American men returning from the First World War came back to a country that did not understand them nor support them. Many of these men ended up serving in WPA and CCC camps that built aspects of the state parks we still enjoy around Florida today. During Labor Day Weekend of 1935 a hurricane hit the camps located in the Keys and caused the deaths of hundreds of these men due to government neglect. Hemingway was living in Key West at the time of the storm and he joined the rescue efforts. The deaths from the Labor Day Hurricane were a loss Hemingway would not forget. He documented the incident in his article “Who Murdered the Vets? A First-Hand report on the Florida Hurricane” in New Masses and he wrote them into his novel To Have and Have Not. This talk will focus on what brought the veterans to the Keys, the storm itself, and Hemingway’s involvement in the rescue efforts, as well as their appearances in his writing.
About the Presenter:
Rebecca J. Johnston is an Assistant English Professor at Santa Fe College, a Doctoral Candidate at University of Exeter, and President of the Florida Hemingway Society and the Cedar Key Historical Society. She has researched along the Italian Front of WWI through grants from the International Hemingway Society. Her research focus centers around American WWI writers. Her debut novel, Not to Keep, was published in January of 2022, and it won a first place Firebird Award for US Historical Fiction and second place for Southern Fiction. In March of 2023 she served as Writer in Residence at the Key West Literary Seminar. www.Rebeccajjohnston.com.
Funding for this program was provided by Florida Humanities and sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support from The Helmerich Trust, Aloys & Carol Metty and The John & Marilyn Rintamaki Family Charitable Fund.