Communists and Perverts under the Palms:
The Johns Committee in Florida, 1956-1965

Stacy Braukman

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"Clearly and closely analyzes the actions and motivations of one of the segregationist South’s most formidable institutions. Based on archival source materials, this is an original and important addition to our expanding knowledge of the mechanics of southern resistance to desegregation and the development of modern conservatism."--George Lewis, University of Leicester

In 1956, state Senator Charley Johns was appointed the chairman of the newly formed Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, now remembered as the Johns Committee. This group was charged with the task of unearthing communist tendencies, homosexual persuasions, and anything they saw as subversive behavior in academic institutions throughout Florida. With the cooperation of law enforcement, the committee interrogated and spied on countless individuals, including civil rights activists, college students, public school teachers, and university faculty and administrators.
Today, the actions of the Johns Committee are easily dismissed as homophobic and bigoted. Communists and Perverts under the Palms reveals how the creation of the committee was a logical and unsurprising result of historic societal anxieties about race, sexuality, obscenity, and liberalism. Stacy Braukman illustrates how the responses to those societal anxieties, particularly the Johns Committee, laid the foundation for the resurgence of conservatism in the 1960s. Braukman is considered and nuanced in her stance, refusing a blanket condemnation of the extremism of a committee whose influence, even decades after its dissolution, continues to be felt in the culture wars of today.

Stacy Braukman is an independent scholar and coauthor of Gay and Lesbian Atlanta.

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Rembert Patrick Book Award - 2013
Finalist, Lambda Literary Awards - 2012
Southern Association of Women Historians Willie Lee Rose Prize - 2013

"Braukman's research is meticulous, and her 'page-turner' narrative offers a window into the past as one contemplates today's social, cultural, and political hatreds." … "A must read for social, cultural, and African American specialists and political scientists of the postwar era." CHOICE

"Provides a valuable genealogy of right-wing, anti-gay, and anti-progressive organizations--how they grew and gave birth to similar organizations." The Gay & Lesbian Review

"One of the best, and the most important, books of the year." Lambda Literary

"Historians of the South, McCarthyism, and the rise of conservatism will benefit from Braukman's important book." Journal of American History

"A smart, pertinent, and readable work…Braukman neatly weaves a complex story into a chronological analysis of the FLIC’s motives, outcomes, and targets…this work unlocks, opens, and exposes what took place behind closed doors as he porkchoppers and their supporters aimed to suppress those they viewed as subversive…this work will serve as a foundational text for understanding the roots of the modern culture wars and renewed challenges to liberalism." Tampa Bay History

"Braukman's careful exposition performs a useful service." American Historical Review

"Braukman argues persuasively that attention to Florida politics is essential to an understanding of postwar political culture...reveals so compellingly the tangled cold war roots of the racial and sexual politics of the New Right." The Journal of Southern History

"A fine chronicle of this distressing episode in our history." H-Net Reviews

“Communists and Perverts under the Palms is the most comprehensive treatment of the Johns Committee, making it essential reading for those interested in this intriguing aspect of Florida history.” Florida Historical Quarterly

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