A year ago today, Florida lawmakers issued a formal apology to the descendants of The Groveland Boys, four young black men who were falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1949. The arrests, forced confessions, their abusive treatment as prisoners — three died at the hands of the police — and subsequent trial garnered national attention and brought shame to Lake County, Florida, particularly its then-sheriff Willis V. McCall. As the saying goes, “Better late …”
The formal apology is a good thing for the state of Florida. It helps ease the wounds of a racist past and also recognizes a history that often passes unnoticed.
Douglas C. Lyons is the founder of www.blackinfla.
“While [Thurgood] Marshall and [Franklin] Williams attempted to put together a preliminary legal strategy, the New York office of the NAACP advised Harry T. Moore in Florida that the Legal Defense Fund would vigorously defend the Groveland Boys and requested that Moore rouse local public support for the case. Moore immediately sprang into action. He had already sent telegrams to [Florida] Gov. Fuller Warren on July 20 and July 22 calling for punishment of the parties responsible for the rioting in Groveland, and now, in a letter to the governor on July 30, he demanded a special investigation and a special session of the grand jury “to indict the guilty mobsters.”