Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Resident shines light on shameful old story behind Brooksville's name

If, God forbid, I were running the city of Brooksville, here's how its website would explain the origins of its name:

This was a regrettable episode, revealing the city's early residents to be bloodthirsty supporters of the most evil institution in our country's history — slavery — and indifferent to one of the most noble: free speech.

The City Council would also pass a resolution denouncing the action (which we'll get to) of U.S. Rep. Preston Brooks and the city's long-ago decision to take his name.

Changing the name of Brooksville after all these years doesn't seem practical and would just obscure a history we could learn a lot by examining. It's an artifact we're stuck with, like the statue of a Confederate soldier on the courthouse lawn. The proper thing to do is not to get rid of it, but to deal with it.

Justin Lollie, on the other hand, started a Facebook page last week called "Change the name of Brooksville, FL to something a little less racist.'' (

Last week's unjust firing of U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod got Lollie thinking about history and race. Specifically, it reminded him of a book he'd read a few years earlier that included an unfavorable reference to Brooksville, a town where he'd lived as a small child and, as an antique hunter, still loves to visit.

Lollie, a music programmer from Clearwater, was vaguely aware of the beating Brooks had given an abolitionist senator named Charles Sumner. In the book, the title of which he's forgotten, he was shocked to read of its brutality, which is described as follows in James McPherson's acclaimed Civil War history, Battle Cry of Freedom:

"In 1856, two days after Sumner had delivered a speech denouncing proslavery forces in Kansas as well as a South Carolina senator who supported them, Brooks approached Sumner's desk on the Senate floor. Sumner had libeled the senator and Brooks' home state of South Carolina, Brooks told him, and "as Sumner started to rise, the frenzied Brooks beat him over the head 30 times or more with a gold-headed cane as Sumner, his legs trapped under the bolted-down desk, finally wrenched it loose from the floor and collapsed with his head covered with blood.''

Brooks was hailed as hero in the South, and the account Lollie read singled out a fledgling settlement in Florida, previously called Melendez, that went so far as to adopt his name.

Hernando de Soto, our county's namesake, was no saint himself. Neither are a lot of other historical figures with places named after them.

But Brooks stands out because his legacy is about this beating and nothing else, Lollie said.

Maybe the city could find a more worthy Brooks to retroactively adopt as a namesake. At the very least, he said, please change the moronic entry on the city website. It approvingly describes Brooks with the segregation-era term, "states' rights statesman,'' and as "a man of honor,'' who was "admired for his pluck'' because he had "smartly rapped'' Sumner with his cane.

"It almost reads like a Three Stooges skit, not a savage beating that cost a man three years of his life,'' Lollie said. "There should at least be an acknowledgement that this story is nothing to be proud of.''

And maybe a thanks to Lollie for starting a long-overdue conversation.

Resident shines light on shameful old story behind Brooksville's name 07/24/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 24, 2010 1:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)


    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.
  5. White House signals acceptance of Russia sanctions bill


    WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to …

    President Donald Trump’s ability to lift sanctions against Russia would be blocked.