WFSU's Screening and Discussion:
"Invisible History: Middle Florida's Hidden Roots"

This event has been previously recorded and questions will no longer be accepted.

Invisible History: Middle Florida's Hidden Roots

The "Invisible History" documentary project will shed light on the little-known history of plantations and the enslaved in North Florida. By creating a visually compelling story that explores the history of a people who contributed so much to what Leon County is today, it aims to advance a sense of place and identity for hundreds of thousands of African Americans. The program depicts the invisible history of slavery in Leon County and attempts to trace its economic, social and political effects on our community today. [More]

WFSU is hosting a panel discussion event as an opportunity to use Invisible History: Middle Florida's Hidden Roots as a catalyst for important community conversation of the damaging social, economic, and political legacies that are rooted in slavery. Our panelists will maintain an informed discussion on the historical significance of these events.

This event took place virtually on Zoom. The video event has been previously recorded and the presenters are no longer accepting questions.

old photo of slaves in cotton fields florida map highlighting north florida

 

Documentary Preview

Invisible History: Middle Florida's Hidden Roots will air on WFSU-TV Thu., May 20th at 9pm/8c. [Schedule]
 

Panelist Information

Valerie Scoon

Valerie Scoon - Film Producer/Director
As an executive at Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films, Ms. Scoon’s credits include the Golden Globe nominated "The Great Debaters" starring Denzel Washington, as well as an adaptation of "Beloved" by the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Toni Morrison. Ms. Scoon's credits also include the made-for-TV movies, "Their Eyes Were Watching God" and “The Wedding", both starring Halle Berry. Ms. Scoon served as a Studio Executive at Warner Bros. and oversaw such films as "Malcolm X", directed by Spike Lee, and the children’s classic "The Secret Garden." She was also an Associate Director in News and Public Affairs at PBS, where she assessed documentaries for national distribution.

Currently, Ms. Scoon is a professor at the College of Motion Picture Arts at Florida State University and oversees the script development of graduate and undergraduate thesis films. During her time there, her students have won ten student Emmy Awards. She also teaches the documentary filmmaking class.

In addition, Ms. Scoon runs her own film company, True Visions, and completed a documentary, "Grenada: Colonialism and Conflict" on the psychological legacy of colonialism in Grenada. This documentary has been invited to screen in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Africa and throughout the Caribbean. Her most recent documentary, "Daring Women Doctors: Physicians in the 19th Century", aired nationally on PBS. She recently completed a documentary, "Invisible History" on the legacy of plantations and the enslaved in Leon County, Florida.

larry rivers

Larry E. Rivers
Larry E. Rivers is presently a Distinguished Professor of History at Florida A&M University (FAMU) in Tallahassee. Prior to becoming Distinguished Professor of History at FAMU, Rivers served as Professor of History from 2013 to 2017 at Valdosta State University (VSU) in Valdosta, Georgia. He was also the 8th President of The Fort Valley State University (FVSU) from 2006 to 2013.

Dr. Rivers’s education and experiences have prepared him for his various teaching and administrative positions. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from FVSU and a Master’s degree from Villanova University. He also earned two doctorate degrees. One Doctorate degree is in History and Curriculum Development from Carnegie Mellon University, and the other is in African and African American Cultural Studies from the University of London. Rivers served in both administrative and teaching capacities at Florida A&M University for over 29 years before assuming the presidency at FVSU.

Dr. Rivers is also a respected author, historian, and scholar. He has authored or co-authored 8 books on various aspects of Southern history. His book "Slavery in Florida: Territorial Days to Emancipation" captured three national awards, and his book "Rebels and Runaways: Slave Resistance in 19th Century Florida" received two history awards.

Fath Ruffins

Dr. Fath Davis Ruffins
Fath Davis Ruffins is the Curator of African American History and Culture in the Division of Home and Community Life in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. She has been a historian and curator at the Smithsonian Institution since 1981, working in several different divisions over that time. Between 1988 and 2005, she was the head of the Collection of Advertising History at the NMAH Archives Center.

She is a specialist in ethnic imagery in popular culture, the history of advertising, on the history of African American preservation efforts, and on the origins of ethnic museums on the National Mall. Ruffins has curated or consulted on several major African American exhibitions, and on many community history projects around the country. Between 2011 and 2014, she served as original project director of Many Voices, One Nation, an exhibition that opened at NMAH in 2017.

At present, she is at work on a project that examines how the Smithsonian Institution changed over the last fifty years to become more diverse in terms of collections, exhibitions and staff. The working title is "Curating While Black."

patrick mason

Dr. Patrick Mason
Mason is professor of economics and director of the African American Studies Program at Florida State University. His primary areas of expertise include labor, political economy, development, education, social identity and crime. He is particularly interested in racial inequality, educational achievement, income distribution, unemployment, economics of identity, family environment and socioeconomic well-being.

Mason is also the general editor of the International Encyclopedia of Race and Racism and has authored more then 90 articles, book chapters, books and other professional publications.

suzanne smith

Suzanne Smith
Moderating the discussion will be WFSU's Suzanne Smith. Suzanne is Executive Producer for Television at WFSU Public Media. She oversees the production of local programs at WFSU and is host of WFSU Local Routes.


slave trade downtown tallahassee, illustration
plantation house in present day tallahassee
slave trade downtown tallahassee, illustration
plantation house in present day tallahassee

More about this documentary.

The "Invisible History" documentary project will shed light on the little-known history of plantations and the enslaved in North Florida. This visually compelling story explores the history of a people who contributed so much to what Leon County is today, it aims to advance a sense of place and identity for hundreds of thousands of African Americans. The program depicts the invisible history of slavery in Leon County and attempts to trace its economic, social and political effects on our community today.

The domestic slave trade in Florida was centered in Leon. At least two prominent slave traders operated in the area, Paterson and Hughes and T. R. McClintock. Leon County was considered the heart of the cotton plantation belt in Florida. It contained a dense collection of medium to large plantations. In 1830, Leon was the most populated county in Florida with an approximately equal number of white and blacks. By 1860 the number of enslaved would have risen to 70% of the populous.

Scoon collaborated with co-producer Theresa Marsenburg, veteran journalist at WFSU-TV/The Florida Channel as well as FSU Film School colleague and cinematographer Mark Vargo, Sound Mixer, Pete Winter and alumna and editor Sheree Chen on the film. The noted actress Tyra Ferrell ("White Men Can’t Jump," "Empire") provided the narration, and Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Jahmal Nichols composed the score. The crew included students and alumni of FSU's Film School.