How Florida legally terrorized gay students

9 108
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
Watch our full video catalog:
Follow Vox on Facebook:
Or Twitter:
Lengd: 11:56


Emma Reid
Emma Reid - Degi Síðan síðan
“Make America great again “
When was America ever great.
Sleepy Child
Sleepy Child - Degi Síðan síðan
Love is Love
Black or Brown is a color
And Things Are Taught Not Known
Leigh [Lay]
Leigh [Lay] - Degi Síðan síðan
when they showed little rock central high I got scared.
Robbie Phillips
Robbie Phillips - 2 dögum síðan
Only the state of Florida can actually endanger the state of Florida
Vania Caldera
Vania Caldera - 2 dögum síðan
Fast forward to 2020 people still have that type of mentality
kmzan - 3 dögum síðan
It’s so sad how people have lost the opportunity of a young happy and peaceful life because unfair government rules and ideas, and still be so affected and traumatised in their grown-up lives. How monsters can a human be to feel power over others who didn’t have any guilt but just different taste and likes. And of course the racist idiotism... the biggest lack of intelligence of all times.
Ok - 3 dögum síðan
Land of free where we needed to be the part
W White
C Christian
S Straight
Proconsul Scipio
Proconsul Scipio - 3 dögum síðan
To all those that believe nothing like Trump has ever existed, Joe McCarthy. And hopefully Trump dies as disregarded and alone as McCarthy did. My son is named after Dashiel Hammet who spent years in jail, destroying his health for the rest of his life, because he had the strength of character to not betray the confidence of his peers and friends.
American conservatism has always been built upon cowardice, lies and bullying the least powerful in society. And it always will be.
softella - 3 dögum síðan
So, they *needed* someone to target? Wow, how disgusting.
RhythmAddictedState - 3 dögum síðan
It's heart-breaking that this man has lived in fear for all these years, even to this day. I really hope he's happy or that he will find happiness eventually.
Return of the Queen
Return of the Queen - 4 dögum síðan
Nothing but a witch hunt! Disgusting
Phya Claveria
Phya Claveria - 4 dögum síðan
This is why freedom of the press exists.
andrei lin
andrei lin - 5 dögum síðan
I mean, it's florida
Jayden chaw
Jayden chaw - 5 dögum síðan
At 3:02 "renegade necro"
Colonel Gucci
Colonel Gucci - 6 dögum síðan
Marlene Mcgovern
Marlene Mcgovern - 6 dögum síðan
What one hates of others, is what one hates of self. 🌍✌
Albus Dumbledork
Albus Dumbledork - 10 dögum síðan
I take issue with Rep. Evan Jenne's statement. Being a straight white man does not mean you're "kinda the one who needs to apologize," for the actions of individuals you were never affiliated with. You didn't do those things, nor did you knowingly allow it to happen. The idea that people anywhere need to apologize for events in which they had no direct or peripheral involvement is toxic postmodern garbage that needs to be dismissed as such.
Wow Lizzy
Wow Lizzy - 12 dögum síðan
I didn’t learn about this AT ALL and I went to school in Florida
Jav B
Jav B - 12 dögum síðan
It wasn't all good back in the days....that's all bull I see nothing but hate.
PixelPhobiac - 13 dögum síðan
Who were the bad guys again?
Max - 5 dögum síðan
PixelPhobiac the state of florida
Black Hole
Black Hole - 14 dögum síðan
It honestly baffles me how people can be so full of hate?
thomas ayers
thomas ayers - 16 dögum síðan
They 💘 them now
Jayvyn Sheppard
Jayvyn Sheppard - 17 dögum síðan
Like always they don't care. They don't really care about us.
Doug Summers
Doug Summers - 17 dögum síðan
This has really touched my heart even though I did not live during that time.I myself have been a victim of severe discrimination, had a friend killed,lost a job, thrown out of housing,and denied the right to comfort my loved ones in hospitals,the times yes,they are a'changing but there is still a long go ,never give up for love...
Thomas Moch
Thomas Moch - 23 dögum síðan
Thank you for sharing this vox!
ahmed sufi
ahmed sufi - 26 dögum síðan
But Why
Babeena_Gt _
Babeena_Gt _ - 28 dögum síðan
This is so sad. Just let people be who they want to be and let their higher power decide if it's wrong or right. Why do humans want to control other humans choices in life and how they live and feel happy 🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️
Asami from Wii Party
Asami from Wii Party - 29 dögum síðan
I LIVE IN THIS STATE. I never knew this 😢
Giorno Giovanna
Giorno Giovanna - 29 dögum síðan
A professional john cena 2:55
amanda Derp
amanda Derp - 29 dögum síðan
Sounds like florida.
Jennifer Buehler
Jennifer Buehler - Mánuði síðan
Heartbreaking and disgusting. Those on the committee can claim no moral superiority.
Kash Sattar
Kash Sattar - Mánuði síðan
America is littered with these kinds of stories from the day....the very first day they illegally stole the land from AMERICAN INDIANS.
UnrealProductions - Mánuði síðan
Charley Johns was a Democrat btw
UnrealProductions - Mánuði síðan
This was an amazing part of history
Emily marrs
Emily marrs - Mánuði síðan
This is absolutely disgusting and no one deserves this. I just want to give the old man a massive hug ❤
Rubi - Mánuði síðan
Are witch hunts like this the reason our country is in debt?
Lukas Prochazka
Lukas Prochazka - Mánuði síðan
These things happened in usa? Oof
terrab1ter4 - Mánuði síðan
"They weren't very bright people, but they had tremendous power over others." - Politicians in a nutshell
KEVIN FRANCIS - Mánuði síðan
Why is Vox not scrutinising muslim countries like this?
G Franco
G Franco - Mánuði síðan
He’s more gangster than Tekashi 69. The dude didn’t snitch out his friends.
Draga Tasić
Draga Tasić - Mánuði síðan
How unbelievably disgusting and shameful. Shame on Florida
Psyrorooo - Mánuði síðan
This proves that even in the past, LGBTQ members were disgusted in the community
VAIBHAV SRIVASTAVA - 22 klukkustundum síðan
So is it a good thing or bad. ... For someone sake . Become little human . Learn empathy. It will save cracks on your soul.
Lowed Arizobal
Lowed Arizobal - Mánuði síðan
Wow. This is whack.
TaraTownsend - Mánuði síðan
"These investigators, interrogators, weren't very bright." Those sorts of people never have been and never will be, that is why they will always eventually shoot themselves in the foot - guaranteed.
Rossi Hall
Rossi Hall - Mánuði síðan
Who else but Florida
Donald Willis
Donald Willis - Mánuði síðan
Dispicable ... The history of LGBTQ 🏳️‍🌈 in FLORIDA...
Anna-Maria Blue
Anna-Maria Blue - Mánuði síðan
I just need to know that Mr. Copleston turned out OK. Please tell me he was able to persevere and be happy despite all this. Like PLEASE VOX, I NEED TO KNOW
Person Without
Person Without - Mánuði síðan
It makes sense that this would happen in Florida.
Cooper - Mánuði síðan
I feel very bad for the poor man who was interviewed.
Lorie Flickinger
Lorie Flickinger - Mánuði síðan
This makes me so sad.
Legodog890 - Mánuði síðan
I remember this in us history this wasn't taught to us it was the opposite
Richard Philip
Richard Philip - Mánuði síðan
Because of ancient bronze age fables from a distant land, what a ridiculous world we live in
M. Precio
M. Precio - 2 mánuðum síðan
It's heartbreaking Watching him describe what happened
Julie Poirier
Julie Poirier - 2 mánuðum síðan
Thank you so much for shedding light on this. This is awful, but so important not to forget.
Ah Dindu Nuffin
Ah Dindu Nuffin - 2 mánuðum síðan
Socrates first trial/court for corrupting the youth of Athens is still at work very much today. History repeating herself every 50 years or less. Although I don't trust anything coming from Vox, it's not hard to understand opressed miniroties, even though I never was one.
ramona - 2 mánuðum síðan
thats illegal
jswaggart01 - 2 mánuðum síðan
Another chapter of America’s disgraceful past. If you can’t see the slogan “Make America Great Again” for what it really is, then shame on you.
End Engineer
End Engineer - 2 mánuðum síðan
Ah yes, classic Florida.
Stupid Lilly
Stupid Lilly - 2 mánuðum síðan
Nicci Thatcher
Nicci Thatcher - 2 mánuðum síðan
I love Vox articles like these! Would you ever span out to places like Australia and cover stories in Australia around our racially charged history? I would love to have Australian history more accessible to the public and I love how Vox reports on issues.
TheBrown Big Chungus
TheBrown Big Chungus - 2 mánuðum síðan
I have mad respect for Florida's representative
peaceful Fury
peaceful Fury - 2 mánuðum síðan
This explains to me why it is so hard to tell the LGBTQ community about Yeshua and to expect to not receive the heavy lash back.
Agent piggles
Agent piggles - 2 mánuðum síðan
But fr why did they waste so much money on literally nothing
Mr.Dan714 - 2 mánuðum síðan
I read in a book on lgbtq America, that in this time frame, the government paid millions of tax payer money for the development of a "fruit machine" to find homosexuals... it never worked.
William Alverio
William Alverio - 2 mánuðum síðan
Agh this makes me ANGRY
Kim Flynn
Kim Flynn - 2 mánuðum síðan
@ArtCollection Thankyou. It is empowering to know that through the years of continuous struggle that progress, though gradual, has been made. That despite the obstacle, it is worth the fight.
DCN 1234
DCN 1234 - 2 mánuðum síðan
3:03 wait did I just see renegade
Gonzales Frederic
Gonzales Frederic - 2 mánuðum síðan
Florida also legally persecute cannabis users.
Flux Capacitor
Flux Capacitor - 2 mánuðum síðan
Conservatives are always on the wrong side of history.
VAIBHAV SRIVASTAVA - 22 klukkustundum síðan
@American Patriot what good thing has USA has done in past without buring other thing ?... If you find one example it will be cool & I would learn something cool. No country is free of past & it's wars ... You accept , teach & hope not to repeat. That's why this alll exist.
American Patriot
American Patriot - 24 dögum síðan
Flux Capacitor it’s because the people only think about the bad things the US did throughout their history. What about the good things the US did?
Gothamite - 2 mánuðum síðan
The ending of the video with the words from the Florida Representative is just further proof that championing states rights is an often ridiculous concept that only serves to maintain harmful power structures. States having their own rights is an important concept I agree, but not when it is used for abuse like this.
Frotp Ptorf
Frotp Ptorf - 2 mánuðum síðan
He later on bottomed every day of his life without any hesitation
Lucas Fernandez
Lucas Fernandez - 2 mánuðum síðan
Just remember it’s the Democrats who wanted to preserve segregation.
JonbangFan #69
JonbangFan #69 - Mánuði síðan
Party switch
Seance S
Seance S - 2 mánuðum síðan
Lucas Fernandez conservatives**
Reza Ismail
Reza Ismail - 2 mánuðum síðan
Now the lgbtq people terorizing the normal because they were straight
A D - Mánuði síðan
No we don’t?
Seance S
Seance S - 2 mánuðum síðan
Reza Ismail no they dont.
His Majesty
His Majesty - 2 mánuðum síðan
Thank you for bringing this to light.
His Majesty
His Majesty - 2 mánuðum síðan
Never again.
R Scott B
R Scott B - 2 mánuðum síðan
How about focusing on driving and looking at where you are going?
Star7Communicator - 2 mánuðum síðan
I really want to give that guy a hug. What an amazing individual.
HardWorkingDoggo - 2 mánuðum síðan
How ironic this woman is filmed inside a church
Austin S
Austin S - 2 mánuðum síðan
America isn’t without its flaws and mistakes. But America was and IS the greatest country in the world. If you don’t like it, then live elsewhere.
A D - Mánuði síðan
What are you measuring America’s greatness on?
Seance S
Seance S - 2 mánuðum síðan
Austin S how did i contradict myself, its on the verge of being a good country but it never was a good country. America has a poor education system and its a bold assumption that im not american
Austin S
Austin S - 2 mánuðum síðan
You actually managed to contradict yourself in your eight word response. Keep that intellect of yours out of America.
Seance S
Seance S - 2 mánuðum síðan
Austin S its hardly a good country, and never was.
Arran Beattie
Arran Beattie - 2 mánuðum síðan
"Please welcome to the stage... Lavender Scare!"