How Florida legally terrorized gay students

  • Published: 04 November 2019
  • The hidden history of a Florida witch hunt.

    Starting in the 1950s, a Florida state committee spent years stalking, intimidating, and outing hundreds of LGBTQ people. And they got away with it. Amid a national witch hunt for communists and an ascendant civil rights movement, a group of Florida politicians with a mission to preserve racial segregation in the state created a powerful group called the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee.

    Commonly called the "Johns Committee" for the influential state senator Charley Johns who spearheaded it, the Committee went after civil rights activists by arguing they were backed by communists. But when those investigations failed, they turned to a new group to target: LGBTQ people. Today, over 50 years later, some Florida legislators are calling for the state to finally come to terms with this part of its history.

    Note: The headline on this piece has been updated.
    Previous headline: When Florida had a committee to terrorize gay people

    In the Vox series Missing Chapter, Vox Senior Producer Ranjani Chakraborty revisits underreported and often overlooked moments from the past to give context to the present. Join her as she covers the histories that are often left out of our textbooks. Our first season tackles stories of racial injustice, political conflicts, even the hidden history of US medical experimentation.

    Have an idea for a story that Ranjani should investigate for Missing Chapter? Send it to her via this form!

    Sign up for the Missing Chapter newsletter to stay up to date with the series:

    Explore the full Missing Chapter playlist, including episodes, a creator Q&A, and more!

    To learn more, check out some of our sources below:
    Our DocumentCloud folder with the Florida state archives we used in the piece:

    Judith Poucher’s book on the history of the Johns Committee, “State of Defiance:
    Challenging the Johns Committee's Assault on Civil Liberties” -

    Stacy Braukman’s book on the history of the Johns Committee, “Communists and Perverts under the Palms” -

    Karen L. Graves’ book on the Johns Committee’s purges of K-12 teachers, “And They Were Wonderful Teachers” -
    Watch the documentary, “The Committee,” on the history of the Johns Committee:

    Check out the documentary “Behind Closed Doors,” on the history of the committee:

    Read about the push for a state apology by Florida State Rep. Evan Jenne and State Sen. Lauren Book: is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out

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Comments • 2 008

  • Jub Jub
    Jub Jub  9 hours back

    Rep Evan Jenne needs to stop dipping tobacco, his teeth are being destroyed.

    • Adam Arrozal
      Adam Arrozal  11 hours back

      Incredible work Vox. I’m so emotional now after watching this. Thank you. It’s so powerful.

      • EJF
        EJF  11 hours back

        It happens now.. in all Muslim run countries...

        • Alper yolo Yilmaz
          Alper yolo Yilmaz  12 hours back

          Everyone please remember, things much worse is happening to homosexuals in Saudi Arabia and other muslim countries.

          • charles gale
            charles gale  12 hours back

            2:30 harding highschool in clt

            • A T
              A T  14 hours back

              I'm so glad that I grew up in Canada in the 21st century. So devastating that things like that happened (and still happens in other countries)

              • Nisey Dean
                Nisey Dean  15 hours back

                This is my favorite vox series

                • Proson
                  Proson  18 hours back

                  This is the main reason why Florida needs to secede from the union.

                  • seven henson
                    seven henson  19 hours back

                    Hahah anyone wished it's still legal?

                    • Nina
                      Nina  19 hours back

                      I can't imagine how hard it must be to have gone through trauma and be unable to connect to your community, then openly talk about your story online. This man is so brave.

                      • Mason Meyer
                        Mason Meyer  20 hours back

                        We must all be coherently and confidently convicted of the fact that America has NEVER BEEN GREAT. America isn’t great, has never BEEN great, and we will not see a day in a lifetime when America comes close to greatness.

                        • Sweet Tea
                          Sweet Tea  20 hours back

                          How evil why why why!!!!!!!! This is America???no no no

                          • Sweet Tea
                            Sweet Tea  20 hours back

                            We live among demons...all the ime...

                            • Brian Dennis
                              Brian Dennis  21 hours back

                              Thank you

                              • Wout Veken
                                Wout Veken  21 hours back

                                America is whack

                                • Kate
                                  Kate  22 hours back


                                  • Jeffrey H
                                    Jeffrey H  1 days back

                                    I'm an undergrad at UF and had no idea this happened... :(

                                    • Wessel Westdorp
                                      Wessel Westdorp  4 days back

                                      so basically florida let happen and still wont acknowledge the extreme psychological effects of this horrendous committee?

                                      • brian c
                                        brian c  5 days back

                                        Our country is disgusting ✌🏻

                                        • Odonata
                                          Odonata  6 days back

                                          Florida...Man! J. Edgar Hoover would have been proud. Excellent reporting about unbelievable evil. God bless the brave gentleman who survived and escaped to tell his truth. 11:15 absolutely brakes my heart.

                                          • Mogie Bridgette
                                            Mogie Bridgette  1 weeks back

                                            We’re some of these people high school students at that time. Imagine that seeing your name on one of those lists

                                            • Brooks Carlson
                                              Brooks Carlson  2 weeks back

                                              I cannot believe this story was from less than 75 years ago. There seems to be no limit to the harm we can do to each other. At times I think the worst thing ever to happen to this planet are humans.

                                              • Sean Su
                                                Sean Su  2 weeks back

                                                this man aint snitching

                                                • Dan Mendes
                                                  Dan Mendes  2 weeks back

                                                  "They weren't very bright people, but the had tremendous power over people" think about it

                                                  • Blaire Frei
                                                    Blaire Frei  2 weeks back

                                                    The subtext of this video is that capitalist ideology sees racial desegregation and “non-traditional families” as a threat to its power. Should make you question the whole notion of “freedom and liberty” that capitalism claims it loves so much.

                                                    • withastone
                                                      withastone  2 weeks back

                                                      The Purple Pamphlet is unbelievable, and available online. It is hard to fathom what these people were thinking in publishing that.

                                                      • monkeybabydance
                                                        monkeybabydance  2 weeks back

                                                        The fact that it refers LGBTQ when infact at the time it was referred to as homosexuals at the time really pinkwashes it in my mind....

                                                        • mccalebtv
                                                          mccalebtv  2 weeks back

                                                          This is what Pence is going to do to all of us.

                                                          • Wooper
                                                            Wooper  2 weeks back

                                                            I would like to speak with the CEO of homophobia

                                                            • Hannah Greene
                                                              Hannah Greene  3 weeks back

                                                              i feel like we should be talking about this in schools, right?

                                                              • HITMAN
                                                                HITMAN  3 weeks back

                                                                society was great back then now its a mess.

                                                                • SGAH
                                                                  SGAH  19 hours back

                                                                  This better be sarcasm

                                                              • Johnathan Smith
                                                                Johnathan Smith  3 weeks back

                                                                Americans minorities that are oppressed need to learn that they can’t wait for rights to be given to them, they must take it.

                                                                • Derp 101
                                                                  Derp 101  3 weeks back

                                                                  The only ‘perfect’ people back then were wealthy , white and *straight*

                                                                  • D. A.D
                                                                    D. A.D  3 weeks back

                                                                    Is this channel EVER going to make a video showing how many options someone actually has to protect themselves with the power of the second amendment or is vox also invested in by distraction lobbyists?

                                                                    • Kara
                                                                      Kara  2 weeks back

                                                                      @D. A.D Well, guns spread paranoia and violence. This would be good video, indeed.

                                                                    • D. A.D
                                                                      D. A.D  2 weeks back

                                                                      @Kara no, that's the point. There are no options. The second amendment is used to maintain particular values in uninformed areas of America.

                                                                    • Kara
                                                                      Kara  2 weeks back

                                                                      Can you name these options?

                                                                  • Davey J
                                                                    Davey J  3 weeks back

                                                                    God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. 💯

                                                                    • Dxc3 B2a2
                                                                      Dxc3 B2a2  22 hours back

                                                                      God is also not real so...

                                                                  • Alex Yee
                                                                    Alex Yee  3 weeks back

                                                                    shame on the homosexuals.

                                                                    • Rahshu Beltan
                                                                      Rahshu Beltan  3 weeks back

                                                                      Seriously, what is it with Florida?! Is it something in the water?

                                                                      • Jessie Aber
                                                                        Jessie Aber  3 weeks back

                                                                        So horrifying

                                                                        • Amaryllis Putri
                                                                          Amaryllis Putri  4 weeks back

                                                                          I would so humiliated if I've gone through what that gentleman has gone through

                                                                          • Audrey Hoo
                                                                            Audrey Hoo  4 weeks back

                                                                            The gentleman featured in this video is so so strong, ultimate respect for him.

                                                                            • Leila Hogan
                                                                              Leila Hogan  4 weeks back

                                                                              I just can't believe that they did the roommate thing

                                                                              • Lana Luu
                                                                                Lana Luu  4 weeks back

                                                                                Bi and pan people couldve used their straight side to save them hoowee-

                                                                                • Cockadoodle Doo Studios

                                                                                  Entire LGBTQ+ community: *excuse me, but W H A T*

                                                                                  • Pinky Mixology
                                                                                    Pinky Mixology  4 weeks back

                                                                                    Well... Florida.

                                                                                    • Siddhant Ketkar
                                                                                      Siddhant Ketkar  4 weeks back

                                                                                      They should do this today for lgbtq people. Be a lot cooler if they did this today

                                                                                      • Diego The Cat
                                                                                        Diego The Cat  1 months back

                                                                                        It is my constitutional right to be a homophobe.

                                                                                        • Abby Ghost
                                                                                          Abby Ghost  1 months back

                                                                                          Florida man not good

                                                                                          • Klevino
                                                                                            Klevino  1 months back

                                                                                            Not gonna lie an anti lgbtq johns committe should make a return