100 Years Later, Rosewood Descendants Tell Family Stories of SurvivalHistorians in the News
tags: racism, Florida, African American history, Rosewood Massacre
They were victims of a racist mob, their families torn apart and dispossessed. But as survivors of the Rosewood massacre, they were united in grief, silence, and resilience.
In January 1923, a racist mob stormed the town of Rosewood, Florida, after a White woman claimed she was attacked by a Black man. In the massacre’s wake, at least six Black and two White people were killed and the once prosperous town was left decimated. Many Black families fled for safety, leaving their homes, land, and businesses behind.
Some of the survivors hid for days in swamps and nearby woods. Many families were separated, with historical records saying some women and children were placed on a rail owned by a White store owner and taken to Gainesville, Florida.
Rosewood was abandoned. Robbed of a more prosperous future, survivors started new lives elsewhere, created new identities, and many did not talk of the carnage again. Their descendants say they grew up watching their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles suffer in silence because of fear and distrust.
“The violence that destroyed a Black community, destroyed families, it prevented families from passing on their legacy and property to their kids and their grandkids,” said Maxine Jones, a historian at Florida State University who was the lead researcher on the Rosewood reparations case. “And no one was held accountable for the violence that took place during that week.”
The story of the Rosewood massacre lay buried for 70 years, Jones said, until the state of Florida passed a bill in 1994 to compensate survivors and their descendants. It offered $150,000 to survivors who could prove they owned property during the massacre and created a scholarship fund for descendants who attended in-state colleges.
Despite reparations, the trauma of a week of terror that began on January 1, 1923 has endured through generations.
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the massacre, and families gathered in Rosewood on Sunday for a wreath-laying ceremony to honor the survivors and lives lost. They are speaking at a series of centennial events at the University of Florida this week.
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