State of Defiance
Challenging the Johns Committee's Assault on Civil Liberties

Judith G. Poucher

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"Looks at Florida's Johns Committee in a new way: through the lives and memories of Floridians affected by its persecutions in the 1950s. Their stories are inspiring, disturbing, and instructive."--Sarah H. Brown, author Standing Against Dragons

"Readers will learn a great deal from the lives of these unsung but extraordinary people who refused to cower before this instrument of legislative terror."--Steven F. Lawson, author of Civil Rights Crossroads

The Johns Committee, a product of the red scare in Florida, grabbed headlines and destroyed lives. Its goal was to halt integration by destroying the NAACP in Florida and smearing integrationists. Citizens were first subpoenaed under charges of communist tendencies and later for homosexual or subversive behavior.

Drawing on previously unpublished sources and newly unsealed records, Judith Poucher profiles five individuals who stood up to the Johns Committee. Virgil Hawkins and Ruth Perry were civil rights activists who, respectively, foiled the committee’s plans to stop integration at the University of Florida and refused to divulge Florida and Miami NAACP records. G. G. Mock, a bartender in Tampa, was arrested and shackled in the nude by police but would not reveal the name of her girlfriend, a teacher. University of Florida professor Sig Diettrich was threatened with twenty years in prison and being "outed," yet he still would not name names. Margaret Fisher, a college administrator, helped to bring the committee's investigation of the University of South Florida into the open, publicly condemning their bullying.

By reexamining the daring stands taken by these ordinary citizens, Poucher illustrates not only the abuses propagated by the committee but also the collective power of individuals to effect change.

Judith Poucher is retired professor of history at Florida State College.
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Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Award - 2015

“Focuses on five ‘ordinary’ individuals subjected to the committee’s public and private interrogations who refused to give up the names of others… Poucher exposes a seamy and prurient side of the committee’s activities.”
--Florida Times-Union

Presents a diverse cast of men and women battling for civil liberties.
--Lambda Literary

Poucher’s book adds new dimensions to the historiography of the Johns Committee by focusing on five who thrived, not just survived. Lawson’s edits strengthened the narrative.
--Florida Historical Quarterly

Poucher successfully examines how ordinary Floridians resisted in the face of a horrible adversity, overcoming insurmountable odds in the process.
--The Journal of American History

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