Dr. Jerald T. Milanich

AVON PARK, Fla. – Jan. 31, 2019 – Through a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant, South Florida State College (SFSC) will offer the research and creative work by two history scholars and a professional storyteller in a showcase on early Florida called “First Forays into Florida” on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 3:15 p.m. in the SFSC University Center Auditorium on the Highlands Campus in Avon Park. Members of the community are welcome to attend for free.

The event will begin with a faculty and student showcase displaying Florida-themed undergraduate research in the arts and humanities.

Presenters for “First Forays into Florida” are Dr. Jerald T. Milanich, professor emeritus at the University of Florida; Dr. Maurice O’Sullivan, professor of English at Rollins College; and Carol Mahler, storyteller and singer-songwriter from Arcadia, Fla.

Dr. Maurice O’Sullivan

Dr. Milanich’s talk is called “Women in Spanish Moss Sarongs and Alligators with Ears: Theodore de Bry’s Famed 1591 Engravings of Florida Indians.” These controversial engravings are the first and most complete record of Florida’s vanished First Peoples, but they have long been seen as marked by artistic license. Were they spawned from imagination, written accounts, and borrowings from previously published images or based on paintings done by a French colonist, Jacques le Moyne?. According to Milanich, there is a 420-year-old mystery here involving Sir Walter Raleigh, English investors, a dead French artist, a live English artist, a prolific British promoter, the lost Roanoke colony, two French noblemen, and ancient Picts from the British Isles. Through his illustrated presentation, Dr. Milanich will unravel the mystery.

Dr. O’Sullivan will present “Have Ye Not Hard of Floryda?: Early Spanish, French, Portuguese, English, and Latin Accounts of Florida.” “I’m actually finishing up a manuscript on the state’s colonial literature in Spanish, French, Latin, Portuguese, and English,” he said. When explaining the title of his presentation, Dr. O’Sullivan said, “That’s, of course, the title of the first English poem about Florida, printed in either 1563 or 1564—the year Shakespeare was born.”

Carol Mahler

Mahler specializes in telling Florida folklore and will draw her presentation from tales in the Seminole, African-American, and Florida Cracker traditions. Combining education and entertainment, she has also performed stories about Florida throughout the state, at the Florida Folk Festival, and at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

“The National Endowment for the Humanities is doing something innovative with its grant to SFSC,” said Charlotte Pressler, professor of English and philosophy and director of the Honors Program at SFSC. “Its program is designed to build up the knowledge base of SFSC’s faculty in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. We faculty can then refresh our own courses and offer our students exciting opportunities for research into this strange and wonderful state that is Florida. Florida’s history is like no other state’s history, and students can get involved with projects that illuminate the past, present, and future of this state they call home.

“The speakers, Drs. Milanich and O’Sullivan, are dynamic, engaging, and funny, and Mahler weaves compelling traditional tales. This event is our way of saying “Thank you” to the College, the community, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.”