VICE by Gilbert King
April 17, 2018
Virgil Hawkins wanted to go to law school. His home state waged “an undeclared second civil war” to keep him from doing so.
The following has been adapted from Pulitzer Prize winning author Gilbert King‘s new book Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found, out April 24 on Penguin Random House.
By 1900, most of the Seminoles of America’s Southeast had been wiped out in battle, succumbed to disease or starvation, or been relocated to Indian territory west of the Mississippi. The population of Florida, at slightly more than half a million residents, was the smallest of any state in the South. In what was essentially still “pioneer country,” settlers dwelt largely in rural homesteads that stretched from the plantation belt in the Panhandle down to the swamps of the Everglades. In central Florida, cow hunters still roamed the swamps and prairies. Hardy men, they abided the swampy, mosquito- infested terrain and defied the frequent hurricanes, not to mention the indigenous bears, panthers, alligators, and wild boars. To protect themselves against the sun and rain, they wore thick, slouched wool hats and wide pants tucked into tall leather lace-up boots that shielded them from the razor- sharp leaves of saw grass and the plenteous rattlesnakes. What most notably identified them, though—and was said to give them and this rural “cracker country” their names—were the long, braided rawhide whips they cracked to drive cattle from the scrub to the trails and thence to the coastal markets that had been carved out over the past century. [READ MORE]