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Florida ( ) is a state located in the southeastern region of the United Statesmarker, bordering Alabamamarker to the northwest and Georgiamarker to the north. It was the 27th state admitted to the United Statesmarker. Much of the land mass of the state is a large peninsula with the Gulf of Mexicomarker to the west, and the Atlantic Oceanmarker to the east.

It is nicknamed the "Sunshine State" because of its generally warm climatesubtropical in the northern and central regions of the state, with a true tropical climate in the southern portion. The state has four large urban areas, a number of smaller industrial cities, and many small towns. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the state population was 18,328,340 in 2008, ranking Florida as the fourth most populous state in the U.S. Tallahasseemarker is the state capital, Jacksonvillemarker is the largest city, and the Miami metropolitan areamarker is the largest metro area.


Archaeological research indicates that Florida had been inhabited for thousands of years before any European settlements. Of the many indigenous peoples, the largest known were the Ais, the Apalachee, the Calusa, the Timucua and the Tocobago tribes.

"Florida" is the oldest surviving European place-name in the U.S. Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish conquistador, named Florida in honor of his discovery of the land on the evening April 2, 1513, six days after Easter and still during Pascua Florida, a Spanish term for the "Flowery Easter" season, and for the land's appearance as a "flowered land." "It was named for these two reasons." (Juan Ponce de León may not have been the first European to reach Florida; according to one report, at least one indigenous tribesman who he encountered in Florida in 1513 spoke Spanish.) From that date forward, the land became known as "La Florida," although after 1630 Tegesta (after the Tequesta tribe) was throughout the 1700s an alternate name of choice for the Florida peninsula following publication of a map by the Dutch cartographer Hessel Gerritsz in Joannes de Laet's History of the New World.

Winter in Florida, 1893
Florida split into East and West in 1810

Over the following century, both the Spanish and French established settlements in Florida, with varying degrees of success. In 1559, Spanish Pensacolamarker was established by Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano as the first European settlement in the continental United States. It was abandoned by 1561, and was not re-inhabited until the 1690s. French Huguenots founded Fort Carolinemarker in modern-day Jacksonville in 1564, but the fort was conquered by forces from the new Spanish colony of St. Augustine the following year. After Huguenot leader Jean Ribault had learned of the new Spanish threat, he launched an expedition to sack the Spanish settlement; en route, however, severe storms at sea waylaid the expedition, which consisted of most of the colony's men, allowing St. Augustine founder Pedro Menéndez de Avilés time to march his men over land and conquer Fort Caroline. Most of the Huguenots were slaughtered, and Menéndez de Avilés marched south and captured the survivors of the wrecked French fleet, ordering all but a few Catholics executed beside a river subsequently called Matanzas (Spanish for 'killings').The Spanish never had a firm hold on Florida, and maintained tenuous control over the region by converting the local tribes, briefly with Jesuits and later with Franciscan friars. The local leaders (caciques) demonstrated their loyalty to the Spanish by converting to Roman Catholicism and welcoming the Franciscan priests into their villages.

The area of Spanish Florida diminished with the establishment of English colonies to the north and French colonies to the west. The English weakened Spanish power in the area by supplying their Creek Indian allies with firearms and urging them to raid the Timucuan and Apalachee client-tribes of the Spanish. The English attacked St. Augustine, burning the city and its cathedral to the ground several times, while the citizens hid behind the walls of the Castillo de San Marcosmarker.

The Spanish, meanwhile, encouraged slaves to flee the English-held Carolinas and come to Florida, where they were converted to Roman Catholicism and given freedom. They settled in a buffer community north of St. Augustine, called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mosemarker, the first completely black settlement in what became the United States.

Great Britain gained control of Florida diplomatically in 1763 through the Peace of Paris. The British divided the colony into East Florida, with its capital at St. Augustine, and West Florida, with its capital at Pensacola. Britain tried to develop the Floridas through the importation of immigrants for labor, including some from Minorcamarker and Greece, but this project ultimately failed. Spain regained the Floridas after Britain's defeat by the American colonies and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles in 1783, continuing the division into East and West Florida. They offered land grants to anyone who settled in the colonies, and many Americans moved to them.

After settler attacks on Indian towns, Seminole Indians based in East Florida began raiding Georgiamarker settlements, purportedly at the behest of the Spanish. The United States Army led increasingly frequent incursions into Spanish territory, including the 1817–1818 campaign against the Seminole Indians by Andrew Jackson that became known as the First Seminole War. Following the war, the United States effectively controlled East Florida. In 1819, by terms of the Adams-Onís Treaty, Spain ceded Florida to the United States in exchange for the American renunciation of any claims on Texasmarker that they might have from the Louisiana Purchase and $5 million.

As settlement increased, pressure grew on the United States government to remove the Indians from their lands in Florida. To the chagrin of Georgia landowners, the Seminoles harbored and integrated runaway blacks, and clashes between whites and Indians grew with the influx of new settlers. In 1832, the United States government signed the Treaty of Payne's Landing with some of the Seminole chiefs, promising them lands west of the Mississippi River if they agreed to leave Florida voluntarily. Many of the Seminoles left at this time, while those who remained prepared to defend their claims to the land. White settlers pressured the government to remove all of the Indians, by force if necessary, and in 1835, the U.S. Army arrived to enforce the treaty.

The Second Seminole War began at the end of 1835 with the Dade Massacre, when Seminoles ambushed Army troops marching from Fort Brookemarker (Tampa) to reinforce Fort Kingmarker (Ocala), killing or mortally wounding all but one of the 108 troops. Between 900 and 1,500 Seminole Indian warriors effectively employed hit and run guerrilla tactics against United States Army troops for seven years. Osceola, a charismatic young war leader, came to symbolize the war and the Seminoles after he was arrested at truce negotiations in 1837 and died in prison less than a year later. The war dragged on until 1842. The U.S. government is estimated to have spent between US$20 million and US$40 million on the war, at the time an astronomical sum.On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state of the United States of America. Its population grew slowly. White settlers continued to encroach on lands used by the Seminoles, and the United States government resolved to make another effort to move the remaining Seminoles to the West. The Third Seminole War lasted from 1855 to 1858, and resulted in the removal of most of the remaining Seminoles. Even after three bloody wars, the U.S. failed to force all of the Seminole Indians in Florida to the West. Though most of the Seminoles were forcibly exiled to Creek lands west of the Mississippi, hundreds, including Seminole leader Aripeka (Sam Jones), remained in the Evergladesmarker and refused to leave the native homeland of their ancestors. Their descendants remain there to this day.White settlers began to establish cotton plantations in Florida, which required numerous laborers. By 1860 Florida had only 140,424 people, of whom 44% were enslaved. There were fewer than 1000 free people of color before the Civil War.

On January 10, 1861, before the start of the American Civil War, Florida declared its secession from the Union; ten days later, the state became a founding member of the Confederate States of America. The war ended in 1865. On June 25, 1868, Florida's congressional representation was restored. After Reconstruction, white Democrats succeeded in regaining power in the state legislature. In 1885 they created a new constitution, followed by statutes through 1889 that effectively disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites over the next several years. Provisions included poll taxes, literacy tests, and residency requirements. Disfranchisement for most African Americans in the state persisted until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s gained federal legislation to protect their suffrage.

Until the mid-twentieth century, Florida was the least populous Southern state. In 1900 its population was only 528,542, of whom nearly 44 percent were African American. The boll weevil devastated cotton crops, and early 20th century lynchings and racial violence caused a record number of African Americans to leave the state in the Great Migration to northern and midwestern industrial cities. Forty thousand blacks, roughly one-fifth of their 1900 population, left for better opportunities. National economic prosperity in the 1920s stimulated tourism to Florida. Combined with its sudden elevation in profile was the Florida land boom of the 1920s, which brought a brief period of intense land development. Devastating hurricanes in 1926 and 1928, followed by the stock market crash and Great Depression, brought that period to a halt.

Florida's economy did not fully recover until the buildup for World War II. The climate, tempered by the growing availability of air conditioning, and low cost of living made the state a haven. Migration from the Rust Belt and the Northeast sharply increased the population after the war. In recent decades, more migrants have come for the jobs in a developing economy. Today, with an estimated population of more than 18 million, Florida is the most populous state in the Southeastern United States, the second most populous state in the South behind Texas, and the fourth most populous in the United States. The Census Bureau estimated that "Florida, now the fourth most populous state, will edge past New York into third place in total population by 2011".


Topographic map of Florida

Much of the state of Florida is situated on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Straits of Floridamarker. Spanning two time zones, It extends to the northwest into a panhandle, extending along the northern Gulf of Mexico. It is bordered on the north by the states of Georgiamarker and Alabamamarker, and on the west, at the end of the panhandle, by Alabama. It is near several Caribbeanmarker countries, particularly The Bahamasmarker and Cubamarker. Florida's extensive coastline made it a perceived target during World War II, so the government built airstrips throughout the state; today, approximately 400 airports are still in service. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Florida has 131 public airports, and more than 700 private airports, airstrips, heliports, and seaplane bases. Florida is one of the largest states east of the Mississippi River, and only Alaskamarker and Michiganmarker are larger in water area.

The Florida peninsula is a porous plateau of karst limestone sitting atop bedrock known as the Florida Platform. The emergent portion of the platform was created during the Eocene to Oligocene as the Gulf Trough filled with silts, clays, and sands. Flora and fauna began appearing during the Miocene. No land animals were present in Florida prior to the Miocene.

Extended systems of underwater caves, sinkholes and springs are found throughout the state and supply most of the water used by residents. The limestone is topped with sandy soils deposited as ancient beaches over millions of years as global sea levels rose and fell. During the last glacial period, lower sea levels and a drier climate revealed a much wider peninsula, largely savanna. The Evergladesmarker, an enormously wide, very slow-flowing river encompasses the southern tip of the peninsula.

Because Florida is not located near any tectonic plate boundaries, earthquakes are very rare, but not totally unknown. In January, 1879, a shock occurred near St. Augustinemarker. There were reports of heavy shaking that knocked plaster from walls and articles from shelves. Similar effects were noted at Daytona Beachmarker south. The tremor was felt as far south as Tampa and as far north as Savannah, Georgiamarker. In January 1880, Cuba was the center of two strong earthquakes that sent severe shock waves through the city of Key West, Floridamarker. Another earthquake centered outside Florida was the 1886 Charleston earthquakemarker. The shock was felt throughout northern Florida, ringing church bells at St. Augustine and severely jolting other towns along that section of Florida's east coast. Jacksonville residents felt many of the strong aftershocks that occurred in September, October, and November 1886. As recently as 2006, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake centered about southwest of Tampa in the Gulf of Mexico sent shock waves through southwest and central Florida. The earthquake was too small to trigger a tsunami and no damage was reported.

A map of Florida showing county names and boundaries

At 345 feet (105 m) above mean sea level, Britton Hillmarker is the highest point in Florida and the lowest highpoint of any U.S. state. Much of the state south of Orlandomarker is low-lying and fairly level; however, some places, such as Clearwatermarker, feature vistas that rise 50 to 100 feet (15 30 m) above the water. Much of Central and North Florida, typically 25 miles (40 km) or more away from the coastline, features rolling hills with elevations ranging from 100 to 250 feet (30 76 m). The highest point in peninsular Florida, Sugarloaf Mountainmarker, is a peak in Lake Countymarker.

Areas under control of the National Park Service include: Areas under the control of the USDA United States Forest Service include:


The state line begins in the Atlantic Ocean, traveling west, south, and north up the thalweg of the Saint Mary's Rivermarker. At the origin of that river, it then follows a straight line nearly due west and slightly north, to the point where the confluence of the Flint River (from Georgia) and the Chattahoochee River (down the Alabama/Georgia line) used to form Florida's Apalachicola River. (Since Woodruff Dam was built, this point has been under Lake Seminole.) The border with Georgia continues north through the lake for a short distance up the former thalweg of the Chattahoochee, then with Alabama runs due west along latitude 31°N to the Perdido Rivermarker, then south along its thalweg to the Gulf via Perdido Bay. Much of the state is at or near sea level.


The climate of Florida is tempered somewhat by the fact that no part of the state is very distant from the ocean. North of lake Okeechobee, the prevalent climate is humid subtropical climate, while south of the lake has a true tropical climate. High temperatures in the state seldom exceed 100 °F (38 °C), with much of Florida commonly seeing a high summer temperature of 90s °F (32+ °C).

During late autumn and winter months, Florida has experienced occasional cold fronts that can bring high winds and relatively cooler temperatures for the entire state, with high temperatures that could remain into the 40s and 50s (4–15 °C) and lows of 30s and 40s (0–10 °C) for few days.

The hottest temperature ever recorded in the Florida was 109 °F (43 °C), set on June 29, 1931 in Monticellomarker. The coldest was–2 °F (−19 °C), on February 13, 1899, just 25 miles (40 km) away, in Tallahassee. Mean high temperatures for late July are primarily in the low 90s Fahrenheit (32–35 °C). Mean low temperatures for late January range from the low 40s Fahrenheit (4–7 °C) in northern Florida to the mid-50s (≈13 °C) in southern Florida.

The seasons in Florida are determined more by precipitation than by temperature, with the hot, wet springs and summers making up the wet season, and mild to cool, and the relatively dry winters and autumns, making the dry season. Fall foliage is a common sight in Central and North Florida starting around late November, and into Winter.

The Florida Keysmarker, because they are completely surrounded by water, have a tropical climate with lesser variability in temperatures. At Key Westmarker, temperatures rarely exceed in the summer or fall below in the winter, and frost has never been reported in the Keys.

Florida's nickname is the "Sunshine State", but severe weather is a common occurrence in the state. Central Florida is known as the lightning capital of the United States, as it experiences more lightning strikes than anywhere else in the country. Florida has the highest average precipitation of any state, in large part because afternoon thunderstorms are common in most of the state from late spring until early autumn. A fair day may be interrupted with a storm, only to return to sunshine an hour or so later. These thunderstorms, caused by overland collisions of moist masses of air from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean , pop up in the early afternoon and can bring heavy downpours, high winds, and sometimes tornadoes. Florida leads the United States in tornadoes per square mile (when including waterspouts) but they do not typically reach the intensity of those in the Midwest and Great Plainsmarker. Hail often accompanies the most severe thunderstorms.

Snow in Florida is a rare occurrence. During the Great Blizzard of 1899, Florida experienced blizzard conditions; the Tampa Bay areamarker had "gulf-effect" snow, similar to lake-effect snow in the Great Lakes region. During the 1899 blizzard was the only time the temperature in Florida is known to have fallen below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (−18 °C). The most widespread snowfall in Florida history occurred on January 19, 1977, when snow fell over much of the state, as far south as Homesteadmarker. Snow flurries fell on Miami Beachmarker for the only time in recorded history. A hard freeze in 2003 brought "ocean-effect" snow flurries to the Atlantic coast as far south as Cape Canaveralmarker.The 1993 Superstorm brought blizzard conditions to the panhandle, while heavy rain and tornadoes beset the peninsula. The storm is believed to have been similar in composition to a hurricane, some Gulf coast regions even seeing storm surges of six feet or more.

Hurricane pose a severe threat during hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to November 30, although some storms have been known to form out of season. Florida is the most hurricane-prone US state, with subtropical or tropical water on a lengthy coastline. From 1851 to 2006, Florida has been struck by 114 hurricanes, 37 of them major—category 3 and above. It is rare for a hurricane season to pass without any impact in the state by at least a tropical storm. For storms, category 4 or higher, 83% have either hit Florida or Texas. August to October is the most likely period for a hurricane in Florida.

In 2004, Florida was hit by a record four hurricanes. Hurricanes Charley (August 13), Frances (September 4–5), Ivan (September 16), and Jeanne (September 25–26) cumulatively cost the state's economy US$42 billion. In 2005, Hurricane Dennis (July 10) became the fifth storm to strike Florida within eleven months. Later, Hurricane Katrina (August 25) passed through South Floridamarker and Hurricane Rita (September 20) swept through the Florida Keysmarker. Hurricane Wilma (October 24) made landfall near Cape Romano, just south of Marco Islandmarker, finishing another very active hurricane season.

Florida was the site of the second costliest weather disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Andrew, which caused more than US$25 billion in damage when it struck on August 24, 1992. In a long list of other infamous hurricane strikes are the 1926 Miami hurricane, the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Donna in 1960, and Hurricane Opal in 1995. Recent research suggests the storms are part of a natural cycle and not a result of global warming.
Average High and Low temperatures for various Florida Cities
City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jacksonvillemarker 65/43 68/45 74/50 80/56 86/64 90/70 92/73 91/73 87/70 80/61 73/51 66/44
Key Westmarker 75/65 76/66 79/69 82/72 85/76 88/78 89/80 90/80 88/78 85/76 80/71 76/67
Melbournemarker 72/51 73/53 77/57 81/61 85/67 88/71 90/73 90/73 88/72 83/67 78/60 73/53
Miamimarker 76/60 77/61 80/64 83/68 86/72 88/75 90/77 90/77 88/76 85/72 81/67 77/62
Pensacolamarker 61/43 64/46 70/51 76/58 84/66 89/72 90/74 90/74 87/70 80/60 70/50 63/45
Tallahasseemarker 64/40 67/42 73/48 80/53 87/62 91/69 91/72 91/72 88/68 81/57 72/47 66/41
Tampamarker 71/51 72/52 77/57 82/62 88/68 90/73 90/75 90/75 89/73 84/66 77/58 72/52


Florida is host to many types of wildlife including:

Since their accidental importation from South America into North America in the 1930s, the Red imported fire ant population has increased its territorial range to include most of the Southern United States, including Florida. They are more aggressive than most native ant species and have a painful sting.

Environmental issues

Florida ranks forty-fifth in total energy consumption per capita, despite the heavy reliance on air conditioners and pool pumps. This includes coal, natural gas, petroleum, and retail electricity sales. It is estimated that approximately 4% of energy in the state is generated through renewable resources. Florida's energy production is 6 percent of the nation's total energy output, while total production of pollutants is lower, with figures of 5.6 percent for nitrogen oxide, 5.1 percent for carbon dioxide, and 3.5 percent for sulfur dioxide.

It is believed that significant energy resources are located off of Florida's western coast in the Gulf of Mexicomarker, but that region has been closed to exploration since 1981. Governor Charlie Crist and both of Florida's U.S. Senators, Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez, oppose offshore drilling and exploration. Former Governor Jeb Bush, who was originally opposed to all drilling, changed his position in 2005 when he supported a bill introduced into the House of Representatives which allowed unrestricted drilling or more from the coast. Crist, Martinez and Nelson opposed that bill, but Martinez and Nelson voted for a Senate alternative which prohibited drilling within of the Panhandle coast, and of the peninsular coast.

In July 2007, Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced plans to sign executive orders that would impose strict new air-pollution standards in the state, with aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. Crist's orders would set new emissions targets for power companies, automobiles and trucks, and toughen conservation goals for state agencies and require state-owned vehicles to use alternative fuels.

Red tide has also been an issue on the Southwest coast of Florida. While there has been a great deal of conjecture over the cause of the toxic algae bloom, there is no evidence that it is being caused by pollution or that there has been an increase in the duration or frequency of red tides.



Florida has the 4th highest state population in the United States. The center of population of Florida is located in Polk Countymarker, in the town of Lake Walesmarker. As of 2008, Florida's population was estimated to be 18,328,340. The state grew 128,814, or 0.7% from 2007. Using the latest population estimates, Florida is the nation's thirtieth-fastest-growing state. During Florida's peak growth year of 2005, it was the nation's fifth fastest growing state and grew at an annual rate of 2.2%.

There were 186,102 military retirees living in the state in 2008.

Ancestry groups

Racial and ancestral makeup

The largest reported ancestries in the 2000 Census were German (11.8%), Irish (10.3%), English (9.2%), American (8%), Italian (6.3%), French (2.8%), Polish (2.7%) and Scottish (1.8%).

Florida Population Density Map
Before the American Civil War, when slavery was legal, and during the Reconstruction era that followed, blacks made up nearly half of the state's population. Their proportion declined over the next century, as many moved north in the Great Migration while large numbers of northern whites moved to the state. Recently, the state's proportion of black residents has begun to grow again. Today, large concentrations of black residents can be found in northern Florida (notably in Jacksonville, Gainesvillemarker, Tallahassseemarker, and Pensacola), the Tampa Baymarker area, the Orlando area, especially in Orlando and Sanfordmarker. Also, there has been a large increase of Black Americans of Hispanic decent in South Florida; where their numbers have been bolstered by significant immigration from Cubamarker, Haitimarker, and Jamaica.

Florida's Hispanic population includes large communities of Cuban Americans in Miami and Tampa, Puerto Ricans in Orlando and Tampa, and Central American migrant workers in inland West-Central and South Florida. The Hispanic community continues to grow more affluent and mobile. Between the years of 2000 and 2004, Lee Countymarker in Southwest Florida, which is largely suburban in character, had the fastest Hispanic population growth rate of any county in the United States.

White Americans of all European backgrounds are present in all areas of the state. Those of British and Irish ancestry are present in large numbers in all the urban/suburban areas across the state. There is a large German population in Southwest Florida, a large Greek population in the Tarpon Springsmarker area, a sizable and historic Italian community in the Miami area, and white Floridians of longer-present generations in the culturally southern areas of inland and northern Florida. Native white Floridians, especially those who have descended from long-time Florida families, affectionately refer to themselves as "Florida crackers." Like all the other southern states, they descend mainly from Scots-Irish as well as some other British settlers.In and around St. Augustine are also several descendants of the Minorcans who fled there fromBritish physician Andrew Turnbull's New Smyrna colony in 1768.

Metropolitan areas

Distribution of Metropolitan Statistical Areas in Florida

Florida has twenty Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) defined by the United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Thirty-nine of Florida's sixty-seven counties are in an MSA. Reflecting the distribution of population in Florida, Metropolitan areas in the state are concentrated around the coast of the peninsula. They form a continuous band on the east coast of Florida, stretching from the Jacksonville MSA to the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach MSA, including every county on the east coast, with the exceptions of Monroe Countymarker. There is also a continuous band of MSAs on the west coast of the peninsula from the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA to the Naples-Marco Island MSA, including all of the coastal counties from Hernando Countymarker to Collier Countymarker. The interior of the northern half of the peninsula also has several MSAs, connecting the east and west coast MSAs. A few MSAs are scattered across the Florida panhandle.

The largest metropolitan area in the state as well as the entire southeastern United States is the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach Metropolitan Statistical Areamarker, with over five million people. The Tampa Bay areamarker, with over 2.7 million people, is the second largest metro area and Greater Orlando, with over 2.6 million people, is the third.

Most populous cities and towns

City Population > 500,000 City Population > 200,000 City Population > 150,000 City Population > 100,000

Image:Friendship_Fountain_at_Night.JPG |
File:Central Downtown Miami 20090513.jpg|
Image:St Pete Skyline from Pier.jpg|
St. Petersburgmarker
File:The city beautiful.jpg|
File:Fort Lauderdale Skyline.jpg|
Fort Lauderdalemarker
Image:Tallahassee famu2 shot - across2.jpg|
Coral Springsmarker


As of 2000, 76.91 percent of Florida residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a first language, while 16.46 percent spoke Spanish, and French Creole (predominantly Haitian Creole) was spoken by 1.38 percent of the population. French was spoken by 0.83 percent, followed by German at 0.59 percent, and Italian at 0.44 percent of all residents. Also, Portuguese comprised 0.36 percent, while Tagalog made up 0.25 percent of speakers, Arabic was at 0.21 percent and Vietnamese at 0.20 percent. In all, 23.80 percent of Florida's population age 5 and older spoke a language other than English at home.

As of 2005, 74.54 percent of Florida residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a first language, while 18.65 percent spoke Spanish, and French Creole (predominantly Haitian Creole) was spoken by 1.73 percent of the population. French was spoken by 0.63 percent, followed by German at 0.45 percent, and Portuguese at 0.44 percent of all residents. Also, Italian comprised 0.32 percent, while Tagalog made up 0.30 percent of speakers, Vietnamese was at 0.25 percent and Arabic at 0.23 percent. In all, 25.45 percent of Florida's population age 5 and older spoke a language other than English.

This means English decreased by -2.37%, Spanish increased +2.21%, French Creole (including Haitian Creole) increased by +0.35%, French decreased by -0.20%, German decreased by -0.14%, Italian decreased by -0.12%, Portuguese increased by +0.08%, Tagalog increased by +0.05%, Arabic increased by +0.02%, and Vietnamese increased by +0.05% of languages spoken.

Florida's climate makes it a popular state for immigrants. Florida's public education system identifies over 200 first languages other than English spoken in the homes of students. In 1990, the League of United Latin American Citizens won a class action lawsuit against the state Florida Department of Education that required educators to be trained in teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages .

Article II, Section 9, of the Florida Constitution provides that "English is the official language of the State of Florida." This provision was adopted in 1988 by a vote following an Initiative Petition.


Florida is mostly Protestant, but Roman Catholicism is the single largest denomination in the state. There is also a sizable Jewish community, located mainly in South Floridamarker; no other Southern state has such a large Jewish population. Florida's current religious affiliations are shown in the table below:


Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic
2008 48.22% 4,045,624 50.96% 4,282,074
2004 52.10% 3,964,522 47.09% 3,583,544
2000 48.85% 2,912,790 48.84% 2,912,253
1996 42.32% 2,244,536 48.02% 2,546,870
1992 40.89% 2,173,310 39.00% 2,072,698
1988 60.87% 2,618,885 38.51% 1,656,701
1984 65.32% 2,730,350 34.66% 1,448,816
1980 55.52% 2,046,951 38.50% 1,419,475
1976 46.64% 1,469,531 51.93% 1,636,000
1972 71.91% 1,857,759 27.80% 718,117
1968 40.53% 886,804 30.93% 676,794
1964 48.85% 905,941 51.15% 948,540
1960 51.51% 795,476 48.49% 748,700

The basic structure, duties, function, and operations of the government of the State of Florida are defined and established by the Florida Constitution, which establishes the basic law of the state and guarantees various rights and freedoms of the people. The state government consists of three separate branches: judicial, executive, and legislative. The legislature enacts bills, which, if signed by the governor, become Florida Statutes.

The Florida Legislature comprises the Florida Senate, which has 40 members, and the Florida House of Representatives, which has 120 members. The current Governor of Florida is Republican Charlie Crist.The Florida Supreme Courtmarker consists of a Chief Justice and six Justices.

There are 67 Counties in Florida, but some reports show only 66 because of Duval Countymarker, which is consolidated with the City of Jacksonvillemarker. There are 379 cities in Florida (out of 411) that report regularly to the Florida Department of Revenue, but there are other incorporated municipalities that do not. The primary source of revenue for the State government is sales tax, but the primary revenue source for cities and counties is property tax.

Political history

After Reconstruction, white-elite Democrats wrestled for power until they regained it in 1877, partly through violent paramilitary tactics targeting freedmen and allies to reduce their voting. From 1885 to 1889, the state legislature passed statutes with provisions to reduce voting by blacks and poor whites, which had threatened white Democratic power with a populist coalition. As these groups were stripped from voter rolls, white Democrats established power in a one-party state, as happened across the South. In 1900 African Americans comprised 44% of the state's population, the same proportion as before the Civil War, but they were effectively disfranchised. From 1877 to 1948, Florida voted for the Democratic candidate for president in every election except for the 1928 election.

In response to segregation, disfranchisement and agricultural depression, many African Americans migrated from Florida to northern cities in the Great Migration, in waves from 1910–1940, and again starting in the later 1940s. They moved for jobs, better education for their children and the chance to vote and participate in society. Given migration of other groups into Florida (as noted in other sections of this article), by 1960 the proportion of African Americans in the state had declined to 18%.

From 1952 through 2008, despite having a majority of registered Democrats, the state voted for the Republican presidential candidate in every election except for the 1964, 1976, 1996, and 2008 elections. The first post-reconstruction Republican congressional representative was elected in 1954. The state's first post-reconstruction Republican senator was elected in 1968, two years after the first post-reconstruction Republican governor.

In 1998, Democrats were described as most dominant in areas of the state with high percentages of racial minorities, as well as transplanted white liberals coming primarily from the Northeastern United States. The South Florida metropolitan areamarker was a good example of this as it had a particularly high level of both racial minorities and white liberals. Because of this, the area has been one of the most Democratic areas of the state. The Daytona metropolitan area has been, to a lesser extent, somewhat similar to South Florida demographically and the city of Orlando had a large Hispanic population, which often favored Democrats. Republicans remain dominant through out much of the rest of Florida particularly in the more rural and suburban areas.

The fast growing I-4 corridor area, which runs through Central Floridamarker and connects the cities of Daytona Beachmarker, Orlandomarker, and Tampamarker/St. Petersburgmarker, had a fairly similar number of both Republican and Democratic voters. The area is often seen as a merging point of the conservative northern portion of the state and the liberal southern portion making it the biggest swing area in the state. In recent times, whichever way the I-4 corridor area, containing 40% of Florida voters, votes has often determined who will win the state of Florida in presidential elections.

Recent elections

The Democratic Party has maintained an edge in voter registration, both statewide and in 40 of the 67 counties, including Miami-Dade Countymarker, Broward Countymarker, and Palm Beach Countymarker, the state's three most populous counties. Despite the Democratic advantage in registration, as of 2008, Republicans controlled the governorship and most other statewide elective offices; both houses of the state legislature; and 15 of the state's 25 seats in the House of Representatives. Florida is consistently listed as a swing state in Presidential elections. In the closely contested 2000 election the state played a pivotal role.

In 2008, delegates of both the Republican Florida primary election and Democratic Florida primary election were stripped of half of their votes when the conventions meet in August due to violation of both parties' national rules.


All potable water resources have been controlled by the state government through five regional water authorities since 1972.

Public safety

Florida was ranked the fifth most dangerous state in 2009. Ranking was based on the record of serious felonies committed in 2008.


While many houses and commercial buildings look similar to those elsewhere in the country, the state has appropriated some unique styles in some section of the state including Spanish revival, Florida vernacular, and Mediterranean Revival Style.


The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Florida in 2007 was $734.5 billion. Its GDP is the fourth largest economy in the United States. The major contributors to the state's gross output in 2007 were general services, financial services, trade, transportation and public utilities, manufacturing and construction respectively.

Personal income

Per Capita personal income was $38,417, ranking 20th in the nation.

The state was one of the few states to not have a state minimum wage law until 2004, when voters passed a constitutional amendment establishing a state minimum wage and (unique among minimum wage laws) mandating that it be adjusted for inflation every six months. Currently, the minimum wage in the state of Florida is $7.21 as of January 1, 2009.

Florida is one of the nine states that do not impose a personal income tax (list of others). The state had imposed a tax on "intangible personal property" (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, money market funds, etc.), but this tax was abolished after 2006. The state sales tax rate is 6%. Local governments may levy an additional local option sales tax of up to 1.5%. A locale's use tax rate is the same as its sales tax rate, including local options, if any. Use taxes are payable for purchases made out of state and brought into Florida within six months of the purchase date. Documentary stamps are required on deed transfers and mortgages. Other taxes include corporate income, communication services, unemployment, solid waste, insurance premium, pollutants, and various fuel taxes.

There were 2.4 million Floridians living in poverty in 2008. 18.4% of children 18 and younger were living in poverty.

The state also had the second-highest credit card delinquency rate, with 1.45% of cardholders in the state more than 90 days delinquent on one or more credit cards.


Tourism makes up the largest sector of the state economy. Warm weather and hundreds of miles of beaches attract about 60 million visitors to the state every year. Amusement parks, especially in the Orlandomarker area, make up a significant portion of tourism. The Walt Disney World Resortmarker is the largest vacation resort in the world, consisting of four theme parks and more than 20 hotels in Lake Buena Vista, Floridamarker; it, and Universal Orlando Resortmarker, Busch Gardens, SeaWorldmarker, and other major parks drive state tourism. Many beach towns are also popular tourist destinations, particularly in the winter months.

The second largest industry is agriculture. Citrus fruit, especially orange, are a major part of the economy, and Florida produces the majority of citrus fruit grown in the U.S. in 2006 67 percent of all citrus, 74 percent of oranges, 58 percent of tangerines, and 54 percent of grapefruit. About 95 percent of commercial orange production in the state is destined for processing (mostly as orange juice, the official state beverage). Citrus canker continues to be an issue of concern. Other products include sugarcane, strawberries, tomatoes and celery. The Everglades Agricultural Area is a major center for agriculture. The environmental impact of agriculture—especially water pollution—is a major issue in Florida today.

Phosphate mining, concentrated in the Bone Valley, is the state's third-largest industry. The state produces about 75 percent of the phosphate required by farmers in the United States and 25 percent of the world supply, with about 95 percent used for agriculture (90 percent for fertilizer and 5 percent for livestock feed supplements) and 5 percent used for other products.

Since the arrival of the NASA Merritt Island launch sites on Cape Canaveral (most notably Kennedy Space Center) in 1962, Florida has developed a sizable aerospace industry.

Historically, Florida's economy was based upon cattle farming and agriculture (especially sugarcane, citrus, tomatoes, and strawberries). In the early 1900, land speculators discovered Florida, and businessmen such as Henry Plant and Henry Flagler developed railroad systems, which led people to move in, drawn by the weather and local economies. From then on, tourism boomed, fueling a cycle of development that overwhelmed a great deal of farmland.

At the end of the third quarter in 2008, Florida had the highest mortgage delinquency rate in the country, with 7.8% of mortgages delinquent at least 60 days. A 2009 list of national housing markets that were hard hit in the real estate crash included a disproportionate number in Florida. The early 2000s building boom left Florida with 300,000 vacant homes in 2009, according to state figures. In 2009, the US Census Bureau estimated that Floridians spent an average 49.1% of personal income on housing-related costs, the third highest percentage in the country.

Another major economic engine in Florida is the United States Military. There are currently 24 military bases in the state, housing three Unified Combatant Commands; United States Central Command in Tampa, United States Southern Command in Doral, and United States Special Operations Command in Tampa. There are 109,390 U.S. military personnel currently stationed in Florida, contributing, directly and indirectly, $52 billion a year to the state's economy.


Florida's public primary and secondary schools are administered by the Florida Department of Education.

State University System of Florida

The State University System of Florida is a university system that was founded in 1905, and is currently governed by the Florida Board of Governors. During the 2008 academic year there was a total of 301,570 students who attended one of these member institutions.

Private Universities in Florida

The Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida is an association of 28 private, educational institutions in the state of Florida.

Florida has many large and small private institutions. The "Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida", serves the interests of the private universities in Florida. This Association reported that their member institutions served over 121,000 students in the fall of 2006.
Additionally, there are 20 colleges and universities that are not affiliated with the ICUF, but are fully-accredited universities in the state of Florida.

Florida College System

The Florida College System manages and funds Florida's twenty-eight public colleges.



Map of Florida with major roads and cities
Florida's interstates, state highways and U.S. Highways are maintained by the Florida Department of Transportation. Florida's interstate highway system contains 1,473 miles (2,371 km) of highway, and there are 9,934 miles (15,987 km) of non-interstate highway in the state, such as Florida state highways and U.S. Highways.

Florida's primary interstate routes include:
Prior to the construction of routes under the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, Florida began construction of a long cross-state toll road, Florida's Turnpikemarker. The first section, from Fort Piercemarker south to the Golden Glades Interchangemarker was completed in 1957. After a second section north through Orlando to Wildwoodmarker (near present-day The Villagesmarker), and a southward extension around Miamimarker to Homesteadmarker, it was finished in 1974.

State highways are numbered according to a specific convention. The first digits of state highways, with some exceptions (such as State Road 112 connecting Interstate 95 to the Miami International Airportmarker), are numbered with the first digit indicating what area of the state the road is in, from 1 in the north and east to 9 in the south and west. Major north-south state roads generally have one- or two-digit odd route numbers that increase from east to west, while major east-west state roads generally have one- or two-digit even route numbers that increase from north to south. Roads of secondary importance usually have three-digit route numbers. The first digit x of their route number is the same as the first digit of the road with two-digit number x0 to the immediate north. The three-digit route numbers also increase from north to south for even numbers and east to west for odd numbers.

Following this convention, State Road 907, or Alton Rd. on Miami Beach, is farther east than State Road 997, which is Krome Ave, or the farthest west north-south road in Miami-Dade County. One notable exception to the convention is State Road 826, or the Palmetto Expressway (pictured at the right heading north) which, although even numbered, is signed north-south. State roads can have anywhere from one to four digits depending on the importance and location of the road. County roads often follow this same system.

Intercity rail

Florida is served by Amtrak: Sanfordmarker, in Greater Orlando, is the southern terminus of the Amtrak Auto Train, which originates at Lorton, Virginiamarker, south of Washington, DCmarker. Orlando is also the eastern terminus of the Sunset Limited, which travels across the southern United States via New Orleansmarker, Houstonmarker, and San Antoniomarker to its western terminus of Los Angelesmarker. Florida is served by two additional Amtrak trains (the Silver Star and the Silver Meteor), which operate between New York Citymarker and Miamimarker.


Major international airports in Florida which processed more than 15 million passengers each in 2006 are Orlando International Airportmarker (34,128,048), Miami International Airportmarker (32,533,974), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airportmarker(21,369,577) and Tampa International Airportmarker (18,867,541).

Secondary airports, with annual passenger traffic exceeding 5 million each in 2006, include Southwest Florida International Airportmarker (Fort Myers) (7,643,217), Palm Beach International Airportmarker (West Palm Beach) (7,014,237), and Jacksonville International Airportmarker (5,946,188).

Regional Airports which processed over one million passengers each in 2006 are Pensacolamarker (1,620,198) and Sarasota-Bradentonmarker (1,423,113). Sanfordmarker, which is primarily served by international charter airlines processed 1,649,565 passengers in 2006.


Most Major League Baseball's spring training, and nearly 2/3 of all MLB teams have a spring training presence in the state. Yet Florida did not have a permanent major-league-level professional sports team until the American Football League added the Miami Dolphins in 1966. The state now has three NFL teams, two MLB teams, two NBA teams, and two NHL teams.

Two of the Arena Football League's teams are in Florida.

Golf, tennis, and auto racing are popular.

Minor league baseball, football, basketball, ice hockey, soccer and indoor football teams are based in Florida. Florida's universities have a number of collegiate sport teams.

Club League Venue Championships
Miami Dolphins National Football League LandShark Stadiummarker (Miami) 2 (1972, 1973)
Miami Heat National Basketball Association American Airlines Arenamarker (Miami) 1 (2006)
Florida Marlins Major League Baseball LandShark Stadium (Miami) 2 (1997, 2003)
Florida Panthers National Hockey League BankAtlantic Centermarker (Sunrisemarker) 0
Miami FC USL First Division (Soccer) Tropical Park Stadiummarker (Miami) 0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers National Football League Raymond James Stadiummarker (Tampa) 1 (2003)
Tampa Bay Rays Major League Baseball Tropicana Fieldmarker (St. Petersburg) 0
Tampa Bay Lightning National Hockey League St. Pete Times Forummarker (Tampa) 1 (2004)
Tampa Bay Storm Arena Football League St. Pete Times Forum (Tampa) 5 (1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2003)
Orlando Magic National Basketball Association Amway Arenamarker (Orlando) 0
Orlando Predators Arena Football League Amway Arena (Orlando) 2 (1998, 2000)
Jacksonville Jaguars National Football League Jacksonville Municipal Stadiummarker 0

Spring training

Florida is the traditional home for Major League Baseball spring training, with teams informally organized into the "Grapefruit League." For 2009, Florida will host the following major league teams for spring training:

Club Location
Atlanta Braves Walt Disney Worldmarker
Baltimore Orioles Fort Lauderdalemarker
Boston Red Sox Fort Myersmarker
Cincinnati Reds Sarasotamarker
Detroit Tigers Lakelandmarker
Florida Marlins Jupitermarker
Houston Astros Kissimmeemarker
Minnesota Twins Fort Myersmarker
New York Mets Port St. Luciemarker
New York Yankees Tampamarker
Philadelphia Phillies Clearwatermarker
Pittsburgh Pirates Bradentonmarker
Saint Louis Cardinals Jupitermarker
Tampa Bay Rays Port Charlottemarker
Toronto Blue Jays Dunedinmarker
Washington Nationals Vieramarker
Note: The Cincinnati Reds will be moving to Goodyear, Arizonamarker for 2010.

Auto-racing tracks

Sister states

Sister jurisdiction Country Year
Kyonggimarker South Koreamarker 2000
Languedoc-Roussillonmarker Francemarker 1989
Nueva Esparta Venezuelamarker 1999
Taiwan Province Taiwan, R.O.C.marker 1992
Wakayama Prefecturemarker Japanmarker 1995
Western Cape South Africa 1995

See also


  1. behind California, Texas, and New York
  2. United States population by states, United States Census Bureau.
  3. From the 1601 publication by the pre-eminent historian of 16th century Spanish exploration in America, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, in
  4. Smith, Hale G., and Marc Gottlob. 1978. "Spanish-Indian Relationships: Synoptic History and Archaeological Evidence, 1500–1763." In Tacachale: Essays on the Indians of Florida and Southeastern Georgia during the Historic Period. Edited by Jerald Milanich and Samuel Proctor. Gainesville, Florida: University Presses of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-0535-3
  5. Ehrenberg, Ralph E. "Marvellous countries and lands" Notable Maps of Florida, 1507-1846
  6. The name Florida, sometimes expanded to cover more of the present-day southeastern U.S., remained the most commonly used Spanish term, however, throughout the entire period:
  7. Tindall, George Brown, and David Emory Shi. (edition unknown) America: A Narrative History. W. W. Norton & Company. 412. ISBN 039396874X
  8. Historical Census Browser, accessed 10/31/2007
  9. Historical Census Browser, 1900 Federal Census, University of Virginia [1], accessed 15 Mar 2008
  10. Maxine D. Rogers, Larry E. Rivers, David R. Colburn, R. Tom Dye, and William W. Rogers, "Documented History of the Incident Which Occurred at Rosewood, Florida in January 1923", December 1993, p.5 [2], accessed 28 Mar 2008
  11. James A. Henry, Kenneth Michael Portier, Jan Coyne, The Climate and Weather of Florida, Pineapple Press, 1994, p. 60. ISBN 1561640360.
  12. C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Wild turkey: Meleagris gallopavo, GlobalTwitcher.com, ed. N. Stromberg
  13. Waitley,Douglas. "Roadside History of Florida" (1997)pp230
  14. World skyline rankings
  15. Religion and Politics 2008:Florida - Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
  16. Florida Statutes
  17. [3] retrieved March 23, 2009
  18. [4]
  19. [5]
  20. Official website of ICUF
  21. FHP State Road Listings accessed March 29, 2009
  22. 2005 figure; 2006 data not available.

External links

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