Black people flourished in the town of Rosewood in central Florida after World War I. Within a matter of days, a racial mob devastated the entire community.
It has been 100 years since Rosewood became the scene of a horrendous massacre that took place during the first week of January 1923. In the post-World War I era, several African-American communities in the U.S. were severely impacted by racial violence and destruction, resulting in a loss of economic opportunity and equality for successive generations of people of color.
When the massacre occurred, about 200 people were living in Rosewood in Levy County, an hour southwest of Gainesville and nine miles from the Gulf of Mexico. There were mainly Black families living in Rosewood, and they owned land, farmed, and worked in a sawmill nearby.
According to historians, violence broke out on January 1, 1923, after a white woman from Sumner, a nearby town that was predominantly white, accused a Black man of assaulting her. During a weeklong search for the alleged unidentified man and a mob of people in Sumner turned violent. A total of eight people were killed, including six Blacks and two whites. Many Black residents fled to Gainesville and other cities after their homes, businesses, and churches were burnt.
As the lead researcher on a study commissioned by the Florida legislature in 1993 about the massacre, Maxine D. Jones said the massacre wiped out the entire community and was scarcely discussed by survivors and historians for decades. "The story was buried for almost 70 years," said Jones. "We retrieved this story, and it's important to remember the past, we can't forget about the past regardless of how ugly it is."
There have been no charges brought against those responsible for the massacre, which has been described as a "unique tragedy" in Florida's history.
The legacy of racial violence in the U.S. reverberates into today's communities and social structures, and its harmful consequences cannot be forgotten or ignored.