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The movie "Rosewood" (release date 2/21/97, director John Singleton, with Jon Voigt and Ving
Rhames) is a dramatization. It doesn't claim to be historically accurate.

       It shows Fanny Taylor being beaten by a white lover, then claiming a Black man had
        done it. What actually happened simply isn't known.
       Rosewood is shown as somewhat richer, and the nearby mill-town of Sumner as poorer,
        than they (evidently) were.
       Ving Rhames' character is an invention. It's based on a Black reporter's (apparently
        unfounded) stories, that the defense was led by an African-American veteran from his
        own home town, Chicago.
       Far more deaths are shown on screen than the eight which have been documented. No
        known eyewitness said he saw women lynched, as shown, nor has any rumored "mass
        grave" been found.
       The county sheriff leads the massacre mob to Rosewood. The real leader was a self-
        appointed vigilante named Poly Wilkerson.

Are these important? Maybe not. The movie evokes the time and place powerfully. It's accurate in
portraying Rosewood as an independent, self-reliant community with some comforts. And:

       Many lynchings resulted from alleged "rapes", or from Black men merely looking at or
        accidentally bumping into White women.
       African-Americans often fought back and died heroically. They weren't passive victims,
        although resistance usually triggered worse violence. At Rosewood, Sylvester Carrier
        was the "Man" who shot back--and probably died, although some say he escaped alive.
       Thousands died during the 50-plus years of the "Lynch-law Era", but casualty counts are
        hard to verify. Boastful or traumatized witnesses often exaggerated the death counts in
        "race riots".

Perhaps the movie's greatest problem is that it reinforces some societal myths. The Whites (with
the ambiguous exceptions of John Wright and the railroad men) are dismissed as evil, weak, or
"trashy", beginning with Fanny Taylor; and the role of Rosewood's women and children, first in
saving themselves, and later in bringing the case to the public, is downplayed or ignored.

                                     -and Rosewood Reborn

As with any mass media account, the radio documentary Rosewood Reborn has to select and
simplify, but actual voices of Rosewood tell the story. Listeners hear no fewer than five survivors,
plus white witnesses. They contradict each other with minimal editorializing. Rosewood Reborn
recounts the survivors' ground-breaking struggle for justice, too. And it preserves essential

* We simply do not know who attacked Fanny Taylor, or why: the witnesses are contradictory.

* The men who attacked Rosewood apparently considered themselves a righteous, even legally
constituted posse. Yet as far as we know, lawmen took no direct part in the fate of Rosewood, to
attack or defend.

* Virtually everyone in Rosewood's story believed they were doing the right--or at least, a
righteous thing, however violent. That includes not only whites who interpreted the beating of
Fanny Taylor as a rape, but also the descendants, reporters, researchers, lawyers, politicians and
producers (this one included) who emphasize what they think most important about the story, and
(necessarily) downplay the rest. Thus "the whole truth" has never been--and probably cannot
ever be told.

These are subtle points, but important. By allowing the participants to speak for themselves, we
hope Rosewood Reborn draws listeners into the story, encourages them to feel themselves to
be "there", and to consider the choices they might make in similar circumstances. By showing
Rosewood's essential mysteries--the rush to judgment on false or incomplete perceptions; the
"objective" reports that contributed to fear and violence; the dubious roles of ambiguous
authorities--we hope to emphasize Rosewood's relevance today.

FOOTNOTE: Some have said as many as 500 were killed. But the entire population of Rosewood
was about 150. Survivors scattered all over the state and lost track with each other. No-one tried
to trace them for 60 years, when St. Petersburg Times reporter Gary Moore started investigating.
Moore ultimately concluded that even counting "indirect" deaths, probably fewer than twelve and
certainly less than 20 died. He apparently spoke to more witnesses than anyone else, but his
research has not been independently reviewed. Many hope that Rosewood's new prominence will
lead to publication of his book

A Chronology of Events
Four black men in McClenny are removed from the local jail and lynched for the alleged rape of a
white woman.


Two whites and at least five blacks are killed in Ocoee in a dispute over voting rights. The black
community of Ocoee is destroyed, 25 homes, 2 churches, and a Masonic Lodge.


A black man in Wauchula is lynched for an alleged attack on a white woman.


A black man in Perry is burned at the stake, accused of the murder of a white school teacher. A
black church, school, Masonic Lodge, and meeting hall are burned.


On New Year's Eve a large Ku Klux Klan Parade is held in Gainesville.


Early morning: Fannie Taylor reports an attack by an unidentified black man.
Monday afternoon: Aaron Carrier is apprehended by a posse and is spirited out of the area by
Sheriff Walker.

Late afternoon: A posse of white vigilantes apprehend and kill a black man named Sam Carter.


Armed whites begin gathering in Sumner.


Late evening: White vigilantes attack the Carrier house. Two white men are killed, and several
others wounded. A black woman, Sarah Carrier, is killed and others inside the Carrier house are
either killed or wounded.

      Rosewood's black residents flee into the swamps.

      One black church is burned, and several unprotected homes.

      Lexie Gordon is murdered.

Approximately 200-300 whites from surrounding areas begin to converge on Rosewood.

Mingo Williams is murdered.

Governor Cary Hardee is notified, and Sheriff Walker reports that he fears "no further disorder."

The Sheriff of Alachua County arrives in Rosewood to assist Sheriff Walker.

James Carrier is murdered.

A train evacuates refugees to Gainesville.


A mob of 100-150 whites return to Rosewood and burn the remaining structures.


A black man in Newberry is convicted of stealing cattle. He is removed from his cell and lynched
by local whites.


A Grand Jury convenes in Bronson to investigate the Rosewood riot.

The Grand Jury finds "insufficient evidence" to prosecute.


"Between 1880 and 1923, an African-American was lynched every two-and-a-half days in
the U.S."
                                                             - historian Larry Rivers

Up until 1923, Rosewood, located in central Florida, was a thriving town with a
population of 120, mostly blacks who owned and farmed the surrounding land.
However, on New Year's Day of that year, Fanny Taylor, a white woman in the
nearby predominantly white town of Sumner, ran out of her house screaming,
bruised and battered, claiming that a black man had assaulted her-- in actual fact,
the beating had been at the hands of her white lover, and Fanny had lied so that her
husband would not find out about her adultery. Fanny's accusations, news of an
escaped black convict from a local chain gang, and the locals' long-simmering resentment
of the more prosperous Rosewood were catalyst enough for the whites to form a posse.
Led by the county Sheriff, the whites marched three miles to the town of Rosewood in
search of their convict.

By the end of the week, between 70 and 250 blacks (depending on the account) in the
immediate area had been killed and the town of Rosewood had been completely
burned to the ground. After a lackluster grand jury investigation that resulted in no
indictments, the Rosewood massacre was quickly forgotten, with the remains of the once-
prosperous town hidden by underbrush. It wasn't until 1982 that the terrible legacy of
the massacre was revealed, when investigative reporter Gary Moore spoke to some
of the survivors, and wrote a story in the St. Petersburg Times. This was later
followed by a new report on CBS, and a documentary on the Discovery Channel. It then
took another twelve years and intensive legal wrangling for a restitution claim for the
survivors to make its way through the justice system. But finally, on May 4, 1994, the
Florida legislature voted to officially recognize the Rosewood massacre and pay a $2
million reparation to the survivors and their families.

"As long as criminal assaults on innocent women continue, lynch law will prevail"
            -   editorial in the Gainesville Daily Sun (1923)

Questions (devised by M. Webb): Explain completely with support from your notes
and the movie. Several paragraphs are required to satisfy the answer.

How could something like this happen in a civilized world, that is, the belief that Fanny
Taylor was raped by a Black man without proof, the massacre of innocent Blacks, and
the total destruction of a town?

In the past 20 years, has a White person accused a Black person of a crime he/she did
not commit causing the White and Black communities to turn against each other?

Newspaper Accounts of the riot:

White Florida newspapers often denounced the lawlessness at Rosewood, but not the
action itself. The Tampa Times, while decrying outside distortions and exaggerations,
was an exception. "We have visited the crime of one on the members of a race," the paper
editorialized. "Now that the senseless passion has been gratified, and an awful revenge
has been taken, we are content to settle down to a period of quiet. But we will not admit
that we are anything but a Christian and civilized people."(103)

Survivors’ Accounts of the riot:

the young Minnie Lee Langley remembered that her Cousin Sylvester Carrier had asked
her grandparents, Emma and James Carrier, to bring the children to the home of Sarah
Carrier, his mother. "It would be a place," he said, "where I can protect yall if anything
should happen." The plan was carried out. On Thursday evening, January 4, shortly after
Sarah returned from one of her jobs the night of gunfire (described on pp. 17-20)

Asked in her deposition who was shooting, Minnie Lee answered, "Crackers, them white
people. They was shooting all in the house and the first one they killed was my aunt
[Sarah]."(84) The shot came through a window and went through Sarah Carrier's head.
Minnie and Lee and the children were upstairs under a mattress when Bernadina, Sarah's
daughter, came up and told them what had happened. The frightened children huddled
closer together, and shortly, Minnie Lee ran downstairs seeking some adult protection.
Sylvester was seated in a wood bin under the stairway facing the front door. He grabbed
Minnie Lee, and she squatted between his legs

Other Sources: (click to follow link)

Assignment: created by M. Webb

Task: Choose a race riot that occurred between African Americans/Canadians and
      Whites between 1900 and 1954. Find information on the riot and put it in
      your own words based on the following:
      - causes of the riot
      - results or outcomes of the riot
      - key people involved and the role they played in the riot
      - the role of the media in promoting negative stereotypes and hysteria
      - those instrumental in trying to resolve the differences that led to the riot
      - final resolution (then and/or now)
      - present to the class

Mechanics: - Work in pairs (two); choose a partner
          - Both group members must report to the class
          - You must report on the riot, mention at least three laws, show your
             image which can be projected on screen
           - Find at least ten Jim Crow laws and place them behind the cover page
           - Give a typed copy of your report with a cover page and bibliography
             to the teacher
           - Include a newspaper report from the time of the riot and place it
              behind the Jim Crow laws
           - Include at least one image of the riot or key people behind the news
           - Time limit: 5 to 10 minutes
              Good Luck!