Florida Footprints: 500 years of North Florida History

A group of cattle standing on top of a building

Series Producers: Suzanne Smith, Mike Plummer, Rob Diaz de Villegas

Follow the footsteps of the men and women who created what we know today as the Sunshine State 


It has been more than 500 years since Juan Ponce de Leon first landed on the shores of La Florida. In 2012, WFSU Public Media began to explore the history of the North Florida during those five centuries for a special project. The end result was a 7-part documentary series called Florida Footprints and it focuses on the history of the Big Bend and Panhandle area. All of these documentaries are available for streaming on WFSU Passport. You can also watch them below. Watch in order or pick the time period that interests YOU.

Episode 1– Once Upon Anhaica (1513-1704)

Before there was Tallahassee, there was Anhaica.   This WFSU-TV documentary looks at the Big Bend area when the first European explorers arrived at Anhaica, the capital of the Apalachee people.  From the culture of the Apalachee to the creation of Spanish missions to the community we know today, it all began “Once upon Anhaica”.

Once Upon Anhaica, WFSU Public Media, Copyright 2012

Episode 2 – A Feral Land (1704-1845)

By the 18th and 19th centuries, Northwest Florida had been known to the Europeans for hundreds of years, but this area was far from tame.  Spanish, French, British, American and Native Americans fight for control over “A Feral Land” once known as La Florida. In the second of our ongoing documentary series, we explore the political, personal and physical battles in the area following the fall of the Spanish missions.

A Feral Land, WFSU Public Media, Copyright 2012

Episode 3 – The Confederate Road (1845-1865)

Plantations, cotton and slavery were a big part of middle Florida’s economy by 1860 and the election of a new President challenged that lifestyle. Florida Footprints follows the path the state took once it chose to march down “The Confederate Road.” From slavery and plantations to salt making and soldiers, we explore the skirmishes, battles, and life in Florida during the Civil War.

The Confederate Road, WFSU Public Media, Copyright 2013

Episode 4 – A State of Change (1865-1918)

This episode explores the history of the Big Bend and Panhandle area as Florida transitions through the uncertain times of Reconstruction following the Civil War into the rapidly changing world of the 20th century.   

A State of Change, WFSU Public Media, Copyright 2013

Episode 5 – A Patchwork Panhandle (1918-1945)

In “A Patchwork Panhandle,” WFSU-TV stitches together a variety of stories that happened within our viewing area during the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s.  From Prohibition and moonshine to New Deal work projects we explore the economic and social changes coming to the area. Plus, the rise of World War II training sites at the airfields and on the shores of the Big Bend that left a lasting impact.

A Patchwork Panhandle, WFSU Public Media, Copyright 2013

Episode 6 – The Paths of Progress (1945-1975)   

Following World War II, progress in North Central Florida takes several paths. It begins with a population explosion that has consequences on the economy and education.  New highways and interstates are developed to improve transportation and tourism.  And as civil rights issues and opposition to the war in Vietnam gain traction across the country, the city of Tallahassee and its two state universities become a hub for boycotts and protests.

The Paths of Progress, WFSU Public Media, Copyright 2013

Episode 7– Florida Ever After (1975- 2013)

North Central Florida emerges as the place we know today. Changes in the region’s economy, society and landscape accelerate.   This time period is not without challenges: A college campus deals with the devastation left behind by serial killer Ted Bundy; the outcome of a presidential election hinges on what happens in the state’s capital; and concern about the area’s natural resources becomes a source for political and public disagreement.  Each new event springing in some way from other events of the past. And this history will continue to influence “Florida Ever After.”

Florida Ever After, WFSU Public Media, Copyright 2014

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Suzanne Smith is Executive Producer for Television at WFSU Public Media. She oversees the production of local programs at WFSU, is host of WFSU Local Routes, and a regular content contributor.

Suzanne’s love for PBS began early with programs like Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and continues to this day. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri with minors in political science and history. She also received a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of Florida.

Suzanne spent many years working in commercial news as Producer and Executive Producer in cities throughout the country before coming to WFSU in 2003. She is a past chair of the National Educational Telecommunications Association’s Content Peer Learning Community and a member of Public Media Women in Leadership organization.

In her free time, Suzanne enjoys spending time with family, reading, watching television, and exploring our community.

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Mike Plummer is a content producer and editor for television at WFSU Public Media. He spent 25 years in commercial television as an art director, commercial director, promotion manager, station manager and creative services director before coming to WFSU in 2008. Mike likes to find the “unusual” or “out of the ordinary” stories in our Local Routes. He says the best part of his job is getting to know people he would otherwise probably not get a chance to meet. Mike is widowed, has a rescue dog named Dexter, and is constantly at war with the vines growing in his backyard.