By Douglas C. Lyons
New years always bring changes. For many blacks, 2017 brings a sense of dread with the incoming Trump administration threatening to undo much of the progress made in government under President Barack Obama.
Imagine the fear 94 years ago on New Years Day when the 200 residents of Rosewood were chased out of their homes by an angry mob of white men who believed that a white woman in nearby Sumner had been attacked by a black man. Many blacks believed the story was a lie to cover up a beatdown the woman received from her white boyfriend.
The facts, of course, never deterred a racist mob. At least six blacks were killed and the mob destroyed the frame houses, churches and a meeting hall that made up Rosewood, located 10 miles east of Cedar Key in rural Levy County.
Rosewood wasn’t the only black community in the 1920s to experience this type of bloodbath. However, it was the only black community that mob violence completely destroyed.
All that’s left are open fields a few bricks, a historic marker and the house of John Wright, one of the few whites that tried to help black residents during the violence. Fortunately, this historic tragedy was remembered. There was a movie and in 1994, the Florida Legislature approved a bill that Gov. Lawton Chiles signed into law that compensates survivors and their descendants of the massacre.
Source: African American Sites in Florida by Kevin M. McCarthy Pineapple Press, Inc., 2007 p. 134
Photo Credit: Florida State Archives