© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Florida Humanities celebrates 50 years sharing stories of our state

A man wearing glasses smiles while displaying a book
Matthew Peddie, WUSF
Nashid Madyun, executive director of Florida Humanities, displays a copy of 'Once Upon a Time in Florida', a collection of essays celebrating the organization's golden anniversary

The mission of Florida Humanities is to help Floridians make sense of this complex, dynamic state by elevating stories about its culture, history and literature. A new book, "Once Upon a Time in Florida," celebrates the organization's golden anniversary.

Florida Humanities was founded fifty years ago, not long after the creation of the National Endowment for the Humanities. "Once Upon A Time in Florida," a collection of essays from the organization's magazine, Forum, celebrates the state's history and culture.

Florida Matters sat down with Dr. Nashid Madyun, executive director of Florida Humanities, and Jacki Levine, the editor of "Once Upon a Time in Florida" for a conversation about what went into the creation of this book. They talk about what Florida stereotypes are wrong, how much we don’t know about this vast, complex state, and how the humanities can provide a more complete picture of Florida during a time of rapid change.

"I think Florida has been the unlikely, unfortunate recipient of a keen interest and sensationalism," said Madyun, noting the state's "rich treasure" of artists, musicians and Pulitzer Prize winning writers.

"I believe that Florida doesn't get its just due, which is why Florida Humanities is so vital. We can find those gems, those stories, and unearth them. And through scholarship and good journalism, we can present the real true identity of Florida and Floridians."

Jacki Levine
Florida Humanities
Jacki Levine

Levine said the book celebrates Florida while acknowledging its flaws.

"Florida is deep and rich and valuable, and it's not just something to be exploited. It's not just something that people are drawn to, because there's sunshine and sea. But because there's a rich history, and there's a rich culture, and we come together and form these wonderful communities together, but yet we've had our problems and our challenges. And that's just part of the story, too," said Levine.

We also hear from some of the contributors to "Once Upon a Time in Florida": NPR TV and film critic Eric Deggans talks about how the stylized image of Florida in shows like Miami Vice affects the way others see the state, and how we see ourselves. WUSF’s Dalia Colon reads from her profile of former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen, whose family sought refuge in Florida after fleeing Communist Cuba. Historian Gary Mormino muses on the demise of the once mighty citrus industry, and Pulitzer Prize winning author Jack Davis describes the "beauty and bluster" of the Gulf of Mexico and its impact on the state.

I am the host of WUSF’s weekly public affairs show Florida Matters, where I get to indulge my curiosity in people and explore the endlessly fascinating stories that connect this community.
Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.