Irvin D.S. Winsboro

Irvin D.S. Winsboro

Irvin Winsboro is the editor of Old South, New South, or Down South? Florida and the Modern Civil Rights Movement and a professor of history, African-American Studies, and Florida Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University.

What do you hope your audience will take away from a reading of Old South, New South or Down South?
That Florida was not and is not an “exception” to the rabid and violent racism of the Old South and of the Gulf South States. Moreover, Florida has not been as “progressive” a state as the literature would have us believe. The much-vaunted northern in-migration of liberal attitudes in Florida is a fallacy, once one examines the record closely, rather than anecdotally.

What was the reason behind having multiple authors contribute to this book?
Edited works like this are essential for addressing complex and cutting- edge issues—topics that are better served by multiple approaches and authors and diverse perspectives. Also, having multiple authors argue for new ways of viewing and interpreting the past (in this case, Florida’s presumed exceptionalism and progressivism regarding race relations) present readers with more credibility than a sole author’s work might.

Describe the extent of research that went into this book.
For me, the research for this book has monopolized the lion’s share of my professional career and my years as an academic in Florida. This is not the result of a year’s worth of trips to archives and so forth; it is the result of decades of research and publishing on Florida, during which I began to envision the state in manners contrary to the traditional histories. As for my contributors, most of them have spent careers exploring their own subjects in their respective chapters.

How was the collection of nine essays chosen?
Primarily by me based on scholarship, originality, use of new material, original studies of situational protest and violence, challenges to convention, readability, and force of argument. I also selected the chapters based, in part, on the “big names” in the field I wanted in the book and the use of rising, promising scholars.

Was there an essay you favor over the others?
Yes, I favor Marvin Dunn’s opening chapter, because it directly challenges convention, and I favor Paul Ortiz’s closing chapter, because it “drives home” the purpose of the book, and also casts it in a new light regarding Florida’s past and future. No hubris meant, but I favor my chapter, as well. It is a well-researched piece and speaks powerfully to the fallacy of a “progressive” Florida in the face of court-ordered desegregation. As my chapter points out, Florida had not desegregated many of its school districts as late as 1969—a decade and a half after Brown.

Was it difficult to maintain a collective voice?
No, this is the task of a book’s editor, and I always kept this in mind as I progressed through the multiple stages of this work. As I tell my graduate students as they complete their research papers: stay focused like a laser beam!

Did you come upon anything surprising while writing the book, a conclusion you didn’t expect?
As I read the chapter drafts and completed my own, long introduction, I discovered a number of new concepts and conclusions. This was, indeed, a growth process, especially regarding the troubling and violent nature of Florida’s racial past.

While writing the book, did you ever fear repercussions from Floridians preferring to maintain the more pleasant outlook on Florida’s civil rights history?
Yes, and I still do. This book will result in new paradigms of Florida history and will, by its nature, challenge convention and comfort zones. This is not a conventional approach to Florida history; it is a fresh and challenging approach. If accepted by the “establishment” scholars for what it’s worth, this book should rewrite Florida history and much of the history of the national civil rights movement.

What are your future plans/projects?
To publish other books on Florida’s freedom struggle, articles, and to deliver papers at conferences.