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African american experience in orange county, florida during the citrus boom

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African American Experiences in Orange County, Florida during the Citrus Boom of affiliation Florida was well known for farming business in the 19th century. Among the many crops grown were corn, vegetables, sugarcane and citrus fruits1. The disadvantage with citrus fruit was that it got spoilt very fast and this meant that without proper transport means, the fruit could not be of any economic benefit. With the development of the railroad in the 19th century, citrus fruits were transported to other parts of the US using fast trains2. In addition, immigrants came to Florida and citrus plantation increased while the citrus farmers continued to grow rich with the sale of the fruit. The first of Florida’s citrus boom was cut short when freezes occurred twice and destroyed most of the citrus trees except for southern Florida where trees survived3. After the freeze farmers migrated to the South where they began planting citrus and a second citrus boom was experienced and Florida’s economy has never been the same. The focus of this paper is to evaluate the African Americans’ experience during the Orange County, Florida State citrus boom. The citrus boom was characterized by increased need for labor in the farms4. In addition, the climate in Orange was conducive for citrus growing and so was the soil. Florida coastline is along the Gulf of Mexico through which Mexican immigrants came to Orange County. Other people attracted to Florida were from older plantations in the southern sections of Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. There were also African Americans, Indian people and Spaniards5. With the growing population in Orange County during the citrus boom, the United States federal government experienced increased pressure to grant land to native whites. As a result, the Indian people, who owned land, were taken out of their lands to pave way for native whites to own land. There were two primary groups of Indian population which were the Creek and the Miccosukee. The retrieval of land from Indians was a drawback for the African Americans refugees who lived with them6. In addition, the removal of Indians was a good way for the White people who felt that Indians offered sanctuary for runaway slaves from the states in the north. With the Whites owning lands, the number of African American slaves increased as they offered cheap labor for high profits to the citrus growers. Although there was an opposing force from the Northern States about slavery, some Southern states like Florida were opposed to end of slavery and refused to vote for Abraham Lincoln for his anti-slavery advocacy7. Increased number of African American and slaves and immigrant like Mexicans led to low wages for workers while the citrus growers experienced high profits. Low wages was as a result of the presence of high number of unskilled workers and slavery which diminished any efforts for wage negotiation and bargains. Martin8 reveals that in the presence of low wage labor, the entrepreneurs lack the incentives to make productivity-increasing investments. This is evident in that despite getting rich from the citrus boom, the citrus growers did not take precautions to prevent their plants from being affected by freezes like was the case in 1898 when two freezes struck and left most farmers abandoning citrus firming for other activities. In the presence of African American slaves and other low-waged labor sources, most citrus growers were discouraged from purchasing expensive equipment to increase their productivity. Lack of purchasing of equipment in the presence of low wage labor is in line with the argument by Martin9 that although higher profits facilitate productivity-elevating investment, low wages are discouraging since low labor is readily available. With citrus fruits plantations, the fruits have to mature on the tree before being sampled to evaluate the acid to sugar level amount. In the sugar acid ratio is right; the citrus fruits can then be harvested. Although harvesting may be done throughout the year, only a few workers were offered full employment throughout the year10. In the beginning of picking season, the workers were needed only for a day or two each week or just hours a day. This meant that the African Americans working in citrus farms had no job security apart from receiving poor pay. In addition, workers in citrus farms were not pleased with the work of citrus picking since they had to stand on a ladder for hours carrying a 50-60 pound bag on their backs11. This was not only tiring by also very demeaning coupled with the fact that the temperatures in the grooves also rose to 100 degrees and more without even the slightest breeze in summer and very cold in winter. African Americans in the citrus boom also worked in packing house, associations, marketing organizations, irrigators, graders, cultivators, packers label printers, auctioneers and others (Brigandi 2008). In most cases, the chemicals used in spraying the citrus trees were very harmful and affected the health of most African Americans performing that task. This meant incurring high medical costs for treatment or at times even death. According to Porter12 the estimates for farmworkers have been estimated to include men, women, children and teenager. However, the majority of the farmworkers have been men who are single or with spouses living in other states. For female farmworkers, they are more likely to live with their nuclear families compared to men. Porter also reveals that U. S born African Americans working in citrus plantations have decreased significantly over time13. End notes

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