Florida Conversations: USF historian researches, shares early history of Spanish explorers

Did you know that Spanish explorers landed in Florida in the early 1500s and built communities, long before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock?

History Professor Dr. J. Michael Francis, Chair of Florida Studies at the University of South Florida, dropped that fact of history and more while presenting “Florida Conversations: Lost Voices From St. Augustine’s Parish Archive, 1594-1821’’ during a Florida Conversation hosted by the Weedon Island Preserve and the Tampa Bay History Center. 

Among some of his other top talking points?
  • Francis and his USF students have translated Spanish records from St. Augustine from the 1500s to the 1800s. You can see much of what they found by visiting the La Florida website.
  • After landing in St. Augustine, the Spanish explorers established outposts in areas now included in both Carolinas and Tennessee before others arrived in what would become New England.
  • Significant archeological exploration has been done of a location on Parris Island, S.C. that has documented the historic lifestyle of explorers that included men and women of all ages and from all over Europe and Africa, some enslaved, some free, including their interaction with Native Americans.  
Learn more about the March 25th event by scrolling through and reading the captions on the images above.

To learn more about the Weedon Island Preserve, visit Pinellas County Parks. And to support the Preserve and ensure its sustainability, join Friends of Weedon Island.

To learn more about Florida Conversations, visit the dropdown menu for Events on the Tampa Bay History Center website. 

To see and hear past conversations and other history lectures, visit the Tampa Bay History Center’s YouTube Channel.

To learn more about how to explore a degree in Florida studies, visit the University of South Florida website.
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Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is a community leader and award-winning journalist with more than four decades of experience reporting and writing about the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. She serves on the boards of the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Advertising & Mass Communications Advisory Council, The Institute for Research in Art (Graphicstudio, the Contemporary Art Museum, and USF’s Public Art Program) Community Advisory Council, Sing Out and Read, and StageWorks Theatre Advisory Council. She also is a member of Leadership Florida and the Athena Society. A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism, she won the top statewide award for editorial writing from the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors while at The Tampa Tribune and received special recognition by the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists for creative work as Content Director at WUSF Public Media. Past accomplishments and community service include leadership positions with Tampa Tiger Bay Club, USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy (WLP), Alpha House of Tampa Bay, Awesome Tampa Bay, Florida Kinship Center, AIA Tampa Bay, Powerstories, Arts Council of Hillsborough County, and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Diane and her husband, Sandy Rief, live in Tampa.