Anniversary of North Central Florida Lynchings
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News
Rosewood is just a dot on the map now, but recent years have seen a mult-million dollar state settlement and the basis of a Hollywood movie. 85 years later, descendents are keeping the memory of Rosewood alive.
January 4th, 1923, the survivors of the Rosewood massacre were going through a bittersweet range of emotions. They were sad to leave their homes and property behind. But they were happy that they were able to sneak out... Alive.
Today, Rosewood is just a sign on the side of the road hardly noticed by travelers driving in and out of Cedar Key. But 85 years ago, it was a bustling, mostly black community.
In the events depicted in the 1997 movie "Rosewood," on New Year's Day, a white woman falsely accuses a black man of assaulting her. That man was Aaron Carrier and his niece is Liz Jenkins, the founder of the Real Rosewood Foundation.
"Rosewood lives in my heart," says Jenkins. "It will always live in my heart. It's important to all the descendents."
A mob of white men from the neighboring town of Sumner came to Rosewood on the hunt. One person they grabbed was Carrier's wife Muhulda... Jenkins' aunt. They tortured and gang raped her but she wouldn't change her story.
"Her defining words were, 'You will have to kill me because my husband was at home with me in bed all night long'," says Jenkins.
Jenkins says the mob killed five blacks over a two day span. But the blacks defended their homes and killed at least two whites--ignored by all except the local media.
In 1994, after plenty of debate and arguing, state leaders voted to award each survivor 150- thousand dollars and give descendents property and scholarship benefits.
A historical marker has been placed in front of the only structure from the time period that is still stands... the house of John Wright, a white resident. Sheriff Bob Walker told blacks to stay here until he could persuade a train conductor to get everyone out on January 4th, 1923. Most never returned, and the town went down in flames.
Even today, there are still some signs of racial prejudice, though the town of Rosewood is gone. Two weeks after the historical marker was installed it was stolen. More recently, vandals have damaged the wood holding up the landmark.
"Yes, I think it's racially motivated," says Jenkins. "The DNA is still here."
But she's happy something that was ignored 85 years ago was getting talked about Friday.
"I believe the survivors are very happy that their story is being kept alive," says Jenkins.
Jenkins says although the movie is a nice story, it's not quite accurate. She's working on her own documentary that she hopes to complete in the next couple years.
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