To Render Invisible
Jim Crow and Public Life in New South Jacksonville
University Press of Florida 2013
The story of the rise of Jim Crow in Jacksonville, Florida is in many ways illustrative of the challenges facing newly emancipated African Americans throughout the South with local officials erecting barriers to black participation; blacks building institutions to overcome those obstacles; then Southern bigots using the reaction of blacks as justification for both the initial barriers and further draconian measures.
This usually involved labeling black political action as in some way primitive, corrupt or unfairly self-interested. For example, many in the white establishment in Jacksonville resented that blacks voted for Republicans out of loyalty, yet they also attacked blacks for voting for ‘reform Democrats’ out of self -interest. So, the solution? Political education of some kind? Outreach perhaps? No, instead they implemented what was called the ‘Australian ballot’: a subway map style list of candidates with intersecting names and titles intended to either confuse or disqualify many black voters.
This hostility to black political agency extended to all aspects of public life in Jacksonville, with each reaction forcing blacks further from power and from view. Robert Cassanello’s To Render Invisible: Jim Crow and Public Life in New South Jacksonville (University Press of Florida, 2013) explores this dynamic in rich detail, helping further our understanding of the post Civil War but pre- Civil Rights era in the South. Robert was kind enough to speak with me. I hope you enjoy.