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Age of Barbarity: The Forgotten Fight for the Soul of Florida Paperback – March 8, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 492 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1467978035
  • ISBN-13: 978-1467978033
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,600,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Billy Townsend was an award-winning reporter and editor for several Florida newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune and Lakeland Ledger. He began his career with the Palatka Daily News. Townsend is a fourth-generation son of Palatka. His great grandfather, Judge Vertrees Walton, was a key figure in the historic 1920s struggle against the Klan and Protestant vigilantism. Townsend knows intimately many of the hallowed spaces where Florida’s Age of Barbarity reached its climax. Today Townsend lives in Lakeland, on Florida’s I-4 Corridor, with his wife and three children. He writes for professional services firm PwC and provides cultural and historical commentary for LakelandLocal, the city’s volunteer alternative press.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 10 customer reviews
Anyone interested in Florida history ought to read this book.
GL Garland
The book was more than engaging, written in a conversational style while revealing the hard-edged history it set out to portray.
Deb Drewes
The conversational tone of this book makes it much more fun to read than they typically dry format of other history books.
painfully aware

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Daniel R. Weinfeld on July 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
In this engaging debut book, journalist Billy Townsend presents the turbulent world of central Florida in the early twentieth century. Townsend defies traditional categories to fuse the genres of historical narrative, journalism, historical fiction, true crime and family lore. The result is a page-turner that is compelling for its original approach, descriptive powers, and its deeply moral message.

The "Age of Barbarity" is grounded in thorough research. With the inside knowledge of a local with deep roots in the area, Townsend adeptly guides his reader through many intertwined plot lines involving characters with complex motivations. Several major figures are his family members. But instead of pretending omniscience, Townsend has the courage to confront the reader with the challenge facing anyone investigating the past: the gaps in information and the biases of those who created the surviving records. This honesty about the limits of primary sources is refreshing. Townsend turns a potential problem into one of the central strengths of the book as he opines on the credibility of the sources and enlists the reader as a co-investigator in assessing the evidence.

Although he is closely connected to the community, Townsend does not hesitate to take a stand. He champions forgotten heroes and names villains who long ago escaped justice. Townsend must also be complimented on his placement of the narrative in the wider context of the United States, emphasizing how the barbarity in central Florida tied into trends (red summer of 1919, race riots, the Great Migration, prohibition, the rise of the Klan) that wrecked havoc across the nation. The "Age of Barbarity is very worthwhile for the lessons it teaches about America and for imparting an important and exciting story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Deb Drewes on August 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
I finished reading this book almost a year ago but only last week was able to complete the whole journey by taking a personal walking tour of Palatka. Since finishing Age of Barbarity, The Tampa Bay Times published a brief review of the era (courtesy of B. Townsend, Oct.21,2012)based on this book, which should only have whetted the desire of its readers to flesh out "the rest of the story" as revealed in the book. The book was more than engaging, written in a conversational style while revealing the hard-edged history it set out to portray. While on my yearly trips between Tampa and St. Augustine, Palatka was only a stepping stone to my final destination. Mr. Townsend enhanced my view immensely and last week, with my dog-eared copy of his book in hand, I found my way around to a few of the places he described, bringing another dimension of this history to life for me. While Palatka has an extensive Civil War history which some of the local citizens readily shared, I think the present day residents may find this little known era of Barbarity a real eye opener, as Palatka bathed in a national spotlight for 15 tumultuous years. Definitely anticipating some more of this writing from Mr. Townsend hopefully in the very near future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Ross on January 23, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Billy Townsend takes us back to the early 20th century and rural northeast Florida, when political corruption and vicious racism were as prevalent as anywhere else in the country. His research results in gripping depth and detail as we learn of the hatred and horrors that made life hell for the poor in general and the blacks in particular.

Some of the material may be too brutal for those who prefer their history sanitized. But it's all authenticated and brought to life by a writer who clearly loves his home state as much as he despises some of the people who used to run it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By GL Garland on June 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
Fun to read, engaging, and provocative, Townsend's book is a major contribution to Florida's historiography. Anyone interested in Florida history ought to read this book. Anyone interested in how Floridians got to where we are today in terms of community relations, race relations, law enforcement professionalism, the Klan, and local politics, ought to read this book. Anyone who thinks that all Florida crackers and small towns are alike, ought to read this book.

Unfortunately, academic historians will probably disregard, if not outright pooh-pooh, it. They inevitably will point to Townsend's device of re-creating dialogue from scanty evidence as unprofessional, more worthy of fiction than fact. They will undoubtedly ridicule Townsend's use of the first person to describe his hometown and in many cases, his own forebears. Some will make light of Townsend's modern-day critique of the Klan and the passive reluctance of whites to stand up to it as judging the past by contemporary standards.

I suspect that none of this will bother Townsend. I would venture to guess that he wrote this book not for a handful for academics, but for the people he grew up with in Palatka, those who've gotten to know him as a journalist and a Lakelander, and all Floridians who hunger to know about their past. Call it a popular local history with national ramifications, deeply researched and even more deeply felt. Reading this, you get into Townsend's skin, and it becomes your own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By painfully aware on February 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The conversational tone of this book makes it much more fun to read than they typically dry format of other history books. There is a significant amount of inference; but Townsend makes a point of backing up his inferences and deductive leaps with what facts he managed to scour out of the Florida swamps. Perhaps Townsend's occasional leaps are the accurate story. Perhaps the swamp itself swallowed the true story nearly a century ago. Either way this is still a very well researched and well exhibited set of theories on Putnam County Florida’s past. It is certainly worth taking the time to read.
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