Hidden truth in Rosewood, Florida

Rosewood's marker: Half the story, but whose half?

Today I visited Rosewood, Florida, a town with a past so tangled that its historical marker requires two sides to tell it.

That sign is pretty much all there is to tell the story. That’s because Rosewood was erased.

It was torched by racists in 1923. The tale is as convoluted as it is painful, but the short version is that there were once two towns, one mostly white and one black (Rosewood). One day a white person accused a black man of doing something terrible, which happens a lot when scapegoats are required, at which point hundreds of the whites exploded into a bloodthirsty rage. They didn’t just kill people (mostly black, but some whites who tried to stop the slaughter, too), but they hunted them for a week. Rosewood residents had to hide in the woods like animals, only to be cut down when they finally emerged. To finally rid the area of blacks once and for all, the white savages burned Rosewood down.

For a long time, what happened in Rosewood was mostly whispered because no sign or museum in the place itself dared to summon the story. As recently as the ’90s, plans for a monument were shelved because the locals powers disagreed on how much to spend.

Politicians pat themselves on the back

The historical marker was installed only in 2004, despite the fact Hollywood, our most effective national memorializer, had made a movie version in 1997. Most markers in the American South tell the same story on both sides, but Rosewood’s is a cliffhanger. The first half of the story unfolds on the western face (which is odd considering the only civilization in that direction, near the lip of the Gulf of Mexico, is Cedar Key). In it, the dissenting whites are “courageous” while residents of the “predominantly colored” community of Rosewood, apparently not courageous enough to be described that way, hide in the woods.

The flip side consists mostly of a roundabout explanation of why the sign took so long to get there. You see, the sign apologizes, the victims refused to talk about it. Fortunately, and as a matter worthy of casting onto a metal marker, a Democratic governor got the ball rolling. A decade later, a Republican one (a Bush, no less) finally accomplished the mission, and made sure the final line of the long-neglected plaque memorialized the fact.

The saga of why Rosewood was denied its due is nowhere equal to the sorrow and horror of the tale itself, but politicians seem to think so. Their bipartisan collaboration takes more space to relate than the more complicated reasons for the violence, and the retelling of the violence, too, reads as if it was written from the white perspective.

It’s said that most racial disputes are ultimately about money — who’s perceived as taking jobs, who’s perceived as causing crime. In Rosewood, black residents owned their own businesses and their own land, and one of the first things the whites did that week was to loot their property and steal their land. Survivors were too terrorized to ever return.

Rosewood, near the west coast of Florida where the state begins its westward bend toward Alabama, is one of more than three dozen black communities that were eradicated by frenzied whites, but above the others it remains stained. I drove down its unpaved roads. There are a few noticeably modest modern homes there now, buried deep in thicket and protected by barking dogs that, judging by their sensitivity, are clearly unaccustomed to even casual drive-bys. Two homes had American flags hung by their mailboxes (they also took the local paper, too), and I saw one middle-aged woman cutting her side lawn with a mower that didn’t seem to be smeared with human blood. (For a video of the town today, click here.)

I’m sure they’re very nice, normal American people there now, with no festering furies. But given the fact the town’s reputation was stained by simmering anger that suddenly bubbled over, it’s not hard to imagine an unwelcome malevolence in these normal yards. When I heard an unseen dog bark in agitation and saw a U.S. flag hang limp on a windless May afternoon, it was hard not to smell underlying threat in the air in Rosewood.

UPDATE: A year later, I revisited Rosewood, and I shot a video. Click here to watch it.

Shoot in the woods instead, as per the unwritten tradition

74 Responses to “Hidden truth in Rosewood, Florida”

  1. tupelojo

    Thanks for posting this update! I lived in Tallahassee for ten years and in 2001 I was working for a lobbying group. I was also dating a clam farmer in Cedar Key and when visiting the area, found out from locals that the historical marker that was there before was taken down by “vandals” almost immediately after going up, and that the “sunset law” in the area was still “in effect”. I also found out about how the only black person that lived on Cedar Key died that year and his house was burned down after the funeral! I met with county officials and The Riley House about engaging the community on these issues and having the marker restored, but even The Riley House was cautious about tackling Rosewood. I’m glad to hear that Jeb did the right thing. However, rumor has it that the unmarked, mass graves under some of the homes in Rosewood from the 1923 massacre remain. If this is true, then this remains an open wound for us all.

  2. ecric

    A historian from Miami, Marvin Dunn, has bought five acres and UF is doing a dig in Rosewood to locate the structures. It is a fasinating site. The sign has been knocked down several times but it will always be replaced. Some of the local families are opposed but some are generous and interested.

  3. Paddler4x

    Just watched the 1997 movie that in a word was “powerful”. The town of Rosewood, FL was a victim of the senseless racism that existed in the United States back in 1923 which unfortunately still exists almost 90 years later but thankfully not to the extent it once was. Director John Singleton did an excellent job in bringing this bit of history to light and let us never forget what occurred in Rosewood, FL and may it never happen again anywhere.

  4. Dwight

    This sort of thing happened in my home in Virginia (Southampton County). Over 200 innocent blacks were shot, lynched and burned after the Nat Turner insurrection in August of 1831. They were beheaded and their heads were placed on posts along a road that today is named “Blackhead Signpost Rd”… I can’t believe that the state would even let that name slide by. Also, in that county, where the hanging tree was, the road is “Hanging Tree Rd”. Sad!!!

    • Jason Cochran

      Although of course I know that our country sometimes has a very nasty heritage, it still never fails to shock me when I hear specific things that went on. And to think the street still bears that name! At first that grosses me out, morally speaking, but then, once I think about it, I realize I’m glad Virginia didn’t whitewash (so to speak) the places by changing the names to something innocuous. As sick as it is, streets with names like those can bear witness as long as the signs aren’t changed. Not enough of us remember, but at least we’re given a clue to the past as long as they’re marked on the landscape.

      • Nancy Cherry

        My Father was born in Williston Florida in 1907 His father and mother lived in Rosewood I have the original paper of his family that died. My father was 16 at the time. I figured he was on that train towards Gainesville in the movie. My father ended up in St. Augustine Florida. My father cried everyday of his life how his family was hung and killed.

        • Samine Parris-Stowes

          I just left that area. And even went through Williston. When I was in Rosewood besides everybody given me and my husband dirty looks I didn’t see not one black. I asked I guess the locals about the town and they sent me to the other City Katie’s or whatever but it was really weird so I got out of there fast. As I was taking pictures of the sign I got many dirty looks as they drove by.

  5. Rph

    I just wanted to thank you for posting the information on Rosewood. It’s kind of embarrassing for me to say I just watched the documentary today 2/21/12. Better late than never! Your site is awesome. Keep up the excellent work. I plan on visiting the area with my children.

    • Jason Cochran

      Thank you for saying that. And no, it’s not embarrassing in the least. Just imagine how many people still don’t even know that this, and countless other incidents just like it, happened at all.

  6. Cary Goza

    Harrison Arkansas has the same past. A whole community of law abiding black Americans were all killed or ran off because of racial prejudice. Only one older black women remained. Sad, sad, sad. Look it up for yourself.

  7. sherylmt

    I live about 2 hours south of rosewood, saw the movie again last night. There are still so many flordians that have never even heard of rosewood. I get sick to my stomach every time i see that movie. I was raised by a racist father and grandmother and have dead relatives who were very active in the clan all through central & north florida and alabama from the 1920’s-1960’s . I am not proud of my heritage and the hate i was taught.. I pray they can find those mass graves so we can know the true numbers of those that suffered and may they rest in peace.

  8. James Waller

    Several years ago (academic year 1992-1993), I was accepted into Southern Illinois University Law School. Upon my acceptance, I was visited by the Holy Spirit, and began to cry joyously, thanking Jesus. While doing so, the Holy Spirit subsequently told me that I would not succeed, and that God had something planned for me. I found it hard to believe in that it was through prayer that I was accepted into school. Needless to say, I did not succeed. While at the school, Jesus appeared before me as a dark silhouette, with brilliant light all about His presence (3 a.m.). When He spoke to me, my whole body shook at the sound of His voice. Subsequently, He changed my skin-tone to reddish-black, like where the redness from the flame meets the black on an ember of coal; at that time, an angel whispered: This is the color of Jesus. At a later date, I was guided to Rev. 1:15 (it was as if Jesus was turning the pages Himself), where it talks about His feet were like fine brass, as if burned in a furnace – brass is yellow but turns black when burned. Subsequent thereto, He has had me prophesy many things. My first prophesy was that there was going to be an immediate increase in the magnitude of weather and other phenomena. Amongst others, I forwarded the prophesy to Jesse Jackson and Peter Jennings. Within a week of doing so, five hurricanes hit Florida, in immediate succession. As time progressed, God had me prophesy subsequent increases in the magnitude of weather and other phenomena to (amongst others) Rick Sanchez, prior to their occurrence. In that people were not listening, He had me change my prophesy to: There shall be great trials, tribulations, and devastation – like you have never seen; until I am heard to His satisfaction. Since then, many things have happened in which it was said: I have never seen anything like this before. When Bob Riley was governor of Alabama, God had me email him a letter stating: Great storms shall rest upon Alabama – no need for further explication. The night before the tsunami hit Japan, and subsequent tornadoes within the United States, God had me post on my facebook page (www.facebook.com/slimji): Am I seeing great trials, tribulation, and devastation, like I prophesied. On the same day, or day prior, to the recent tornadoes in Alabama (January 2012), God placed a golden eagle, in the city limits of Huntsville, Alabama, for me to see (as being symbolic of my spirit), and had me post: I am seeing more and more unusual things in unusual ways – it is odd to see a tornado in Alabama in January. He is saying that He is tired of racism and violence in the world. He is also saying that He has blessed America abundantly, and that all blessings flow from Him: To whom much is given, much is expected; this includes hearing His servant. However, America does not want to hear. As such, there shall be a great cry! Him that hath an ear, let him hear.

  9. Shari Anderson

    I purchased the video “Rosewood” when it first came out in the late ’90’s and am so appalled by humans treating one another with such contempt and hatred, hopefully lessons learned?

    Rosewood is only an hour plus drive for me from Lake City, FL. I’ve visited Rosewood in the mid-90’s and was always curious as to what happened to the land (deeds) that was owned by the citizens of Rosewood … did they sell their land or was it just absorbed back into the county of Levi?

    I thank God that my roots are shallow in this country just for that reason. Being only a second/third generation American from Sweden & Finland my soul feels safe that my ancestors had nothing to do with the slavery business in the US. Although I’m sure that history from the the beginning of time may be different. No nation or people of this world is innocent of blood spilling. 🙁

    … again, most important thing of this post is regarding the land titles of the Rosewood people … both blacks & whites, but mainly the black land owners.

    Thank you.

  10. nancheska

    I’m watching the movie “Rosewood” as I write this. It’s on Telefutura. What a heartwrenching movie it is. It makes me wonder how far we’ve come as a nation when a 17 year old young man gets shot just for wearing a hooded sweatshirt and being black in a gated neighborhood.

    • Jason Cochran

      No need to get vengeful. The people who did this are all dead now. I know the world isn’t a perfect place, and it never will be, but we can at least take solace in the fact it’s a hell of a lot better now than it was in an age when wiping a town off the map could and did happen over and over.

  11. Pat Butler

    Rosewood’s story has been partially told. There are many Rosewoods. Have you considered the story of “Black Wall Street”, Greenwood, Kansas?

  12. Rob

    I’ve been interested in the history of Rosewood since the movie came out years ago. A friend suggested I visit since my family had retired near Ocala. I researched as much as I could and traveled there in 2002 Very interesting, chased by German sheperds on the back roads. I have the video clip on YouTube. I wound up at the Cedar Key Museum and upon inquiring about ‘Rosewood’ the proprietor immediately copped an attitude with me.. I have been obsessed with the history ever since, researching and reading as much as I could. Anyone with any current information please contact me on here.

  13. Mary Wright

    I’m a Georgia girl and just watched the movie for the first time; never heard of Rosewood before. Looked up info on internet and read everything I could find.

    I’m saddened to be part of the human race and it is sickening to know my race has been part of so many evils against other races.

    Florida owes the families of Rosewood much more. There should be a museum or something there for historic record on all the families of that community.

    “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”, the original is in Russian do various translations to English are possible, narrated theme of Sergei Bondarchuk’s Soviet film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s book “War and Peace”.

  14. lorielle

    I just stayed up to watch “Rosewood” on Bounce TV this morning. I saw it at the movie when it came out in 1997 and was horrified. Yet, as an African-American I was not surprised, having seen “Roots” in 1977. The problem here is that the American government has never taken responsibility for what it allowed to happen to African descendants once they were freed.

    At every turn, its white citizenry tried to abolish equal rights for us and keep us from ever becoming full and equal citizens.

    When towns like Rosewood were thriving, an excuse would be made to drive successful blacks out of their wealth and heritage.

    Our problem, as African Americans, is that we have had to remain with our oppressor instead of being able to flee him. Unlike the Jews who left Germany, we were denied even knowing “where we came from” in order to be able to return there.

    When I hear whites (many who didn’t come to America until after the first World War) say that blacks should “go back to Africa” I realize just how delusional these people really are.

    First, this monster was created by white America, and second, we have been here for more generations than we can almost count. I, personally, can trace my family back to the early 1800’s- so why wouldn’t I be an American?

    The only way that things will ever be right in America, is if blacks in America are financially compensated by the American government. They compensated the Native Americans and Japanese, and allow any other racial group to settle here and give them financial assistance, yet refuse to acknowledge all the wrongs that have been done to African Americans, including Rosewood.

    God is not mocked, and until this great debt is paid, America will never be whole.

  15. aj

    I’m so disappointed.
    I found out about this today.
    I was looking up “towns like rosewood from pretty little liars”. I know, weird, but I’m 13 & this seriously caught my eye. There’s so much I don’t know about history. I happen to live in Florida and have never heard of this. I thought I was crazy to have never heard of the Armenian genocide until a few months ago. Now I hear of a massacre in my own state? I confronted my history teacher and asked why these things were never taught nor ever mentioned to me. Of course, he had no idea. He said the Armenian genocide wasn’t mentioned because it wasn’t u.s history, but the holocaust wasn’t u.s history until the u.s got involved, and they still tell the complete story. About a million people murdered in the Armenian genocide. People killed in rosewood. I didn’t know. This bugs me a lot. Thanks so much for this article. It really explained well for my 9th grader mind.

    • Jason Cochran

      Thank you so much for your comment. Your experience exactly illustrates why it’s important to keep these events alive. History is not a consumer item; we decide what is important to remember.

  16. Erin M. Langford

    It wasn’t just Bush that spoke up to get a marker put up, Gov. Chiles worked on it as well. I heard about Rosewood when I was in the 7th grade in Miami around 1994. It was not a bunch of information but it was still enough, even then, to make a person angry that something so hateful could happen and the then governor Hardee and others in positions of power did nothing to help innocent people.

  17. Shirley Sutton

    I was in Rosewood in 1997. Went to the Cedar Key Museum where there was NOTHING about the town or 1923. Stopped at a local radio station and asked about the history. The person there was very evasive. I did see the John Wright house or store (not sure which it was). The NO SHOOTING FROM ROAD sign was there then! A very scary area, everyone has a rack with a rifle in their pick-up.

  18. Nina Stephens

    I live in Gainesville,Florida which is about 40 miles east of Rosewood.My Great Grandmother first told me this story about three years before the movie came out.She told how she was a little girl growing up in Archer,Florida,and how she was playing in their yard people came out of nowhere asking for shelter and help because they had been forced out of their homes.I have been to Rosewood twice and it felt as if I could see the trees and the houses burning.On my second trip I visited The Old Wright House, which is now occupied by a really nice couple named Doyal and Fiji Scoggins,I asked them if it was okay to walk around their yard and they were delighted. They told me that poeple stop by all the time,and Mr. Scoggins lead me to a well that sits in his yard ,and He informed me that children hid in well during the massacre. I am very knowledgeable on the subject of Rosewood. My heart bleeds for those who were forced out their homes due to a lie and racial hatred.

  19. Nina Stephens

    You are Welcome,Rosewood is very dear to my heart.I want to go back and visit the site where railway was and the cemetery where the Carrier’s are buried.

  20. Corinda Marsh

    I appreciate the work you are doing. I just released a novel based on a lynching in Marianna, Florida in 1934. The story is fiction, but the events around the lynching are taken from eye witness accounts. I am using fiction to bring truth to the forefront. We have no chance of changing the future if we don’t look the past directly in the face. My novel is “The Ghost of Blackwater Creek.” I am now working on one based on the riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. That event was quite similar to the one in Rosewood. How very cruel we humans can be! We must keep the information available and cease to hide from our past.

  21. Mark Webster

    The settlement at Rosewood was started before the Civil War or the coast to coast railroad. The red cedar of the area gave the town it’s name and shipments of the wood to the pencil factories in the Cedar Keys made Rosewood a boom town of the late 1800’s. The population was black and white but predominately white. When the cedar ran out the area went into decline and most of the white families moved away. Mr. Wright and his wife Mary Jane lost all three of their children in the winter of ’03-04′, so the children of Rosewood were their ‘children’. At the time of the massacre they were in their 50’s & 60’s. The ‘abandoned’ land at Rosewood was picked up by Mr. Wright and others of the area.

  22. Dakota Moore

    I had just got back from a hunting trip from Rosewood, one of my buddies dad’s is partial owner of 1,100 acres of partial hunting land and preserve just at the edge. we went hog hunting at night and riding through those woods was deffinitely erie, my buddy told me the story of the massacre, and an even more bone chilling story. He said they were out there one night during deer season sitting up by the cabin having a fire, when they herd a scream come out of the woods, his dad went out to check for someone but couldnt find anyone or get any responses to his calls. I just watched the movie tonight, and Im glad that i did so after i got back, theres no way that i could have kept my composure when my buddy thought ity was funny to cut off the lights going down a trail. But besides me being a big baby out in the woods at night, its still horrible to think about what happened to all those people, especially when you find yourself riding through the very woods they hid in.

  23. Mary K.

    The thing I hate about the US is while we criticize other countries for not teaching the awful histories and things going on in their own countries, we do the same thing if its a shameful part of the past. We are taught about how long it took women and blacks to vote and that there was racism in the US, but we never NEVER go into the details of that racism and how cruel and long it happened. We watch death and destruction on the news every day, we learn about how “middle eastern” terrorists bomb our trade centers, bombed the Boston marathon etc. What they do not teach however is our own horrific histories and faults. We bury it like it never happened when we can get away with it. I live in Florida and I am always fascinated by the violent history of mankind because it is something we see so little of, especially of our own home. Because I do not understand how we could be so cruel and violent, and yet create things so beautiful as poetry, art, and books. We put on pedestals men that have done horrible things and yet, we never talk about them. Or, we put a horrible light on things stained with blood, but never tell the good about it. Rosewood, however, was one of those things that there can never be good about. It is soaked in a horrific quagmire of pain and violence that will probably never go away. And unfortunately there are so many events like this in American history that we will never know about, because it is a blemish on our “great” past. Every state, somewhere, has a terrifying history that will make you ashamed of living there. It just usually takes a Hollywood movie and a lot of digging to find it. The best way to stir up a classroom and get people interested is to find out one of those things and write a paper that you can address in class. The problem is this stirs up a lot of controversy that some people may not like. When I did this in high school, it wasn’t the best idea, because I live in a part of the country where there are still some very ignorant people. They did not want to hear what I had to say about our states past and some even took it in pride. It was sickening and shameful to know there are still people out there like that. Some places with these buried pasts are Tulsa, OK. Similar to Rosewood, a white women accusing a black man of rape. Vernon, FL, where people, just for the sake of income and too poor to leave, cut off body parts for social security income. Tuskegee, AL, where the government performed awful experiments for syphilis on its black residents, even after a cure was found. The use of Agent Orange during Vietnam that even the scientist who created it called for the end of the abuse of his formula known to be harmful. The denial of the effects of radiation from the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The concentration camps in California after the Pearl Harbor bombings. The Trail of Tears and mass murder of the Cherokee. A lot of these are well known, but the real history of them few people really know and the violent hysteria that ensued. There are so many things in American history of people who do horrific things. You just have to dig for them to find them.

    • Mark Webster

      We are bad people, all of us, including you. We are all prejudiced against something, as individual people we think that our prejudice is justified. The people of today can’t understand the event at Rosewood and other places because we live in a different country. We, as a country, have changed our way of thinking, but we can’t change the past. A few people will never change and will infect future generations with their ignorance and hate, but you can’t erase the past. Rhode Island was the first slave colony, New York city at one time had the largest slave market. Slavery didn’t continue in the industrial north because it was cheaper to hire immigrant labor and when they got sick, broke down or wore out, they were simply replaced, at no loss to the company. When our country was formed slavery was already a problem and it took almost 30 years to stop the importation of slaves, so we started breeding them. From 1804 until the start of the war between the states, the amount of slaves tripled. The amount of slaves in the south caused a problem in politics, slaves couldn’t vote but for representation in congress each slave counted as 2/3 of a person and big business knew it was only a matter of time until the agricultural south would control congress. Tariffs were passed favoring the industrial north. The southern states had joined the union for collective protection but the deliberate attack on the southern economy was untenable. The cause of the war was slavery, the reason the war was fought was business and politics. Very few southern soldiers owned slaves and the states considered themselves individual countries similar to the European union of today. Robert E. Lee was general of the southern army because his country, Virginia, was being invaded.
      The invaders won, the southern economy was wrecked to the point that it would never recover, a large portion of plantation owner’s wealth was in his slaves and when they were set free the monetary value vanished. Carpetbaggers picked up the land for back taxes (tax money paid to the confederacy didn’t count) the formerly rich southern people were now poor and couldn’t compete with northern wealth. The common white people had to compete in an almost nonexistent job market compounded by millions of former slaves also looking for work. 50 years later, economically, things had improved very little and relations between black and white had deteriorated, before the war blacks were ignored now they were hated, and they had no reason to love us. Rosewood and the other events of the time were inevitable. And slavery still exists it’s called “minimum wage” which you can’t live on.

      • Pat Butler

        I will disagree with you when you say the war was fought because of slavery. Abraham Lincoln was going to allow the border states to keep their slaves if they had just decided to come back to the union. The war was fought because the state seceded. Slavery became the issue, when all Lincoln wanted was the United States united.

        • Mark Webster

          Pat, It’s very simple, if there had been no slavery there would have been no war. You’re right about Lincoln he had no love for the black man, he would do anything to preserve the union. Lincoln stated to newspaperman Horace Greeley that if he could end the war without freeing the slaves, he would do that. But Harpers Ferry and the other incidents that led up to the war were about slavery. The controversy in Washington D.C. over representation was about slavery. The war wasn’t fought to free the black man, if it was Fort Sumter would have attacked Charleston not the other way around. But the issue was slavery.

  24. Mary K.

    It wasn’t so much the issue of slavery, as it was what you said, minimum wage. The north could afford the industry, buy the product, make thousands of more products to export to other countries at a high cost, and the south still only had the one product to sell. That was where the issue started. The south was making minimum wage, working long hours, and trying to support their families and slaves on little pay. The north however, being big business, could up their prices knowing other countries would pay for the lavish and exotic exports. And people can say, “well, they originally sold the product, so why not up the price?” Because they sold the raw material. RAW, which means eventually it will rot and it costs money to store it for prolonged periods of time and had to be harvested. There was no refrigeration, and living in the warmer climates, there was a larger problem with infestation by bugs, rodents, and animals. One of the reasons why the south lost. The north could store their goods for extended periods and keep on hand large stores.That was the other thing. People always assume the north was so great and awesome because they didn’t keep slaves. They were free. The south outright had slaves, there is no argument there. Some were mistreated horribly, many had children by their owners, and so many families were broken up. The north was not so different though. Almost all of the US looked down on blacks. It was individuals that were kind themselves that made a difference back then. In the south, it was a family that understood your worth, that a crop wasn’t going to be picked itself and it took everyone to get the crop in, not just the slaves. In the north, it was cheap labor. You had to hope you worked for a business, that again, understood your worth. And hoped that they allowed you a chance to advance. Not every business saw a black man as just a man needing a job. Sometimes, they knew it was all they could do to feed their family, and exploited this. I am not saying one was any better than the other, but it irritates me that anyone thinks the whole issue was simply slavery, or that the north treated people any better. It was exploitation at its finest. It still happens today, just a different name and group of people getting used. In Rosewood, it was because it was a group of black families who knew what hard work could achieve, they just waited for a reason to attack them and it is sad. Today, if you suddenly get rich or climb your way to the top everyone is going to speculate and someone is going to try to take advantage of your hard earned money. And just because we have laws against murder that cover everyone, doesn’t mean people can’t be bought to cover up a severe injustice. Somewhere, right now, there is a Rosewood happening in the US, just a different set of people. And no one will hear about it until someone makes a documentary a couple of years or decades down the line.

    • Jason Cochran

      Mary, the financial aspects you mention were important, but it is not accurate to diminish the importance of slavery. Don’t forget that the fight over which states would become slave states is what tipped the war throughout the 1850s, from the moment the U. S. won the Mexican War. And abolitionist speeches, pro and con, in large part fanned the flames.

      • Mark Webster

        Jason, I agree. Control of the work force is financial, each side had a different method. The atrocities of the sweat shops of the north is documented history, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that slavery is wrong. Big money was the reason that the war was fought and slavery was the cause. The south lost which created tension between the races, common people who had never owned slaves had to compete with them for the few jobs available. The “carpetbaggers” did nothing to help the situation. The Cummer and Son company was no different. They left Michigan and spread across the south buying land stripping it of the trees then moving on. They did the same in Sumner, the prosperous Goins family of Rosewood couldn’t compete with them and moved to Gainsville. The local economy had shifted from Rosewood to Sumner with Rosewood in decline, creating resentment among the inhabitants. When the Rosewood incident happened the company officials were ONLY trying to protect their assets. My grandfather worked there. I live in Sumner

  25. Terrie

    It’s horrible how hatred is passed along from generation to generation. I’m a Florida native and recall stories of a cross burning in Okaloosa County, Florida in 1987/1988 and Crestview (the county seat of Okalossa County) is in the Florida panhandle. I never knew about Rosewood until the movie came out and I’m from Florida. I may have missed this in previous posts but is the land that was owned by the African Americans during the Rosewood massacre being researched and hopefully deeded back to their relatives? Maybe Florida can repay this wrong in some way by doing such a thing as well as hiring non-local law enforcement to enforce laws and deter hate crimes in the area. Change has to start somewhere versus being ‘swept under the rug’.

    • Mark Webster

      Dr. Marvin Dunn has some land in Rosewood that includes the site of the former Masonic Lodge where he has done some excavating for artifacts. I don’t think the former residents want to come back, I wouldn’t. In the mid 1990’s the state made reparations to the remaining victims of the Rosewood incident, it’s the ONLY time this has been done in American History. As a side note, four years after the Rosewood incident, the sawmill in Sumner burned to the ground and the settlement ceased to exist. The Wright house is all that remains of Rosewood, there is nothing left of Sumner.

    • Mark Webster

      Mr. Wrights’ wife is listed variously as Mary J. Wright, Mary Jo Wright, Mary Joe Wright, but her headstone says Mary Jane Wright.

  26. Colleen A. Kennedy

    Just saw the movie Rosewood and cried through the whole movie. Terribly, terribly sad that a once thriving community is now remembered on just a plaque. Such a sad time in our history.

  27. Calvin Aguillard

    The political party formed in 1852 elected an anti slavery party in 1861.
    7. Lincoln and Grant did not own slaves, and blacks were allowed in Illinois before the Civil War (officially “The War of Rebellion”, the South coined “Civil War”). Many escaped to Illinois. The Dred Scott Deciion conflicted with the Missouri Compromise; you should read up on it? If you have evidence to the contrary, please supply it. There were free blacks in Illinois and other states including some in the South. Also, the South did not side with England during the Revolutionay War. Note the major battles in the South and who fought them.
    8. Apparently, the “real history class” you took lacked reality. Thje cheap cotton exported to Europe was produced mostly by slave labor (80%). Dig deeper.
    9.Yes, southern states thought they had a right to secede, and not only slavery in the South but a desire to extend it to new areas in the West is apparent. Poor farming practices that depleted the soil made slavery in new areas desirable. The federal government does not “introduce states”. People in territories petition to create additional states and Congress admits them when populations and other qualifications are met, including operation of democratic republican governments. See Article IV of the Constitution.
    10. Yes,it might surprise many that 80% who fought for the Confederacy did not own slaves for evidence seems to indicate 25% did own slaves, and owning slaves was not a qualification for supporting slavery. Far more than 20% fought to maintain it? It might surprise many that 179,000 black men (10% of the Union army) and 19,000 blacks of the Union Navy were a part of Union forces; 40,00 died. Other blacks also contributed to defeating slavery.
    20. Yes, many things led to the Civil War as alluded to. Which ones were not related to slavery?

    Slavery was not the only cause of the war, but it certainly was the major cause?

    To whomever said The War of Rebellion would have happened if slavery had not existed, evidence and logic please. Some might want more than mere declaration.

  28. Calvin Aguillard

    People go to war when their way of life, their place in the world is threatened. When their economy is about to be turned upside down. When their “property” is about to walk away. When the downtrodden black soul down the road gets the right to vote for his own interests. When they fear what slaves will do with their freedom. Fear of poverty. Fear of revenge. That’s what starts wars.

    It’s odd the war started only after the leader of the abolitionist party became President. Not a coincidence. Was the South afraid of Lincoln’s sectionalism? His taxes? His tariffs? His…what? Lincoln campaigned on one issue and one issue only: preventing the spread of slavery. His Southern opponent campaigned on only one issue: the preservation of slavery. Please…why is this so hard?

    But there are those who now claim they know more about that time than both Lincoln and Jefferson… That the North and South were both right and wrong… The Northerners and southerners were both for retaining slavery… That the South was fighting for freedom…of Federal control Some things never change…

  29. Mark Webster

    The war between the states was not a civil war, civilians didn’t rise up against their government. The government of the Confederate states sent their army, the Army of Northern Virginia, to repel the invading army, the Army of the Potomac. South Carolina said if Lincoln was elected they would secede, they did. Lincoln was not on the ballot in any of the secedeing states. It is difficult to accept a president who lost the popular vote, such as George Bush, but it’s even more difficult to accept a president who isn’t even on the ballot. The failure of the government of the United States of America to rebuild to southern economy led to the unrest and racial violence of post war America. The ‘North’ was punishing the ‘South’, “To the victor go the spoils”. The Federal Government made no effort to create harmony between the races, Rosewood was a result of that failure.

    • Jason Cochran

      The definition of Civil War does not require an uprising — although Southerners did indeed seize numerous armed federal forts, a point that could be interpreted as evidence of a Southern uprising and one that is often glossed over in favor of the invasion scenario. A Civil War can also be a fight for control over the government, which our Civil War certainly was, since its outcome would determine which states were slave states and which ones were not. Its outcome was seen as crucial to the balance of power in the country, which is why it was fought and, as you point out, was the end result. Like all history, the whole story is more complicated.

      • Mark Webster

        Civilians didn’t fight the war. Two separate countries fought the war, each with its own government and organized uniformed armies. The Confederate States were fighting for the survival of their normal way of life (even though slavery was wrong), the industrialists of the Union were trying to get a strangle hold on the American economy and the issue of slavery was a tool. As a lawyer president Lincoln knew it was illegal for him to free the slaves, as Commander-In-Chief of the army he could use it (the freeing of the slaves) to create dissent and confusion in the south as a war time weapon, Lincoln didn’t free any of the slaves in the north, the border states, or the Union occupied parts of Louisiana and Virginia. The Union was using slave labor to support the war effort, they didn’t care about the plight of the black man it was about the money.

        • Jason Cochran

          I’m not really sure how we got here since the post is about a racist atrocity, and racism is an eternal human trait that doesn’t have its roots in the causes of the Civil War. It’s all very interesting to discuss, but the longer it goes on, the more it feels like an excuse for the racism. I don’t necessarily think that’s the objective here, but regardless of the economic factors, or whether atrocities happened elsewhere as well, there is no excuse for people treating each other this way. Each person makes their own choices in each moment, and these people decided to slaughter other ones.

  30. Pat Butler

    I appreciate your frank honesty. Racism is alive and well in the United States and is being promoted by the legal system. Rosewood was the result of bitter hatred and the legal system ok’d that behavior then and now as well.l

  31. Mark Webster

    Jason, I thought this site was about Rosewood. The event of January 1st 1923 happened barely 60 years after the ‘Civil War’ which shaped the attitude of the people. It bothers me that people want to change history to suit their agenda rather than learn from it. Fact and fiction get mixed together to the point that people start to believe that fiction is fact. FACT; Fannie Taylor was assulted, FICTION; it was done by her white lover. Black people can be racist also. 200 years of forced servitude and the war were elements that led to the atrocity at Rosewood.

  32. Mary K.

    The worst thing about all this, and I probably would never have thought about it had I not been unable to sleep last night is Fannie Taylor. She wasn’t right, I’m not defending her, but I don’t know what her life was like before or after this. The reason I couldn’t sleep is I worked for DCF. I had no formal training, I was doing it for cash assistance. I was in no way prepared for the cases that came across my desk. If you have ever read, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” I am sure you know where I am going with this. What makes someone accuse a total stranger of such a horrible crime? The whole thing didn’t start over black and white. It started over someone terrified of another human being. She probably didn’t know the consequences of her actions, but she was willing to risk someones life in order to save her own. She knew how cruel people could be and she did it anyway. Her name is left to obscurity. There are no traces left of her now to know what happened to her. Either way, she spent the rest of her life knowing that what she said, her accusation, resulted in the death of innocent people and terrified children. It could have been an escaped fugitive, it could have been a man she was seeing. All the wrong things at the wrong time to create a perfect storm of malice and hate is what it led to. That is no excuse for the violence that happened though. And I do not care how many pages I read where,”reports only state 6 people killed, or 10 people killed.” Humans, no matter how much we want to change what we are, are still animals. Not the sweet kind ones either. We are pack animals with a taste for blood. There is no report out there to convince me no less than 20 people died, and possibly more than a hundred. We have spent thousands of years massacring our own kind in blood lust and without rational thought.



  33. Mark Webster

    Fannie Talor said she was assulted by a black man, she didn’t know his name, which is odd for an isolated community where everybody knows everybody. She never said she was raped, to admit that she was raped would have ended her life as she knew it, she would have been ‘tainted’ her husband wouldn’t want her and she would have been shunned by white suitors. The ‘posse/mob’ picked Jesse Hunter as the culprit because he was black, he had recently excaped from a local prison camp, and Fannie Talor didn’t know him. Some people in the ‘posse/mob’ had been at the KKK rally held the day before in Gainsville where banners flew stating “First Protect the Women” and they wanted to escalate the incident with the cry of rape. It worked, a few drunk racists manipulated the crowd into mass hysteria. Fannie Taylor was a victim and because of the stygma placed on her she and her husband had to move from the area.

    • Pat Butler

      Why is it that we want to call the truth other than what it is? She was not a lady. She was tramp and she wanted to cover up her trampy ways with a lie on a Black man. She should have been a woman of character, but she wasn’t. She cheated on her husband so what was the harm if she lied on a Black man. The racial stigma didn’t value Black people. She WASN’T a victim. She was the PROBLEM of a larger PROBLEM. Quit trying to justify the ignorance which still exists today in Florida and the rest of the United States.

    • Lisa

      Was wondering after Fannie and her husband moved, did they stay together have children or divorced or separated. I’m sure her husband really knew how she was. Must have been embarrassing for him as a husband?
      *i know she died of cancer

  34. Mark Webster

    Pat, you are responding to the movie version of what happened. My grandpa knew the people involved including Fannie Taylor, the only thing she did was get beat up by a black man. Many lies were created after the fact to justify a point of view, black and white, that is the “Hidden Truth in Rosewood”. White racists today believe the lie that Fannie Taylor was raped, black racists believe the lie that she had a white lover. Racism is wrong and is fed by ignorance. We can’t change the past but we can build a better future if people will stop wanting to believe the lies.

    • Jason Cochran

      For the record, this post does not dwell on the specifics. It discusses the fact there was a racial massacre and there is very little to commemorate it. If it were commemorated better, perhaps the specifics would be less in question.

    • Pat Butler

      Mark, I’ve been Black all of my life. I am 64 years old. I am from the North. All my days I have seen Black men blamed for white folks mistakes and for white folks wrongs. Don’t tell me that a white woman blamed a Black man for her indiscretions cause she was so “pure”. I am reacting to life. If she had been a better woman–she wouldn’t have needed to put the blame on a Black man.

  35. Mark Webster

    Pat, I’ve been white all my life, I am 61 years old, I am from the south. I live in Sumner, I even shop at the Dollar Store in Rosewood. If the man who attacked her was yellow she would have said he was chinese. Stop trying to blame another victim for other peoples’ crimes. The drunk, racist, rednecks were the ones to blame for escalating the incident into an atrocity.

  36. Pat Butler

    Mark, Let me apologize for you. Racism is alive and well. Rosewood, then; the U.S. then, the U.S. now. Racial inequality has been promoted, fed and kept alive by the ignorance of others. Equality has never been the agenda for the U.S. Here and there there have been some illuminated moments, but by and large, this country has done what it could to keep Blacks (and others) at second class status–from before the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, the amendments to count Black men as 3/5 of a man, Civil Rights laws,Jim Crow laws and the myriad before and after the Civil Rights.

    Laws put on the books to protect Black Americans–that racism keeps trying to undo. We did not ask t come here–but, you brought us. You denigrated my people, and still do, without cause.

    Just let us be free and Black. Not having to adhere to any of the poor standards and climb the walls of prejudice and racism. We all want a decent place to live, sufficient food, safety for our families and a standard of living that promotes healthy and positive neighborhoods. Racism and prejudice prevent that. Ask Rosewood–ask Fannie.

  37. Mark Webster

    Pat you are right about one thing racism is alive and well in America today. Slavery was a festering sore in America for over 200 years until it was abolished by congress and it left the scar of racism. Ignorance breeds racism, education kills it. John Singleton’s movie wasn’t a documentary, it was intended to be inflamitory to increase viewer attendance, a lot of fiction based on a few facts to make money. Fannie Taylor was a victim of assault and character assassination, don’t blame her blame her attacker. This was not “To Kill a Mockingbird” this was real life not fiction, although so much fiction has been added to it people would rather believe the fiction than the facts.

  38. Mary K.

    I just wish people were not so stupid. I can’t really say anything because when it comes to me and people who do drugs, especially meth, I stand firmly on the idea they should be culled. Put on an island with food and water, spayed and neutered first, and left to die off. For most people its an issue of color, or background, for me its people who choose stupidity. I understand that this was not fiction. The point was that many events of To Kill a Mockingbird still happen. Here, it happened. But there was no “white knight”. My family was involved in this incident. Both are mentioned in all the reports. One was cited for saying he would not participate and tried to help, the other was an instigator. And I do not believe the people of Rosewood would have tried to hide Hunter unless they honestly believed he was innocent. They did not sound so stupid as to think there would not be consequences. Beating a white woman when you are a black man was as dangerous as you could be back then and they knew it. Their lives burned to the ground because of it. Making up a story of a white man to save themselves I don’t think is something they would have been dumb enough to do either. That is my biggest problem with the whole story. Uneducated, maybe, but the blacks of Rosewood were not stupid. Their lives depended on it. Built on it. I do not believe they would have hidden him, saved a man they knew had committed a crime that would endanger them all. I don’t believe they would tell a story of some white lover who beat a woman for no reason expecting it to save them. No one here can go back and find out the facts of the story, and as of today, there are to many discrepancies in the records and what ifs. I think its possible, but there are so many holes still left to be filled. The film maker blowing things up I don’t think helped either. That is the other problem. We continue to make movies about violent history and create more and change reports to make the story more interesting. And it breeds more hate. More mistrust. More uneducated stupidity.

    White people are always quick to point out that blacks enslaved their own people, or my favorite, “we just followed their lead.” Before white people came to Africa, the reason they enslaved was not to break down a group of people. They did not kill their own people. Every hand was needed in order to cultivate crops, ensure a future, to live. They took slaves of villages so they had enough hands to feed themselves. People were not cattle. They were still people. Skills were valued. They valued life. They were not beaten. Killed. Murdered. Stripped from their families. Told their religion was wrong and beat for worshiping a God other than their own. Every culture has its atrocities. Much like the Native Americans though, their people were nothing like the ‘civilized’ people of Europe or violence of South American cultures. That was all on the white slavers who came and destroyed what was essentially a beautiful idea.

  39. Mark Webster

    Regarding the attack of Fannie Taylor, Sylvester Carrier said “an example of what we could do without interference” which indicates that he believed a black man made the attack. To make such a statement when armed mobs were roaming the countryside wasn’t smart and he knew they would come after him which is why he tried to create a defenseable position at his mothers house before they did. That wasn’t smart either.
    And your pastoral setting for African slavery is pure fantasy. Slavery is total control of someones life against their will and is wrong in ALL cases.

  40. Roger Dean

    My Deceased Grandgather was 8 years old at the time of the Rosewood Massacres. Growing up in nearby Archer, Fl his mother had told him of the horrors that had taken place. My Grandfathers Grandfather was James Dean, the first African-American judge elected in the state of Fl. James Dean was falsely accused of marrying a white woman and a black man. After being disbarred, He died many years later, financially broke and disgraced. In 2002 he was reinstated as a Judge by Jeb Bush. Seems like the state of Florida has a terrible history of mistreating African-Americans. I am so thankful he decided to move north to New Jersey, where 3 generations of Deans still live today.

  41. bharford

    The white women must co-habit with members of the dark races, the White man with black women. Thus the White race will disappear, for mixing the dark with the white means the end of the White Man, and our most dangerous enemy will become only a memory. We shall embark upon an era of ten thousand years of peace and plenty, the Pax Judiaca, and OUR RACE will rule undisputed over the world. Our superior intelligence will enable us to retain mastery over a world of dark peoples.”

    -Rabbi Rabbinovich 1952

  42. Jane

    There have been many Fannie Taylors in America’s history. They are depicted as diadems of untarnished virtue–attributes that are assumed to be in abstentia in women of other ethnicities and cultures. These Fannie Taylors could make any unsubstantiated accusation or claim against a black man, and he was assured to be lynched, drowned, burned alive, castrated, or dismembered. That’s the authentic history of this supposedly Protestant, Christian nation– the beast with two horns like a lamb that speak as a dragon. There will be retribution for all the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity. Those who have used Jesus’ name to condone the most evil, diabolical, demonic, debased, degenerate, and depraved acts against human beings created in the image of the Living God will not go unpunished by heaven. If anyone is foolish enough to believe that America’s wickedness has gone unseen, unnoticed, and undocumented by heaven, they are in for a very real and rude awakening. God’s angels have recorded with unerring accuracy every act, deed, word, thought, motive, and intent of the human heart. God is a God of love, mercy, and justice. His love is everlasting, but His mercy and justice has limits and America has almost breached the boundaries of those limits. There are copious, untold stories in America’s history like Rosewood, Allensworth, and the Tulsa Oklahoma Massacre. I use to have so much anger against the perpetrators and the inhumane legal system that excused and assisted in perpetuating this evil. I don’t anymore, because I know there is a day of God’s merited justice and judgments, and He has the final word.

  43. Steven Lewis

    I just finished watching Rosewood again, this time with my kids who are at an age where I want them to under about racial tensions especially in these times. I too visited the area that was Rosewood with my then fiance. This was before the sign was erected so I has to vision what it looked like. This was before cameras on phones so what I saw had to remained a memory. I planned to visit again and I am unsure why I have been interested in their story since I moved to Gainesville and since moving to Jacksonville. But these times we face require us to revisited our history in one way or another.

  44. Tritana Graham

    Do you have any pictures of what Fannie Taylor looked like?

  45. Anon Y. Muss

    Why couldn’t the south do what the west did, bring in immigrants and pay them wages? They could have paid them partly in housing and it wouldn’t have coated much.

  46. Donna

    Growing up in Rosewood i was told of the stories. Yes what happened was wrong, but why are the locals the ones being punished for what happened in 1923. Those of us that live here are proud to call it home. Horror stories are found in every state and just about every town. I lived within walking distance of the only known Cemetery in Rosewood and the markers of the bodies buried there are before the massacre ever happened. So not sure how it plays into the massacre at all. Instead of blaming everyone that lives there now, worry more about what is happening on the streets today. Just how many have to die for it to be a massacre. Check the record on how many were actually killed during this event. If i can recall it was 6 black and 2 white. I am proud to have grown up in this small community . What happened in the past is the past and the future should not have to pay for that mistake. Just wish everyone could see past that part and know that we are a loving community, not a racist one.

  47. Elliotte Slaughter

    I have been watching this movie, “Rosewood” ,every year since it came out. Each year I cry for all those who lost their lives as a result of hatred, bigotry, ignorance and deceit. I am also a native Floridian. Born in Tampa,grew up in Gainesville and have hear the stories about the Rosewood massacre and other tragic events of this nature all my life.I am also an African American woman who grew up in the south; was the only child of an A.M.E. minister. My father was very dark and my mother was very light skinned. She was often mistaken for a white woman. Growing up in the south during the 1950-1960’s was not an easy task.I was caught right smack dab in the middle of the desegregation era in a big way..I was one among the first group of black students to integrate an all white junior high schools in 1964.I can remember traveling with my mother,on the Greyhound bus, to visit my grandmother and seeing signs on water vs and bathrooms indicating “Colored Only/White Only”. Even though I was with my mother,I felt so alienated.I have never, even to this day, been able to understand why people are so cruel and inhumane.

    Well, needless to say, nothing much has changed in America since the 60’s except the names of the perpetrators. The massive numbers of the innocent Victims has merely increased and are now being accepted as justifiable in the eyes of the crooked law.imagine that!.Why is it so important to the White part of the human race to eliminate people all Blacks? I can’t even say all people of color since most racism in this country is notoriously directed at the elimination of Blacks. There seems to be no end to the senselessness the these acts of violence.. As a warning to you all, “What you keep doing to us has already been done to you” .Soon you will reap all that you have sewn. May God have mercy on your souls.

  48. Caroline

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