Florida Humanities Speakers Directory

2021 Florida Humanities Speakers Directory

Engaging Speakers, Compelling Topics, and Thought-provoking Discussions

Welcome to the Florida Humanities’ Speakers Directory, a curated collection of the Sunshine State’s best and brightest experts, scholars, journalists, folklorists and more, poised to bring engaging presentations and conversations right to your local community.

Florida Humanities is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Partnering with nonprofit organizations across the state, Florida Humanities funds a wide variety of grants and public programming that explores Florida’s rich history and culture.

How to use this directory:

Using this directory, organizations can connect with these experts to bring a wide variety of compelling humanities programming to their community.  Speakers can engage the public is several ways:

Florida Talks

Speakers may be asked to give a program for one of our Florida Talks partners. Florida Talks offers nonprofit organizations an easy, inexpensive way to host informative and thought-provoking presentations across the state.

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Community Project Grants

Speakers may be contacted to participate as a scholar, presenter, or panelist for a Florida Humanities-funded Community Project Grant. These grants support a variety of humanities programming based on the specific needs of a community.

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Museum on Main Street

Speakers may be asked to give a program that complements the theme of one of our Museum on Main Street exhibits. These exhibits travel to small and underserved communities and explore a variety of humanities topics.

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Please Note: Speakers on this directory have agreed to a capped speaking fee of no more than $300 for a Florida Humanities-funded event. This fee does not include travel, so be sure to discuss those details as you plan your event.

2021 Speakers Directory

Back to all programs » Environmental
Photo of Cynthia Barnett Cynthia Barnett Journalist, Writer

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Contact Number:
352-376-4440

Notes

Program format(s) available:

  • In-person
  • Virtual

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About the speaker

Cynthia Barnett is an award-winning environmental journalist who has reported on water and climate change around the world. Her new book, The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans, is out this summer from W. W. Norton. “The seashell might seem a decidedly small foundation for a book,” The New York Times wrote in its summer reading recommendations, “but Barnett’s account remarkably spirals out, appropriately, to become a much larger story about the sea, about global history and about environmental crises and preservation.”

Barnett is also the author of Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the 2016 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. Her previous books are Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis, which articulates a water ethic for America, and Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S. which won the gold medal for best nonfiction in the Florida Book Awards and has been listed by The Tampa Bay Times as one of the top 10 books that every Floridian should read.

Barnett has written for National Geographic, the Atlantic, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Tampa Bay Times and many other publications. Her numerous journalism awards include a national Sigma Delta Chi prize for investigative magazine reporting and eight Green Eyeshades, which recognize outstanding journalism in 11 southeastern states. She is also Environmental Journalist in Residence at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications, and a fifth-generation Floridian raising a sixth generation in Gainesville.

Programs Available

The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and The Fate of the Oceans

The human fascination with seashells is primal. Archeological evidence suggests that Neanderthals collected cockle shells on the coast of what is modern Spain, perhaps giving preference to those they found beautiful. Here in Florida, the Calusa built “great cities of shell” on the southern coasts, later carted off for road fill. In the 1950s, the nation burned with seashell fever only a Florida beach vacation could cure. But legend had it the best shells were found at the Georgia border; that’s about where cars headed north started to stink, and families had to pull over and dump their shells on the side of the road. In her new program The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans, award-winning environmental author Cynthia Barnett explores the long, rich and surprisingly profound relationship between humans and seashells. Traveling from Florida to the Bahamas to the Maldives, West Africa, and beyond, Barnett uncovers the ancient history of shells as global currency, their use as religious and luxury objects, and the rarely appreciated but remarkable creatures that make them. For eons, shell and their mollusk makers have reflected humanity’s shifting attitudes toward and precarious place in the natural world. While shells reveal how humans have altered the climate and the sea—down to its very chemistry—they are also sentinels of hope for alternative energy, carbon capture, and other solutions that lie beneath the waves. With her engaging account of an aspect of nature and culture long hidden in plain sight, Barnett illuminates the beauty and wonder of seashells as well as the human ingenuity and scientific solutions they represent for our warming world.

State of Water, State of Mind

Water defines us as Floridians no matter where we live: Beaches surround us on three sides. Rivers and streams flow for ten thousand miles through the peninsula. We’re blessed with nearly eight thousand lakes and a thousand more freshwater springs – the largest concentration of artesian springs in the world. Amid a scourge of pollution half a century ago, the United States and Florida passed bedrock water legislation with the Clean Water Act at the federal level and the state’s sweeping water and land-management laws of 1972, some of the strongest in the country. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of these laws and celebrate their triumphs, our waters face new challenges, from increasing algal blooms to warming and sea-rise. In her program State of Water, State of Mind, Florida-based environmental author Cynthia Barnett shows audiences how one of the most water-rich states in the nation has come to face water scarcity and quality woes—and how we can live differently. With a shared ethic for water, Floridians come together to use less and pollute less. We live well with water today, in ways that don’t jeopardize fresh, clean water for our children, ecosystems, and businesses tomorrow. She reflects on water as Florida’s defining element—and how citizens can get more engaged with our state’s most precious resource.

RAIN: A history for stormy times

A natural and cultural tour of RAIN, from the torrents that filled the oceans four billion years ago to the modern story of climate change. A wellspring of life, rain also has a place in our souls. In an ancient perfume region in northern India, villagers bottle the scent of rain from the monsoon-drenched earth, while in Manchester, England, and America’s Seattle, leaden skies helped inspire Morrissey and Kurt Cobain’s grunge. The scents and songs capture rain in small ways. Humans have long been convinced we could control the atmosphere with ideas much bigger, from the Roman rain god Jupiter Pluvius to the 2,203 miles of levees that attempt to straightjacket the Mississippi River. Now, after thousands of years spent praying for rain or worshiping it; burning witches at the stake to stop rain or sacrificing small children to bring it; even trying to blast rain out of the sky with mortars meant for war, humanity has finally managed to change the rain. Only not in ways we intended. Changing rainfall patterns are some of the earliest tremors of our warming globe; scientists expect Florida will continue to face more-extreme rains, but also more-severe droughts, as Earth and its oceans continue to heat up. Armed with computer models looking forward, there is also much to learn from looking back. Too much and not enough, rain is an experience we share. Its history has much to tell us about coming together to live more ethically with water – and adapt to the stormy times ahead.

Photo of Peggy Macdonald Peggy Macdonald Historian, Author

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Contact Number:
352-219-0872

Notes

Program format(s) available:

  • In-person
  • Virtual

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About the speaker

Dr. Peggy Macdonald is a public historian and adjunct professor at Stetson University and Indian River State College. A native Floridian, Dr. Macdonald gives presentations on a variety of topics in Florida history. She has written about local and Florida history for FORUM Magazine, Gainesville Magazine, Our Town Magazine and Senior Times. Dr. Macdonald’s first book, Marjorie Harris Carr: Defender of Florida’s Environment, was published by the University Press of Florida in 2014. She is currently working on a book about Florida’s female pioneers. Dr. Macdonald is an alumna of the University of Florida, where she received a Ph.D. in American history. She served as Executive Director of the Matheson History Museum in Gainesville from 2015 – 2019.

Programs Available

Florida’s Female Pioneers

Examining some of the women who have shaped Florida, including Dr. Esther Hill Hawks, a physician who ran the first racially integrated free school in Florida; Harriet Beecher Stowe, famous for writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin who kick-started Florida’s tourism industry with her 1873 book, Palmetto Leaves; and Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, the first and only female Florida Seminole Tribal Chair and the first elected female tribal chair of any federally recognized American Indian tribe in the nation.

Florida Women’s Fight for Suffrage

Traces Florida’s suffrage movement from its origins to early successes when Fay Gibson Moulton Bridges became the first Florida woman to vote after the 19th Amendment passed. Former Florida First Lady May Mann Jennings galvanized the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs to fight for equal suffrage and cofounded the Florida chapter of the League of Women Voters. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune helped black men and women exercise their right to vote by offering classes to help students pass the literacy test and fundraising for a poll tax fund.

Marjorie Harris Carr: Defender of Florida’s Environment

Raised by naturalist parents in rural Southwest Florida, Marjorie Carr used the power of the pen and grassroots activism to celebrate Old Florida and protect Florida’s wildlife and wild places, preserving many of north central Florida’s ecological treasures.

Photo of Victoria Machado Victoria Machado Scholar

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Contact Number:
954-683-9422

Notes

Program format(s) available:

  • In-person
  • Virtual

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About the speaker

Victoria received her B.A. and M.A. at the University of Florida, focusing on intentional communities, sustainability, and bioregionalism. After working as an environmental organizer in South Florida, she returned to UF where she is currently a PhD candidate studying the intersection of religion and environmental activism. More specifically she is interested in state and local water issues, environmental justice, and the underlying values that promote social change.

Programs Available

Sacred Waters: Exploring the Protection of Florida’s Fluid Landscapes

This presentation explores efforts to restore Florida’s waterways. We will investigate the motivations of environmentalists who love and advocate for these water bodies. By focusing on issues related to springs and the Everglades, we will dive into the conversations that arise when Floridians view water as essential to their quality of life.

Photo of Dr. Steve Noll Steve Noll Historian, Writer

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Contact Number:
352-273-3380

Notes

Program format(s) available:

  • In-person
  • Virtual

Download Speaker Listing

About the speaker

Steve Noll is a master lecturer in the history department at the University of Florida, where he received his PhD in 1991. Dr. Noll taught special education in the public schools of Alachua County for 28 years before moving over full-time to UF in 2004. Dr. Noll has written extensively on general Florida history as well as more specialized subjects ranging from Florida environmental policy, the ill-fated Cross Florida Barge Canal, and the disability rights movement of the 1970s.

Programs Available

Ditch of Dreams: The Cross Florida Barge Canal & the Struggle for Florida’s Future

The long and convoluted history of an effort to cross the Florida peninsula by cutting a waterway from the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico, starting with the Ocklawaha River in the 19th century and the first attempted ship canal in the 1930s. An environmental movement stopped the canal before it was completed and eventually turned it into a greenway.

Florida Water Stories

Florida’s long and difficult relationship with water, its attempts to turn land into water and water into land, and the contentious issues involving the Everglades, the Ocklawaha River, political battles with Alabama and Georgia, and the potential impact of sea-level rise.

Hometown Teams: Florida Sports History

The history of sports in Florida in the context of racial and gender issues, the influence of big business, and personal identities Floridians have with their local teams. It’s serious but it’s also fun.

Florida Transportation History: Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (& Steamboats too!)

Florida’s history told through the myriad methods of transportation designed to move people and goods to and within Florida, which transformed from a backwoods frontier to one of the most important states in the union. From Bellamy Road of the 1820s to the modern transportation issues facing Florida in the 21st century.

Photo of Mallory O’Connor Mallory O’Connor Scholar

Contact the Speaker

Contact Number:
352-466-3711

Notes

Program format(s) available:

  • In-person
  • Virtual

Download Speaker Listing

About the speaker

Mallory O’Connor is a writer, an art historian, and a musician. She holds degrees in art, art history, and American history from Ohio University. For twenty years she taught art history at the University of Florida and at Santa Fe College. During this time, she also wrote hundreds of magazine articles and critical essays, and curated numerous exhibitions for museums and galleries. She is the author of two non-fiction books, Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast and Florida’s American Heritage River, both published by the University Press of Florida.

As director of the Thomas Center Gallery, the primary cultural center of the City of Gainesville from 1984-1994 and the Santa Fe College Art Gallery from 1994-1999, Professor O’Connor organized numerous exhibitions including highly successful shows on Florida art and history.

Programs Available

Before Bartram: Artist-Naturalist Mark Catesby

Mark Catesby surveyed Florida sixty-two years before William Bartram. This lecture is an overview of the over 200 watercolors and drawings which, along with field notes and hundreds of preserved specimens constituted one of the earliest and certainly one of the most comprehensive systematic studies of the flora and fauna of southeastern North America.

Billy’s Wonderful Performances: The Art and Science of William Bartram

This lecture explores the art of William Bartram and especially the images that are based on his travels in the Southeast between 1765 and 1775. Working under often extreme conditions, undeterred by raging rivers, wild beasts, exotic diseases, and hostile natives, Bartram covered thousands of miles throughout the Southeast and drew, painted and described hundreds of plants and animals, and provided maps and field notes that formed the basis for America’s natural history.

Strangers in a Strange Land: Picturing Florida’s History through Art

“Look” for Florida in this lecture of the many eccentric images that tell the story of our state. Strangers in a Strange Land explores Florida’s art history and rich visual mythology. These images span centuries of time and attest to both the vivid imagination of the artists and the equally flamboyant narratives centered on our state.

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