During the 1920s racial violence exploded in Florida, including Rosewood, a predominantly black community destroyed in 1923. Located in North Central Florida approximately 9 miles east of Cedar Key, Rosewood was home to several black families, many of whom were related. They were property owners and smalltime entrepreneurs, and looked forward to passing on a better life to their children. Some were self-employed, others labored at the Cummer Lumber Mill in nearby Sumner, and a number of the women worked as domestics for white families in the surrounding area.
The beginning of 1923 changed the lives of Rosewood residents forever. Several people were killed or injured, and those who survived the terror were scarred for life by the week-long outbreak of racial violence that began on January 1. On that morning, a white Sumner resident, Fannie Taylor, reported an attack by an unidentified black man. The search for Taylor's alleged attacker led to Rosewood and the death of six African Americans. Two local whites were killed when blacks fought back. African-American residents were forced to hide in the neighboring woods and swamps, while whites looted their possessions and burned their homes.
On Saturday, January 6, many of the women and children hiding in the swamps were evacuated to Gainesville by train. And on Sunday, January 7, approximately 150 whites returned to Rosewood to burn the remaining structures. Rosewood ceased to exist. A grand jury convened to investigate the Rosewood incident in February of that same year found "insufficient evidence" to indict anyone from the local white community. No one was ever prosecuted for the death and destruction that occurred in Rosewood, Florida, during the week of January 1 to 7, 1923.
Seventy-one years later, in 1993, Rosewood survivors and their descendants sought redress and filed a claim seeking $7.2 million in compensation. Representative Miguel De Grandy and Senator Al Lawson subsequently initiated legislation on their behalf. The Florida House of Representatives commissioned a thorough, objective, and scholarly study of the Rosewood incident. Based on the research conducted by an academic team, testimony from survivors and other witnesses, Special Master Richard Hixson ruled that the state had a "moral obligation" to compensate survivors for the loss of property, violation of constitutional rights, and mental anguish. On May 4, 1994, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles signed a $2.1 compensation bill into law. Nine survivors received $150,000 each for mental anguish, a state university scholarship fund was created for the families and descendants of Rosewood, and a separate fund was established to compensate those Rosewood families who could demonstrate property loss. Florida thus became one of the first U.S. states to admit that it had failed to offer protection to its black citizens during a time of racial strife. Before signing the controversial measure, Governor Chiles asserted in the Tallahassee Democrat, "Ignorance and racial hatred can lead to death and destruction. Let us use the lesson of Rosewood to promote healing" (pp. 1b, 3b).
D'Orso, Michael (1996). Like Judgment Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood. New York: Grosset/Putnam.
Jones, Maxine D., with David Colburn, Tom Dye, Larry E. Rivers, and William W. Rogers (1993). "A Documented History of the Incident Which Occurred at Rosewood, Florida, January 1923." Commissioned by the Florida State Legislature.
Jones, Maxine D. (1997). "The Rosewood Massacre and the Women Who Survived It." Florida Historical Quarterly (Fall):193–208.
Tallahassee Democrat (1995). May 5: 1B, 3B.
Maxine D. Jones
Rosewood ★★★ 1996 (R)
Based on the true story of the well-off African American community of Rosewood, Florida, which was destroyed by a white mob in 1923. Rhames is Mr. Mann, a war vet and Voight a white shopkeeper who, together, try to save innocent people from the tragic massacre that begins when a woman falsely accuses a black man of rape. Accurately shows the tensions present between blacks and whites of the time. Voight's character is not overly romanticized as the great white hope. The real hero is the reticent Rhames, a fictitious blend of reallife characters and Hollywood machismo. Both performances are strong and film succeeds as a detailed visual reminder of country's tragic history. Reallife survivors of the bloodshed finally won reparation from the Florida legislature in 1993. Singleton's location shoots in the Florida swamps caused problems for the crew, one of whom was sent to the hospital after a snake bite. 142m/C VHS, DVD . Ving Rhames, Jon Voight, Don Cheadle, Michael Rooker, Bruce McGill, Loren Dean, Esther Rolle, Elise Neal, Catherine Kellner, Akosua Busia, Paul Benjamin, Mark Boone Jr., Muse Watson, Badja (Medu) Djola, Kathryn Meisle, Jaimz Woolvett; D: John Singleton; W: Gregory Poirier; C: Johnny E. Jensen; M: John Williams.
rose·wood / ˈrōzˌwoŏd/ • n. 1. fragrant close-grained tropical timber with a distinctive fragrance, used particularly for making furniture and musical instruments. 2. the tree (genus Dalbergia) of the pea family that produces this timber.