treating them as the essentialized subject of scrutiny for an audience that is assumed to be completely white. In the context of 1930s discursive practices, however, this is far from unusual.





Juliet Gorman, May 2001


"I was going to the Pacific Coast and we happened to reach the Great Horseshoe Bend on the Great Northern. It's magnificent. If you've never seen it, you don't know what a tremendous spectacle it is...and so I saw this and I was very struck by the magnificence of America and all of a sudden it occurred to me, 'What the hell you lookin' at? This don't belong to you.'"

- Theodore Ward, black playwright and Federal Theater Project employee, quoted in Christine Bold (xiii)

Links that will take you outside of this discussion:

If you were intrigued by the question of how civic space is plotted in keeping with social hierarchies, you can go on to explore this question in the context of tour guides as a genre.