450th Commissioner: Dr. J. Michael Francis


Dr. J. Michael Francis received his PhD in History from the University of Cambridge. Since 1997, he has taught at the University of North Florida, where he is Professor of History. Dr. Francis has published numerous articles on the history of early-colonial New Granada (modern day Colombia).

His book, Invading Colombia, Spanish Accounts of the Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada Expedition of Conquest, was published in 2008 by Penn State University Press.

Dr. Francis’ most recent book, entitled Politics, Murder, and Martyrdom in Spanish Florida: Don Juan and the Guale Uprising of 1597, will be published in 2011 by the American Museum of Natural History. The book examines the murders of five Franciscan friars stationed in the northern region of Spanish Florida (in modern Georgia). At present, Dr. Francis is completing his next book project, The Martyrs of Florida, which is under contract with the University Press of Florida.

Since 2008, Dr. Francis has served on the editorial board for the University Press of Florida. His numerous awards and honors include a Cushwa Grant from the University of Notre Dame, a Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society, and the Alfred J. Beveridge Award from the American Historical Society. In 2007, Dr. Francis received a four-year appointment as Research Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Most recently, Dr. Francis was named the 2010-2011 Jay I. Kislak Fellow at the Library of Congress.

Between September 2010 and May 2011 Dr. Francis will be a resident scholar at the Library of Congress, where he will continue his research on the early history of Spanish Florida.

Congress established the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 and charged it with ensuring a suitable national observance of St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary by complementing the programs and activities of the State of Florida and the City of St. Augustine. The members were appointed by U. S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar after considering the recommendations of the Mayor of St. Augustine, the St. Augustine City Commission, and the Chancellor of the University System of Florida, the Governor of Florida, and the Florida delegation in Congress.