Historian digs for stories of black settlement and its massacre (Rosewood)





Last September, historian Marvin Dunn and a partner quietly purchased five acres of land in Rosewood, a black, self-made settlement that perished in a fury of hate more than eight decades ago.

The Rosewood massacre unfolded in a burst of racial violence that stretched through the first week of 1923. By its end, six blacks and two whites were dead -- although scholars and historians insist such numbers are woefully low -- and Rosewood was abandoned in ashes, its wretched, final chapter buried.

Now, the state of Florida has awarded Dunn's Miami-based community organization a grant to conduct an archaeological survey of the site. He believes he is the first black to buy land in Rosewood, 40 miles southwest of Gainesville, since it burned.

``It's such a powerful story, this black town and its success and its horrific end,'' says Dunn, a retired Florida International University professor. ``The place and its history draw you in.''

Dunn expects to find the bones of a rich 19th century culture -- artifacts, pottery and utensils, and traces of the Seaboard Air Line Railway and the depot that had served as a community center before becoming an escape route for some residents during the riots.

Whatever bits of Rosewood that researchers unearth will form the foundation of an exhibition to be based in South Florida. Dunn also hopes to reconstruct the depot.



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