[fla-left] [news/history] Rosewood survivors hope for memorial center (fwd)

Michael Hoover hoov at SPAMfreenet.tlh.fl.us
Tue Aug 1 07:39:41 MDT 2000


forwarded by Michael Hoover

> Sunday, July 30, 2000
>
> Rosewood survivors hope for memorial center
>
> By PAT LEISNER
> Associated Press Writer
>
> WEEKI WACHEE - As 100 people gathered Saturday to remember family slain in
> the Rosewood massacre they also announced plans to erect a memorial - a
> think tank to justice in a tiny town wiped out by injustice.
>
> Survivors of the Rosewood massacre and their descendants held their 17th
> annual reunion, remembering the six black and two white people killed in
> that quiet African-American community by a white mob that burned the town
> to the ground during a shameful period of Florida history 77 years ago.
>
> ''Our ancestors built a community out of swamp, against all odds, and they
> were massacred,'' said Arnett Doctor Sr., whose ancestors were the founding
> fathers of Rosewood in 1845.
>
> 'Now it's our responsibility to build another community - not physically,
> but mentally - that says we cannot tolerate hate crimes and that people
> must become more tolerable to other people's differences,'' he said.
>
> Racial violence broke out on New Year's Day 1923 in Rosewood after a
> whitewoman emerged from her home bruised and beaten. She claimed she had
> been attacked by an unidentified black man.
>
> Witnesses, however, said they saw a white man, believed to have been her
> lover, leave the house.
>
> In a week of destruction, white vigilantes laid siege to the community,
> torching nearly every structure as the 120 residents fled barefoot and in
> night clothes into the woods.
>
> There they hid, one survivor said, living on berries and water from a
> creek, until soldiers came and put women and children on a train to
> Gainesville.
>
> In those days, Rosewood was a thriving, rather comfortable community of
> turpentine and saw mill workers, masons, craftsmen and fruit farmers.
>
> Today, the town is no more. Only road signs mark its spot, nine miles east
> of Cedar Key along Florida's Gulf Coast.
>
> Those who fled never returned out of fear. Descendants say some families
> were so intimidated they even changed their names.
>
> Doctor's vision is of a Rosewood Justice Center. He says ground is expected
> to be broken this year on a 22-acre site in Rosewood. The center is to
> serve a threefold purpose:
>
> a memorial to honor the founding families and those who lost their lives in
> the massacre;
>
> a think tank for different ethnic groups to come together to exchange ideas
> to eliminate bigotry and racism;
>
> an African-American owned and controlled hotel-restaurant complex with
> picnic areas and botanical gardens.
>
> Doctor, 57, hosted this year's reunion at Weeki Wachee Resort, noted for
> its underwater shows where mermaid-clad swimmers perform in clear, natural
> springs.
>
> ''The reunions are important. They give a sense of history, a sense of
> connection, and of love, protection and caring,'' Doctor said.
>
> The state acknowledged the atrocity in 1994 and the following year paid
> survivors and descendants $2 million. Under the late Gov. Lawton Chiles,
> Florida also issued an apology for the events at Rosewood.
>
> Survivors and descendants gathered at the site 65 miles northwest of Tampa
> for a barbecue of ribs, chicken, hamburgers, beans and cole slaw at a
> picnic spot overlooking a beach and water slide. Restaurants donated food;
> the resort provided the cooks and servers and the Hernando County Tourist
> Development Council paid the park fees.
>
> Among the attendees were the oldest and youngest survivors - Willie Evans,
> 93 and Vera Hamilton, 79.
>
> ''The reunion means a lot to me,'' said Hamilton, who was 2 in 1923. Her
> sister was Philomena Goin Doctor, Doctor's mother.
>
> Hamilton, who came to the reunion with four generations of her family,
> remembers stories about her grandmother, Sarah Carrier, who refused orders
> to send her son out to the angry mob of men. They kicked in the door, shot
> Hamilton's uncle and killed Carrier. The rest of the family escaped through
> a
> back door.
>
> ''Out of all what happened none of our parents taught us to hate anybody -
> and they burned the town down,'' Hamilton said.
>
> __________________________________
>
> Jul 30, 2000 - 01:56 AM
>
> Rosewood survivors tell tragedy's lessons
> By GEORGE GRAHAM Tribune correspondent
>
> WEEKI WACHEE - Could the horror of Rosewood be
> repeated in today's Florida?
>
> ``Most definitely,'' said Arnett T. Doctor, whose
> great-grandmother was killed in the January 1923 Levy
> County massacre.
>
> He is sitting at a picnic table overlooking the Weeki Wachee
> spring, watching children frolic in the blue-green water.
>
> Doctor, who makes a living lecturing on race relations, is the
> spokesman for the Rosewood massacre survivors and their
> descendants who have come together in this tranquil setting
> to reinforce their commitment to the eradication of racism
> and bigotry.
>
> Six generations of Rosewood families - about 100 men,
> women and children - are seated at the picnic tables,
> exchanging small talk and enjoying barbecue ribs and
> chicken.
>
> Guests include Rosewood survivors Willie Evans, 93, and
> Vera Hamilton, 79. Both are in wheelchairs.
>
> Asked whether he agrees with Doctor's assertion that a
> Rosewood-type incident could occur today, Evans said, ``I
> would hope not. But it's happening all the time, even in
> foreign lands.''
>
> ``Oh, it could happen,'' Hamilton said ``But I hope it will never
> happen. There has been a big change. I have good white
> friends, and I've worked with some good white people.''
>
> Doctor argues that ``whenever people of different ethnic
> backgrounds live together without mutual interaction, there is
> always the possibility such misfortunes can recur.''
>
> He was the technical consultant for ``Rosewood,'' a 1997
> Warner Brothers movie based on a weeklong reign of terror
> in the black Levy County community. The incident resulted in
> at least seven deaths. Some researchers put the death toll,
> both blacks and whites, at as many as 18.
>
> The incident was triggered by a white woman's story that she
> was attacked by a black stranger. An angry white mob
> descended on Rosewood. Several Rosewood inhabitants
> were slain, and several were killed in an exchange of gunfire
> between the white mob and the black townsfolk. Scores of
> residents were driven from their beds into the surrounding
> swamp.
>
> The mob burned the town's churches, its Masonic hall and
> school, and several homes.
>
> Rosewood's inhabitants insisted at the time that it was the
> woman's white lover who beat her. Witnesses said they saw
> the man leaving her home.
>
> For more than 70 years, Rosewood's history was a secret,
> rarely discussed by the survivors.
>
> Then the Holland & Knight law firm filed a claims bill to
> compensate the Rosewood survivors and their descendants.
> In 1994, the Florida Legislature passed the claims bill, giving
> each survivor $150,000. A fund of $500,000 was established
> to compensate those who lost property in the massacre.
>
> The bill also set up a scholarship fund for descendants of the
> Rosewood survivors.
>
> Doctor is the driving force behind the Rosewood Justice
> Center, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to
> establishment of a Rosewood memorial and programs to
> sensitize Americans to the need for racial tolerance.
>
> Holland & Knight lawyer Ted Small, who helped set up the
> Justice Center, said negotiations are under way to purchase
> property in Rosewood for the center's site. Plans are to
> include a memorial similar to the Holocaust Memorial in
> Washington.
>
> ``Race relations are the No. 1 issue in America,'' he said.
>
> Small, who is black, grew up in DeLand. A Harvard graduate,
> Small said he was attracted to the law firm by the opportunity
> to work on the Rosewood Claims Bill.
>
> ``Part of me wants to adopt this family because I have heard
> stories of injustice in my family.''
>
> Doctor's eldest son, Jackson Hayes, who teaches English at
> West Philadelphia High School, said he makes a point of
> telling students about their roots.
>
> "And that's important. There may be some young people who
> think the battle is over because they can order a hamburger
> at McDonald's, but the battle is far from over.''
>
> Sandra Maxwell agrees. The assistant principal at Miami's
> Richmond Heights Middle School, she lectures and writes on
> race relations.
>
> Maxwell's grandfather John Wesley Bradley and aunt Lee
> Ruth survived the massacre by cowering in a nearby swamp.
> She said her aunt helped bring Rosewood out of the
> shadows with a 1982 ``60 Minutes'' interview.
>
>  She cited recent incidents of racial violence across America
> as evidence that Rosewood could happen again,
>
> ``We have come a long way,` Maxwell said. `But we have not
> overcome. Not yet.''





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