Lake City, Columbia County
Florida's Gateway to the Past
Posted June 29, 2015 08:20 am | (3 comments)
LAKE CITY/COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – To some, the Stars and Bars represents: secession from the United States of America, war, destruction, killing, maiming, father against son, brother against brother, family against family, hate, the right to own human beings as property (slavery), Jim Crow.
To others the Stars and Bars represents: heritage, history, a source of pride, a remembrance of soldiers killed, secession from the United States of America, war, destruction, killing, maiming, father against son, brother against brother, family against family, hate, the right to own human beings as property (slavery), Jim Crow.
The Civil War had as its origin the issue of slavery. On January 10, 1861, Florida was the third state to secede from the Union. Its population was 66% slaves.
On February 20, 1864, to the east of Lake City in Baker County, the Battle of Olustee was fought.
For the past 39 years, the South's victory over the north has been celebrated in Lake City and fought again and again. The 2016 Battle will be the 40th reenactment.
The Olustee "Festival"
Defenders of the Olustee Battle reenactment call it the Olustee "Festival."
In Columbia County – Lake City, Florida, this festival represents a way to make money, is sponsored by the County and City governments, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Columbia County Tourist Development Council.
Local businesses like First Federal Bank of Florida, Lifeguard Ambulance, and the Lake City Reporter (the "hometown" newspaper) sponsor the "Festival."
The City/County fathers explain the "Festival" teaches the heritage of the times.
The "Festival" recreates the battle in which the South won. A battle fought to maintain the principles of the Confederacy.
The "Festival" has vendors selling Civil War mementos like the Stars and Bars and we are told the "Festival" recreates the life style of the times for all folks to see.
Not the Whole Lifestyle
The "Festival" doesn't recreate the cotton fields where the cotton was picked by slaves. The sponsors don't want anybody to see that.
The "Festival" doesn't recreate a slave auction. Nope, the sponsors don't want anybody to see that.
The Weeping Time:
In March of 1857, the largest sale of human beings in the history in [of] the United States took place at a racetrack in Savannah, Georgia.
It is a dreadful affair, however, selling these hereditary Negroes. . . . Families will not be separated, that is to say, husbands and wives, parents and young children. But brothers and sisters of mature age, parents and children of mature age, all other relations and the ties of home and long association will be violently severed. It will be a hard thing for Butler to witness and it is a monstrous thing to do. Yet it is done every day in the South. It is one among the many frightful consequences of slavery and contradicts our civilization, our Christianity, or Republicanism. Can such a system endure, is it consistent with humanity, with moral progress? These are difficult questions, and still more difficult is it to say, what can be done?
The Negroes of the South must be slaves or the South will be Africanized. Slavery is better for them and for us than such a result. (emphasis added)
Lake City Reporter: The "hometown" newspaper
In 2014, the Lake City Reporter (the "hometown" newspaper) was a sponsor of the Olustee "Festival." On page two of the paper, it showed editor Robert Bridges holding up a "Festival" poster with County Court Judge Tom Coleman dressed to the nines in his Confederate General uniform. The Judge cut a striking figure.
In an editorial, Mr. Bridges wrote: "Forget politics... Whatever social, political and economic forces conspired to bring the U.S. Army here were no longer of any consequence... This weekend we come together... in solemn homage to the most basic impulse we know: the defense of that which we hold dear... united above all in our love of freedom... The essence of Olustee weekend: a time to celebrate America – past, present and future – in all its diverse glory."
The City Seal
On every Lake City vehicle one will find the Confederate Flag. For years the only flag represented was the Confederate Flag. Then, sometime ago, folks in the City rebelled against the symbol. The City Council came up with a solution: put the Confederate Battle Flag next to the American Flag. This would make everything all right.
In 2012, the NAACP's Tallahassee President Dale Landry was in Lake City for a NAACP meeting. He told your reporter, "We are coming back here next year to help them celebrate the Olustee Festival. There are two states that passed resolutions for the condemnation of the Confederate flag. Florida is going to be the third state and we are going to do it at the Olustee Festival. We're coming back."
Dale Landry and the NAACP didn't come back.
In light of the recent tragedy which has folks all over revisiting the place of the Confederate Flag and the heritage of the South, will Lake City/Columbia County do the same?