Rosewood Marks the Second Stop of the ‘Florida Black Historic Marker Tour’

 

By Douglas C. Lyons

ROSEWOOD — Drive too fast and you’ll miss it. The name may exist on a map as a dot along State Road 24 just northwest of Cedar Key. In real life, however, it’s a stretch of two-lane highway surrounded by fields. Off to the side is the historic marker that tells the tale of death, humiliation and restoration.

In the 1920s,  Rosewood was a small black settlement in Levy County. Many of the residents built and owned their homes, and the community contained several businesses, churches and a Masonic Lodge. Life was good. Well, as good as any poor group of residents who endured the post-slavery mores of white southern society in the early 20th century.

On January 1, 1923, the Rosewood community came to an end. A white woman in nearby Sumner accused a black man of rape. What followed next was the gathering of an angry mob of white men that descended on Rosewood. They drove its residents into the nearby woods, burned the community and killed five black residents in the process. Those blacks who survived took a vow of silence and never returned. The shame of the devastation remained for decades.

If this story is beginning to sound familiar, you’re probably old enough to remember the movie. Rosewood hit the big screen in 1997, starring Don Cheadle, Ving Rhames, Esther Rolle and Jon Voight. (For all you Guardians of the Galaxy and Walking Dead fans, the actor Michael Rooker played Sheriff Walker in Rosewood.)  The film pretty much adhered to the tragic events that resulted in the complete destruction of Rosewood.

Fortunately, the story didn’t end there.

Entering Rosewood

In 1994, several survivors of the Rosewood families filed a claims bill in the Florida Legislature, and ultimately a Special Master appointed by the Florida Speaker of the House ruled that the state had a “moral obligation” to compensate the survivors for mental anguish, property loss and the violation of their constitutional rights. On May 4, 1994, Gov. Lawton Chiles signed a $2.1 million compensation bill, which gave nine survivors $150,000 each and established a college scholarship and a separate fund to compensate descendants who could prove property loss.

The Historic Marker was dedicated by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2004.

The next destination on our Florida Black Historic Marker Tour tells a another remarkable story of state history. Check back to see where we end up next.

Douglas C. Lyons is the founder of www.blackinfla.com.

Accessibility: This trip takes planning. Rosewood, Fla. is roughly an hour’s drive out of Gainesville and amounts to an eye-blink along State Road 24. Take SR 24 south from Gainesville for 49 miles before reaching Rosewood.

Area Attractions: Make a day trip out of the Rosewood visit and drive to the end of SR 24 into Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico. Cedar Key is Florida’s second oldest city. It’s a fishing, and artist village that moves at a slow pace befitting a small coastal community. Fewer than 1,000 residents live there permanently, and the main drag runs less than four blocks.

You won’t find any fast food establishments, Starbucks or a Walmart Superstore. Think boating tours, fishing charters, a museum, a wildlife refugee and some unique bars, galleries and restaurants. Hotel lodging is available, but may be hard to find on peak holidays and during the height of tourist season.

Photo Credits: Doris T. Harrell, State Library & Archives of Florida and Moni3@ English Wikipedia.

Where Is Douglas C. Lyons Going Next with the ‘Florida Black Historic Marker Tour’?

Mark your calendars. The second stop of the “Florida Black Historic Marker Tour” summertime road trip is coming up soon. Check back here at www.blackinfla.com on Thursday, June 22 to see our next black historic destination.  Check it out. You’ll enjoy the ride and might learn something. — Douglas C. Lyons

Photo Credit: Douglas C. Lyons

 

Our First ‘Florida Black Historic Marker Tour’ Stop Is …

 

 

By Douglas C. Lyons

West Settlers Historic District Marker and Me

DELRAY BEACH — Welcome to South Florida and the ‘Village by the Sea,” the first stop of our summer  “Florida Black Historic Marker Tour.”

The state of Florida has about 800 historic markers to honor homes, businesses and community landmarks that are a part of Sunshine State history. Many of those markers describe the contributions black Floridians have made to the state’s development.

My goal is to visit as many of them as I can.

I hate to admit this, but I discovered my first stop by accident. I was headed to my neighborhood soul-food joint in Delray Beach, Donnie’s Place. The restaurant is located in the West Settlers Historic District, the site of the city’s first African American community.

5th Avenue: The Hub of West Settlers Historic District

The West Settlers Historic District received local historic designation in 1997 and today remains in the hub of Delray Beach’s black community. Northwest 5th Avenue is the district’s cultural focal point. It’s home to The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, the former home of Solomon D. Spady, one of the city’s most influential African Americans.

The area hasn’t seen the development and re-gentrification hat has taken place in other in-town neighborhoods. Unlike some other iconic black areas in Florida,  the West Settlers Historic District remains predominantly black community.

Spady Cultural Heritage Museum

The black historic district in Delray Beach is just one of many historic attractions that tell the story of black achievement in the Sunshine State. Give credit to the Florida Department of State and the many local community organizations and county and municipal governments for stepping up and deciding to preserve Florida’s black history.

The next destination is in another part of the state and tells a compelling story about Florida’s remarkable black history. It’s a far cry from trendy Delray Beach. Stay tuned.

Douglas C. Lyons is the founder of www.blackinfla.com.

Accessibility: Easy. Take the Atlantic Avenue exit off Interstate 95  east to N.W. 5th Avenue. Turn left, and you’re in the West Settlers Historic District.

Area Attractions: There’s still more to do outside of Delray Beach’s  Historic West Settlers District. However, the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum is worth a visit, as is Donnie’s Place Restaurant.

Photo Credits: Douglas C. Lyons and Ebyabe

 

 

 

Tomorrow We Kick Off the Tour into Florida’s Black History

Tomorrow is the day! We begin our summer road trip through Florida history on  www.blackinfla.com., and the question is: Where should we start?

How about Jacksonville, a town that once was the South’s most progressive black community? Or St. Augustine, home of Florida’s first settlement for runaway slaves? Or Key West, a sanctuary city long before Americans ever knew about the term? Check back to see where we begin and follow us on this unique tour. You’ll enjoy the ride and might learn something. — Douglas C. Lyons

 

 

 

Mark Your Calendar for the Start of Our Historic Road Trip

State Flag of Florida

Mark your calendars. The summer road trip through Florida history starts here at www.blackinfla.com on Thursday, June 8th. Check back to see where we begin and follow us on this unique tour. You’ll enjoy the ride and might learn something. — Douglas C. Lyons

A New Year’s Resolution for 2017

 

 

By Douglas C. Lyons

The late Carlton B. Moore, a civil-rights activist turned city commissioner in Fort Lauderdale, once gave a talk that I’m sure escaped notice.

Carlton B. Moore
Carlton B. Moore

This was no speech before a huge audience that warranted media coverage. This was simply brief remarks to Moore’s core constituents —  a gathering of residents of Northwest Fort Lauderdale and a smattering of black professionals who come and go through the city’s historic black neighborhood.

To be honest, I don’t recall the exact location or time of Moore’s remarks. I do, however, remember his message: black folk need to support their institutions.

For Moore, the point was easy to make. He grew up in the NAACP, ultimately becoming the president of the Fort Lauderdale chapter and transforming the branch into a vehicle to fight racial discrimination and rebuild communities. Moore knew something about strength in numbers and the power of organizations; he had lived it.

It’s a lesson black America must take into 2017. History teaches us that blacks in Florida, the South and across America survived and thrived in the harshest of times through business leagues, civil rights groups, the church and secret societies. They put their heart, soul, time and money into these organizations to achieve a far greater good. That was the essence of Moore’s message.

We should support our institutions, and others, that support us moving forward.

Editor’s Note: Lyons is the creator of www.blackinfla.com.

Photo Credit: City of Fort Lauderdale