Today we will visit Rosewood, Florida the site of yet another horrible race riot. On January 1, 1923 a young white woman, Fannie Taylor, claimed that she had been sexually assaulted by an unknown Black male. A small group of white men began searching for a recently escaped Black convict named Jesse Hunter. There was no indication that Hunter committed the assault, the white lynch mob just jumped to that conclusion. The next 4 days were pure Hell for the Black residents of Rosewood Florida.
Video (8 parts):
Here is a decent biographical account (available here):
Two years after the Black Wall Street was burned to the ground, the prospering Black community in Rosewood, Florida was also burned to the ground, based on friction between the races (and the white effort to “protect” the chastity of white womanhood from the sexual advances of the Black man), as well as white hatred of any Black advancement.
Similar in origin to Tulsa, Rosewood’s rioting was begun by murderous whites who assumed that a white woman had been sexually assaulted by a Black man.
Rosewood was a small community with a majority of Black citizens who owned their homes and their land. It was named for the red cedar that grew nearby.
That cedar was cut and shipped to New York to become pencils, which made the community prosperous. When the cedar ran out, so did the majority of the white citizens. Of the mostly Black population that remained, the men went to work at a sawmill in a nearby town and the women mostly did domestic work. Some Blacks even worked for Goins & Brothers, a Black-owned Naval store in Rosewood, whose owners also owned or leased most of the land in a section called “Goin’s Quarters.”
The town also had a general store owned by a Black family, a Black-operated sugar mill, and a private school of their own. Rosewood even had its own train station.
The difficulties between the races that led to a major race war in Rosewood, Florida had been brewing for at least three years.
In the summer of 1920, smaller incidents included the lynching of four Black men who were removed from jail after being arrested for the alleged rape of a white woman.
In November of that same year, two whites and five Blacks were killed following a dispute over voting rights. Ococee, a Black community, was destroyed, including twenty-five homes, two churches and a Masonic lodge.
In 1921 and 1922, several Black men were lynched or burned at the stake for alleged assault or murder of white women.
In January of 1923, a white woman reported an attack by a Black man she couldn’t identify. The sheriff apparently decided he could make the identification and apprehended one Black man, while a posse of white vigilantes apprehended and killed another.
Descendants of Blacks in Rosewood recall that the man who assaulted the white woman was actually her white lover. They also say that the woman, who was married and having an adulterous affair, protected her reputation by creating the Black assailant.
The next day more than two hundred whites gathered and converged on Rosewood, murdering two Black men. Many of the Black citizens escape Rosewood to Gainesville by train.
Two days later, the white mob returned to Rosewood and burned every building in sight.
All tolled, eight people lost their lives–six Black and two white.
A grand jury was convened to investigate the riot, but claimed to find “insufficient evidence,” and did not prosecute anyone.
In the cases of both The Black Wall Street and Rosewood, Blacks fought back even though they were outnumbered and overwhelmed. American history likes to ignore these stories mainly because they were prosperous Black neighborhoods, thriving in the era of Jim Crow.
Thanks for your attention.