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History of Jacksonville, FL: Writers in Jax

This guide contains information and resources about Jacksonville, Florida. Resource selections include books, eBooks, databases, images, video, and websites about multiple topics relating to Jacksonville, Florida.

Writers in Jacksonville

Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane was born on November 01, 1871 in Newark, New Jersey. Crane spent some time in Jacksonville, Florida in 1896 where he met Cora Taylor, who would become his common law wife. Crane was working undercover as a seaman on the S.S. Commodore, a Jacksonville Steamship, when it sank in January 1897 off the coast of Daytona Beach, and he based his short story, The Open Boat, on the experience. Log into your library account through to read more about Stephen Crane's life here. Read about the re-discovery of the shipwreck of the S.S. Commodore by former FSCJ Professor Peggy Friedman here.


       Cora and Stephen Crane at a benefit party held in Brede Rectory Gardens, 1899.  Image courtesy: State Archives of Florida

George Dillon

Poet, translator, and editor George Dillon was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1906, though his family chose to move away just five years later due to the "unsuitable" climate. He attended school at the University of Chicago, then worked in advertising while writing and publishing poetry on the side. He was awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1932, the money from which allowed him to travel extensively in Europe. Dillon served in the Signal Corps during World War II and as the editor of Poetry magazine from 1937-1949, and collaborated on translations of Charles Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal with Edna St. Vincent Millay while the two were lovers. Log into your library account through to read more about George Dillon's life here, or read about him and samples of his work at the Poetry Foundation.

Frederick Douglass
       George Hill Dillon, image courtesy Wikipedia

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1891 (some sources disagree), in Eatonville, Florida, to Reverend John and Lucy Hurston. Zora's mother died when she was nine years old, and her father soon remarried. Her relationship with her stepmother rapidly deteriorated, and her father sent her to school in Jacksonville, Florida.

        Zora Neale Hurston, (1935-1943). Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Stetson Kennedy

"William Stetson Kennedy, a relative of famous hat manufacturer John B. Stetson, was born on October 5, 1916, in Jacksonville, Florida. Stetson Kennedy was widely known as the man who secretly infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and exposed the organization's secrets to the rest of the world. Kennedy was also a writer, an activist, and a collector of Florida folklore. Although Kennedy was accused of exaggerating the experiences in his book I Rode with the Ku Klux Klan, his contributions to the civil rights movement continue to be celebrated around the globe."

"Stetson Kennedy." Gale Biography in Context, Gale, 2012. Biography In Context,

        Stetson Kennedy by John Kennedy. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

"February 1947: Stetson Kennedy, author of the Ku Klux Klan study 'Southern Exposure', with one of the Klan's pamphlets entitled 'White Community'. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)" -- Image Date: 2/1/1947 -- Image Date: 2/1/1947

Madeline L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L’Engle Camp was born in 1918 in New York City, the only child of Madeleine Hall Barnett, of Jacksonville, Florida, and Charles Wadsworth Camp, a Princeton man and First World War veteran, whose family had a big country place in New Jersey, called Crosswicks. In Jacksonville society, the Barnett family was legendary: Madeleine’s grandfather, Bion Barnett, the chairman of the board of Jacksonville’s Barnett Bank, had run off with a woman to the South of France, leaving behind a note on the mantel. Her grandmother, Caroline Hallows L’Engle, never recovered from the blow.

“The Barnett scandal was just incredible for Jacksonville,” Francis Mason says. Mason, who is now in his eighties, is Madeleine’s cousin on her father’s side. He is the editor of Ballet Review and the chairman of the board of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. He recalls, “England had the Windsors, we had the Barnetts. In Jacksonville, we called Bion Barnett ‘King Tut.’ ”

Courtesy of The New Yorker Magazine April 12, 2004

A. Philip Randolph

"A. Philip Randolph was born Asa Philip Randolph on April 15, 1889, in Crescent City, Florida. He was the second son of James Randolph, a Methodist minister, and his wife, Elizabeth, both of whom were staunch supporters of equal rights for African Americans and general human rights. In 1891, the Randolph family moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where Asa would live for most of his youth, and where he would eventually attend the Cookman Institute, one of the first institutions of higher education for blacks in the country."

          Washington, D.C. Portrait of A. Philip Randolph, labor leader, 1942 by Gordon Parks.
            Image courtesy
  Library of Congress.

Frederick Douglass

Douglass was born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey in his grandmother's cabin on Holme Hill Farm along Tuckahoe Creek, Talbot County, on Maryland's Eastern Shore in February of 1818. Douglass never knew his exact birth date, but claimed February 14 as his day because his mother, Harriet Bailey, once referred to him as her "valentine." 

In 1889 Mr. Douglass give a speech in Jacksonville, Florida as part of his Southern tour. The speech took place at the Subtropical Exposition at the city's Waterworks, a site located only a few hundred yards from where FSCJ's Downtown Campus sits today. James Weldon Johnson, who attended the event, described Douglass' visit to Jacksonville in his autobiography:  "No one could ever forget a first sight of Frederick Douglass. A tall, straight, magnificent man with a lion-like head covered with a glistening white mane, who instantly called forth in one form or another Napoleon's exclamation when he first saw Goethe, 'Behold a man!' As I watched and listened to him, agitator, editor, organizer, counselor, eloquent advocate, co-worker with the great abolitionists, friend and adviser of Lincoln, for a half century the unafraid champion of freedom and equality for his race. I was filled with a feeling of worshipful awe." (To read the full text of Douglass's speech that day, click on the link to the PDF beneath the below photo.)

Log into your library account through to read more about Frederick Douglass's life here.

Frederick Douglass
       Frederick Douglass, 1879, by George Kendall Warren. Image courtesy: Wikipedia 

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in Dayton, Ohio to former Kentucky plantation slaves on June 27, 1872, and showed an interest in literature from an early age, becoming his high school paper's editor-in-chief and the class poet and publishing poems in the Dayton Herald even before he graduated.  After struggling to find work as a journalist due to his race, Dunbar took a job as an elevator operator which allowed him time to write the articles, short stories, and poems for which he would become famous. In 1893, he published the first of his eleven volumes of poetry, some of which were written in dialect. Dunbar went South in April 1900 to JacksonvilleFlorida, for a speaking engagement, after which he spent six weeks recuperating from tuberculosis in the home of his old friend James Weldon Johnson. Log into your library account through to read more about Dunbar's life here, read what James Weldon Johnson had to say about the poet in this brief biography from the Poetry Foundation, or learn a few details about Dunbar's stay in Jacksonville and the resurgence of his popularity as an author in this 2005 Washington Post review of The Sport of the Gods

         Paul Laurence Dunbar circa 1890. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

James Weldon Johnson

Johnson was born in Jacksonville in 1871 to a father who worked as a restaurant headwater at Downtown's famous St. James Hotel and a Bahamian immigrant mother who worked as a musician and school teacher and was raised in Lavilla. He received his bachelor of arts degree at Atlanta University in 1894, before returning to Jacksonville and founding the Daily American, the state's first African-American newspaper. He went on to become the first African-American to pass the bar exam since Reconstruction and the principal of Stanton, as well as the author of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," which his brother Rosamond set to music for a performance at Stanton to celebrate the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth and which quickly became known as the "Negro National Anthem." Log into your library account through to read more about Johnson's life here, learn more about why Johnson deserves to be celebrated from this article in the Jaxson, or watch Beyonce's rendition of Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing from 2018's Coachella festival.

       Portrait of James Weldon Johnson. Image Courtesy State Archives of Florida.

E. L. Konigsburg

"Elaine Lobl was born in New York on Feb. 10, 1930, and grew up in towns around Western Pennsylvania. She graduated at the top of her high school class in Farrell, Pa., and went on to earn a degree in chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. She did graduate work in organic chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh.
When she moved to Jacksonville with her husband, David, in 1952, she taught science at the Bartram School. She began to write stories when their youngest child started school. She and David, who have three children and five grandchildren, eventually moved to Ponte
Vedra Beach."

Elaine L. Konigsburg, 1997. Image courtesy Florida State College at Jacksonville's Writer to Writer.

Allport, Brandy Hilboldt. "An artist, writer, teacher, mother, homemaker ... The late Elaine Konigsburg could say: 'I have the most fortunate of careers'." Florida Times-Union, The (Jacksonville, FL), 28 Apr. 2013, pp. F-1. NewsBank, 

"E(laine) L(obl) Konigsburg." Gale Biography in Context, Gale, 2010. Biography In Context


Henry Miller

Henry Miller

American author, Henry Miller was born on December 26, 1891, in New York City.  He was a major literary force in the late 1950s largely because his two most important novels, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn,  prohibited from publication and sale in the United States for many years, famously tested federal laws concerning art and pornography. 

Henry Miller wrote a descriptive essay which wasn't published until later in his life.  This essay was titled, Gliding into the Everglades, which was an account of the time he spent in Jacksonville, Florida. 

"Henry Miller." Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale, 1998. Biography In Context, Accessed 29 Nov. 2018.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe, perhaps the nation’s biggest celebrity in the late 1860’s, visits Orange Park and Mandarin. Mrs. Stowe is mesmerized by the St. John River and purchases a home on the St. Johns at Mandarin where she and her theologian husband, Calvin Stowe, and twin daughters live for 15 winters.

        Harriet Beecher Stowe, circa 1852 by Gurney & Sons. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, Palmetto Leaves, is published in 1873. She writes the book from her Mandarin riverfront home. Palmetto Leaves largely details stories of everyday life in Mandarin and highlights Mrs. Stowe’s beloved St. Johns.

Harriet Beecher Stowe. (Library of Congress)

Writers at Florida State College at Jacksonville

Worth Quoting is a speaker series sponsored by Florida State College at Jacksonville which ran for over twenty years, beginning in 1982 when Ellen Goodman, syndicated columnist and author, came to Jacksonville for a speaking engagement. The Florida Junior College Television Department, then part of the Division of Continuing Education, recognized the value of capturing interviews with influential figures such as Ms. Goodman on tape and subsequently making them available to students and the community. Ellen Goodman’s audio taping was so successful that the decision was made to move to video, and Ms. Goodman was followed by notables such as Shirley Chisholm, Alice Walker, and Margaret Atwood (below). The initial focus on women and women’s issues gradually enlarged to include noteworthy men on social, political, and literary issues. Claude Pepper, Stanley Karnow, and Rushworth Kidder were among those who graciously granted interviews. The program ran on Channel 26, the educational channel which the College began operating in 1980 to host its telecourses. Eventually Channel 26 featured programming from 6 a.m. to midnight every day, and reached over 200,000 households.

Explore our full collection of Worth Quoting videos on our LibGuide here.


Representative Shirley Chisholm:


Alice Walker:


Margaret Atwood:


Writer to Writer is a series of interviews with local and national authors which ran for over a decade after launching with six pilot episodes (including interviews with science fiction and fantasy writer Alan Dean Foster and mystery writer Stuart Kaminsky) in 1994. The series started when Kathleen Clower, then the Director of Television Production for Florida Community College at Jacksonville, became interested in the Florida First Coast Writers Festival. An annual event sponsored by the College which offered writing and publishing workshops, the Festival was founded in 1985 by Professor Jack Surrency but had come under the direction of Professor Howard Denson by the early '90s. After attending one of the Festivals, Clower was impressed by the caliber of the speakers being brought in, and thought it would be worthwhile to create an interview series similar to Worth Quoting featuring them.  With the cooperation of Denson, Clower reached out to several of the authors schedule for the 1994 event, and convinced them to participate. Once the authors had committed, Clower built a simple set on which Writer to Writer could be filmed and then found interviewers who were familiar with the authors’ works and had read at least one of their books, including Mary Sue Koeppel, Carol Grimes, and Charlie Patton of The Florida Times-Union. Eventually Clower herself became the Festival coordinator, which made lining up interviews even easier, and she wound up producing over 50 episodes of Writer to Writer.

Although Writer to Writer was initially intended for cablecast on Channel 26, the educational channel which the College began operating in 1980 to host its telecourses, some of the programs achieved greater status.  Clower had a relationship with the Adult Learning Service (ALS) of PBS through some of the other programming she did for FCCJ, and when her contacts learned of the series they selected a number of programs to distribute to colleges, universities, and PBS stations nationwide by satellite feed.

Explore our full collection of Worth Quoting videos on our LibGuide here.


Alan Dean Foster


Connie May Fowler


James Hall


There are many published authors among FSCJ's faculty. Find them all on our LibGuide here.