Initially, Rosewood had both black and white settlers. When most of the cedar trees in the area had been cut by 1890, the pencil mills closed, and many white residents moved to Sumner. By 1900, the population in Rosewood had become predominantly black. The village of Sumner was predominantly white, and relations between the two communities were relatively amicable. Two black families in Rosewood named Goins and Carrier were the most powerful. The Goins family brought the turpentine industry to the area, and in the years preceding the attacks they were the second largest landowners in Levy County. To avoid lawsuits from white competitors, the Goins brothers moved to Gainesville, and the population of Rosewood decreased slightly. The Carriers were also a large family, responsible for logging in the region. By the 1920s, almost everyone in the close-knit community was distantly related to each other. The population of Rosewood peaked in 1915 at 355 people. Although residents of Rosewood probably did not vote because voter registration requirements in Florida had effectively disfranchised blacks since the start of the 20th century, both Sumner and Rosewood were part of a single voting precinct counted by the U.S. Census. In 1920, the combined population of both towns was 344 blacks and 294 whites.Rosewood was settled in 1845, nine miles (14 km) east of Cedar Key, near the Gulf of Mexico. Local industry centered around timber; the name Rosewood refers to the reddish color of cut cedar wood. Two pencil mills were nearby in Cedar Key; several turpentine mills and a sawmill three miles (4.8 km) away in Sumner helped support local residents, as did farming of citrus and cotton. The hamlet grew enough to warrant the construction of a post office and train depot on the Florida Railroad in 1870, but it was never incorporated as a town.
Racial tensions in Florida
Despite Governor Catts' change of attitude, white mob action frequently occurred in towns throughout north and central Florida and went unchecked by local law enforcement. Extrajudicial violence was so common that it often did not make the front pages of newspapers. In 1920, whites removed four black men from a local jail and lynched them after they were accused of raping a white woman in Macclenny. In Ocoee the same year, two black citizens armed themselves to go to the polls during an election. A confrontation ensued and two white election officials were shot, after which a white mob destroyed Ocoee's black community, causing as many as 30 deaths, and destroying 25 homes, two churches, and a Masonic Lodge. Just weeks before the Rosewood massacre, the Perry Race Riot occurred on 14 and 15 December 1922, in which whites burned Charles Wright at the stake and attacked the black community of Perry, Florida after the murder of a white schoolteacher. On the day following Wright's lynching two more black men were shot and hanged; whites then burned the town's black school, Masonic lodge, church, amusement hall, and several families' homes. In the mid-1920s, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) reached its peak membership in the South and Midwest after a revival beginning around 1915. Its growth was due in part to tensions from rapid industrialization and social change in many growing cities, and waves of new immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. The KKK was strong in the Florida cities of Jacksonville and Tampa; Miami's chapter was influential enough to hold initiations at the Miami Country Club. The Klan also flourished in smaller towns of the South where racial violence had a long tradition dating back to the Reconstruction era. An editor of The Gainesville Daily Sun admitted that he was a member of the Klan in 1922, and praised the organization in print.
Events in Rosewood
Fannie Taylor's story
Escala Sylvester Carrier was reported in the New York Times saying that the attack on Fannie Taylor was an "example of what negroes could do without interference". Whether or not he said this is debated, but a group of 20 to 30 men, inflamed by the statement, went to the Carrier house. They also believed that the black community in Rosewood was hiding escaped prisoner Jesse Hunter.Despite the efforts of Sheriff Walker and mill supervisor W. H. Pillsbury to disperse them, mobs continued to gather. On the evening of January 4, a mob of armed white men went to Rosewood and surrounded the house of Sarah Carrier, which was filled with approximately 15 to 25 people seeking refuge, many of whom were children hiding upstairs under mattresses. Some of the children were in the house because they were visiting their grandmother for Christmas. They were protected by Sylvester Carrier and possibly two other men, but Sylvester may have been the only one armed. He had a reputation of being proud and independent. In Rosewood, he was a formidable character, a crack shot, expert hunter, and music teacher, who was simply called "Man". Many whites considered him arrogant and disrespectful.
CultAlthough the survivors' experiences after Rosewood were disparate, none publicly acknowledged what had happened. Robie Mortin, Sam Carter's niece, was seven years old when her father put her on a train to Chiefland, 20 miles (32 km) east of Rosewood, on January 3, 1923. Mortin's father avoided the heart of Rosewood on the way to the depot that day, a decision Mortin believes saved their lives. Mortin's father met them years later in Riviera Beach, in South Florida. None of the family ever spoke about the events in Rosewood, on order from Mortin's grandmother: "She felt like maybe if somebody knew where we came from, they might come at us".Despite nationwide news coverage in both white and black newspapers, the incident, and the small abandoned village, slipped into oblivion. Most of the survivors scattered around Florida cities and started over with nothing. Many, including children, took on odd jobs to make ends meet. Education had to be sacrificed to earn an income. As a result, most of the Rosewood survivors took on manual labor jobs, working as maids, shoe shiners, or in citrus factories or lumber mills.
"There is a pattern of denial with the residents and their relatives about what took place, and in fact they said to us on several occasions they don't want to talk about it, they don't want to identify anyone involved, and there's also a tendency to say that those who were involved were from elsewhere".
History includes Rosewood
Rosewood victims v. the State of Florida
Media repreThe Rosewood massacre, the ensuing silence, and the compensation hearing were the subject of the 1996 book Like Judgment Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood by Michael D'Orso. It won the Lillian Smith Book Award, bestowed by the University of Georgia Libraries and the Southern Regional Council, to authors who highlight racial Reception to the film was mixed. Critics comment on the fictionalization of the story of Rosewood, that it "assumes a lot and then makes up a lot more". The film version alludes to many more deaths than the highest counts by eyewitnesses. Gary Moore believes that the creation of a character inspiring the citizens of Rosewood to fight back condescends to survivors, and he criticizes the inflated death toll specifically, saying the film is "an interesting experience in illusion". On the other hand, in 2001 Stanley Crouch of The New York Times called Rosewood Singleton's finest work, writing, "Never in the history of American film had Southern racist hysteria been shown so clearly. Color, class and sex were woven together on a level thatFaulkner would have appreciated." The following year, the events were the basis of the film Rosewood, directed by John Singleton. Minnie Lee Langley served as a source for the set designers, and Arnett Doctor was hired as a consultant. Recreated forms of the towns of Rosewood and Sumner were built in Central Florida, far away from Levy County. The film version, written by screenwriter Gregory Poirier, created a character named Mann, who enters Rosewood as a type of reluctant Western-style hero. Composites of real-life characters were used, and the film gives the possibility of a happy ending. E.R. Shipp in The New York Times indicates Singleton's youth and background from California explains his willingness to take on the story of Rosewood, and his rejection of the image of blacks as victims, portraying "an idyllic past in which black families are intact, loving and prosperous, and a black superhero who changes the course of history when he escapes the noose, takes on the mob with double-barreled ferocity and saves many women and children from death".Singleton offered his own view of taking on the topic: "I had a very deep—I wouldn't call it fear—but a deep contempt for the South because I felt that so much of the horror and evil that black people have faced in this country is rooted here.... So in some ways this is my way of dealing with the whole thing."
"It has been a struggle telling this story over the years, because a lot of people don't want to hear about this kind of history. People don't relate to it, or just don't want to hear about it. But Mama told me to keep it alive, so I keep telling it.... It's a sad story, but it's one I think everyone needs to hear."