Directions: For each exhibit below, locate the town or city on your roadmap of Florida, then place a dot on your own Florida map representing the same place. Be sure to label the dot with the place name and the date of the incident. Now, consider your own family location or community location; what has happened there that is evidence of white supremacy?
Mose Norman, a black man who resided in the mostly black western Orange County community of Ocoee, went to the voting polls during an election but was denied a ballot. Angry, he returned with a shotgun but was roughed up and disarmed. Retreating to the home of a friend, Jules Perry, Norman brooded over the insult while false rumors spread of a black mob preparing to march on the polls. Sheriff’s deputies and armed vigilantes, presumably made up of Klansmen, surrounded Perry’s home and demanded that both Perry and Norman come out peacefully and be arrested. A battle erupted, leaving two whites dead in the yard, with at least four men wounded. Perry, the assumed “ringleader” of this black revolt, was captured and lynched in the predawn hours of November 3, 1920. Meanwhile, white rioters were busy in “N—–town,” burning down at least 25 homes, two churches, and a black fraternal lodge. Officially, the death toll included six blacks and two whites, but other estimates of the black body count ranged from 35 to 56 (the latter number given by a mob member who bragged of having killed seventeen victims himself). In the aftermath of the riot, all blacks were ordered to leave Ocoee, and none had returned by the late 1940’s. Klan historians deny any Klan involvement in this riot, and no hoods or robes were seen, but Klan threats had been made in the district and other sources reported afterwards that the riot had been Klan-led.
An escaped black convict allegedly murdered a white schoolteacher named Ruby Hendry in this small Panhandle town. Local residents discovered her badly beaten body. The convict and an alleged accomplice were quickly captured by the sheriff and placed in the Perry jail. Local whites, joined by men from as far away as Georgia and South Carolina, gathered at the jail in Perry and forcibly took the two black men from the sheriff and his deputies. They escorted Charlie Wright, the escaped convict, outside town where they beat him brutally in order to extract a confession and to determine if others were involved. Despite the severity of his injuries, Wright refused to indict anyone else in the crime. He was subsequently burned at the stake. The mob’s vengeance remained undiminished, however, and members subsequently seized two other black men whom they suspected of being involved in the teacher’s murder. Both black men were shot and then hung, although neither was ever implicated in the crime. Following the murders, the white mob then turned its fury on the entire black community and burned a church, amusement hall, and a black school. Several homes were also put to the torch, despite the fact that no black resident was accused of participating in the crime and most had expressed their sympathies and horror at the death of the schoolteacher. Although many in the mob may have belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, none wore Klan outfits during the attacks on the alleged murderers or the black community.
The towns of Rosewood, a mostly-black community in Levy County, and Sumner, an all-white settlement three miles away, had peacefully coexisted for over 75 years. Rosewood’s population was about 355, with 25 to 30 families living nine miles east of Cedar Key. The town boasted of three churches, a store, a school, a dozen large two-story homes, and a number of smaller one-room houses. Most of Rosewood’s men worked at the Cummer Lumber saw mill in Sumner, and some of the women worked in the homes of Sumner’s families. This peaceful coexistence was shattered by events beginning on New Year’s Day in 1923. That day, 22-year-old Fannie Taylor, a Sumner housewife, claimed that a black man had attacked her in her home after her husband had left for work. That same morning, two Rosewood women, Sarah Carrier and her granddaughter Philomena Goins, were working in the Taylor household laundering clothes. They had seen Fannie Taylor’s lover, a white man named John Bradley, arrive that morning after Mr. Taylor had left for work and left soon before Fannie made her accusations. They believed that John and Fannie had had a quarrel and that Bradley was responsible for Fannie’s injuries. But since Fannie Taylor was white, and Sarah and Philomena were black, their word counted for little. Though Fannie never said that her unknown attacker had come from Rosewood, she never said anything when rumors began to circulate to that effect. The night before, a black convict named Jesse Hunter had escaped from the county jail, so law enforcement officials and the people of Sumner made the logical leap that this must be the guilty party. Bloodhounds were made to sniff Fannie Taylor’ s clothes and immediately chased John Bradley’s scent to Rosewood, where Bradley had gone for help. The posse went to the home of Aaron Carrier, a relative of Sarah Carrier.
Upon finding that Aaron was not home, the hastily-assembled posse visited his mother’s house and found Aaron there. Despite being told that Aaron had been sick for several days, the mob tied his wrists to the rear bumper of a car and dragged him into the woods. Upon torture, Carrier named Sam Carter, a Rosewood blacksmith, for the crime. While Carrier was taken to Gainesville for safekeeping, a mob seized Carter and lynched him. The next three days were relatively quiet, though rumors began circulating around Sumner and nearby Cedar Key that Sylvester Carrier, Sarah Carrier’s son, was hiding Jesse Hunter and had reportedly taunted that if any white men wanted to catch Hunter, “to come get ‘em.” Aware of the potential for more attacks, Sylvester spent the next three days persuading his relatives to gather at his parents’ two-story home for mutual defense. Word quickly spread in the white community that the Carriers were “stockpiling arms and planning an attack,” but vigilantes bided their time until Thursday, sipping moonshine and waiting for others to gather. Finally, on the night of January 4th, an armed posse surrounded the Carrier home, shot the family dog, and demanded that everyone exit the house. When their demands were met with silence, the mob fired their guns into the dwelling, killing Sarah Carrier and wounding another woman and an infant. When the gunfire was not immediately returned, two mob members entered the home and were killed. The Carriers and the mob exchanged gunfire for the next several hours until the mob ran out of ammunition. While retreating, the mob burned down a church and several homes. Meanwhile, the Carriers and other black families in Rosewood fled into the neighboring swamps, where they hid for the next two days in their bedclothes and shivered in the uncommonly cold night air. A call went out from Sumner for assistance in the face of this “black rebellion,” and whites from Alachua County, Jacksonville, and settlements even further away descended on Levy County. Even participants who had taken part in the lynching in Perry the week before traveled to Sumner. Florida Governor Cary Hardee offered to send National Guardsmen to Levy County Sheriff Robert Walker in an effort to restore the peace, but the sheriff declined, saying that he “feared no further disorder.” Satisfied with the response, Governor Hardee then went hunting. The next afternoon, over 250 white men rampaged through Rosewood, burning down the Carrier home, the two remaining churches, and other buildings. The attack carried over into the next two days until there was not a building left standing in Rosewood, save two shops owned by white merchants. To this day, no one is sure how many fatalities were suffered on both sides, with estimates ranging from two whites and six blacks dead to figures much higher. One thing that cannot be disputed, however, is that Rosewood’s black families, after escaping through the swamps to safety elsewhere, never returned. Klan involvement has also been disputed, but at least one report describes the original mob as being “Klanled,” and a participant in the violence later stated that the Klan was “big in Cedar Key.” Other accounts tell of Georgia Klan members driving all night to exact revenge on Rosewood the night after the Carrier home shootout.
On Thursday, October 18th, 20-year-old Lola Cannidy left her home about noon to tend to the family livestock. Her mutilated body was found the next morning on a hillside near her home. Two hours later, Claude Neal, a black man who worked on a nearby peanut farm and lived across the road from the Cannidy house, was arrested and charged with her murder. After his arrest and alleged confession, Neal was immediately moved to Chipley, about 20 miles away. When an angry crowd gathered outside the jail and demanded that the sheriff hand Neal over for immediate justice, Neal was then moved over 200 miles in the next several days, eventually ending up in Brewton, Alabama. But that wasn’t far enough. Just after midnight on October 26th, a mob of over 100 people showed up at the Brewton jail and hauled Neal back to Greenwood. They publicly announced their intention to lynch Neal later that night, between 8 and 9PM, an advance notice of twelve hours. News of the upcoming lynching was given on radio stations across the South, and white people from all over the South were invited. Despite the flood of telegrams requesting him to step in, Florida Governor Dave Sholtz refused, saying that local authorities had the situation well under control. Unspeakable horrors were inflicted on Neal that day and into the night.
An estimated crowd of several thousand men, women, and children gathered to watch the proceedings and cheer the torturers. Children, some no older than toddlers, were encouraged to stab Neal with sharpened sticks. He was also stabbed and stuck with knives, burned with hot irons, shot repeatedly, and then dragged behind a car to the Cannidy home, where a woman reportedly came out of the house and buried a butcher knife in his chest. Then several people drove their cars over him before the mob then moved his dead body ten miles down the road to Marianna, where they hung him from a tree outside the courthouse. Pictures of his naked, mutilated body were taken and sold for fifty cents, and some tried to make off with Neal’s fingers and toes as souvenirs. The sheriff cut the body down the next day, but a mob soon demanded that it be hung up again. When the sheriff refused, the mob dispersed into the city streets and began attacking any blacks they encountered. After a few hours, the National Guard was called in, and peace was restored to Marianna. Neal’s murder became famous for being the last “spectacle” lynching in the nation, but many other less-publicized lynchings still took place in later years.
Willie James Howard was a fifteen-year-old boy growing up in Live Oak. He worked full-time at the Van Priest Dime Store while away from school for the winter holidays. For Christmas in 1943, he gave a girl that he worked with a card. When he found out that the card had upset her, he wrote a note to her in an attempt to apologize if he had offended her. This all sounds innocent enough on the surface. But Willie was black, his co-worker Cynthia Goff was a popular white high school student, and her father Phil was a former state legislator. When Cynthia showed her father the note, he and two friends drove to the Howard home and demanded to know where Willie was. At that moment, Willie walked inside from the backyard. Goff grabbed him, and when Willie’s mother tried to pull him away, Goff leveled a gun at Willie’s mother. She then let go of Willie to assurances that the white men were just going to take him for a drive and would drop him off later. When the car of three white men drove away with Willie, she wondered if she would ever see her son again. Meanwhile, the white men went to Bond-Howell Lumber Company and picked James up from work. Then, they drove to the nearby Suwanee River and bound young Willie by the hands and ankles while James watched. According to James, Phil Goff then held a gun to Willie’s head and made him jump in the cold river. Phil later testified that he and the two other white men went to cut a switch from a tree so that James could beat his son with it, but while they were away from Willie, he cried that no man would beat him, not them or his father, and slipped into the river while trying to get away. Willie struggled to swim despite being tied with rope around his wrists and legs, but soon drowned in the river. An attorney who was visiting Live Oak over the holidays when this incident occurred brought it incident to the attention of the NAACP. NAACP attorneys quickly demanded a full investigation of the case from Florida Governor, and Polk County native, Spessard Holland. Holland sent Goff’s sworn statement to the NAACP and promised that a grand jury in Live Oak would hear the case, but admitted that there would be “particular difficulties involved where there will be testimony of three white men and probably the girl against the testimony” of Willie’s father. Sworn statements were taken from Willie’s parents that disputed Goff’s version of what had happened, but to no avail. A verdict was not returned in the trial, and the three white men were allowed to go free. When the NAACP tried to make the case a federal trial, the Justice Department declined to intervene, citing a lack of jurisdiction.