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Columbia County Observer

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Lake City, Columbia County
Florida's Gateway to the Past

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 Child's Anti-Slavery Book

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?

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On April 23, 2019, WMC wrote:

I am writing in response to the comments following the, “. . . Gateway to the Past” article that was posted June 29.

There are two commenters. The first claims that “the battle” celebrated in the  Battle of Olustee Festival is part of the area’s heritage and therefore should be rightly celebrated. It should be pointed out that this battle and the flag associated with it were part of an act of treason against the United State of America. Celebrating treason, it seems to me, does not bring honor, but shame, to those who wish to celebrate it. The cause of the treason was the south’s desire to maintain the barbarity of slavery. Period.

The “State’s Rights” smokescreen does not hide the horror or the sins of slavery. In his letter the commenter makes very bad comparison between the treason of the south and the Cinco de Mayo festival that is the Mexican equivalent of our 4th of July. Again, freedom, as in Cinco de Mayo, is neither racist or treasonous. The true flag of the treasonous south is a white one, the flag of surrender. The grasping of the symbol of treason, and slavery, should be consigned to museums and other appropriate historical records, not displayed on city property.

The second commenter is more brief, but even more nonsensical. Black History month and Martin Luther King’s birthday celebrations are tributes first, to the black who built the southern economy, and second, to a man who, because of his leadership and commitment to non-violence, helped to minimize the conflict in the struggle for civil rights. It would make just as much sense, under his argument, to ban St. Patrick’s day.

While I agree with both commenters that the flag is a part of history, that is where is should remain; in the past and not in the present.


On July 17, 2015, a Lake City reader, wrote:

It is a part of our heritage because there was a battle fought right near our great city, and the seal shows that battle not just the flag. It's ok for Mexicans to wave their flag and have a cinco de mayo festival and that is not racist even though that flag only represents one race. People of color are allowed to be proud of anything they want, even "if" it is racist like the black panther party, but if white people were to do anything that someone believes to be racist then it is gospel. Liberals are all about tolerance until it is time for them to be tolerant of others. I for one believe that if you are ignorant enough to believe that our city and its seal are racist, stay away because we do not need your negativity here.


On July 16, David wrote:

They want to remove the flag that is part of history so do it fine with me but let's remove black history month to see how they like that and let's also get rid of martin Luther kings birthday as a holiday to ......


On June 29, 2015, a reader from White Springs wrote:

Lake City, Columbia County Florida's Gateway to the Shame of the Past


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