jim a day

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January 7th 1923: Rosewood massacre ends

On this day in 1923, the Rosewood massacre ended in the Florida town after raging for a week. The violence began on January 1st, the day after a Ku Klux Klan rally was held in the area. It started when a white mob descended on the predominantly black town in response to a rumour that a black Rosewood man had sexually assaulted a white woman. The group of over 400 whites attacked African-Americans who they believed were involved, torturing people for information and targetting a family home. They then rampaged throughout the town burning buildings to the ground, including houses and churches. The black residents were forced to hide in the nearby swamps until they were evacuated to other towns, leaving Rosewood completely deserted in the wake of the violence. The carnage ended on January 7th when the mob burned the last structures and there were no black residents in Rosewood remaining. The final death toll was officially six blacks and two whites killed, but according to witnesses closer to thirty African-Americans died. A white jury decided there was insufficient evidence and none of those involved were ever charged for their role in what was erroneously portrayed as a ‘race riot’. In 1994, almost seventy years after the event, the Florida legislature passed a bill that gave each of the nine remaining survivors of the massacre $150,000 in compensation. While it is not enough to provide justice for the Rosewood victims and survivors, the 1994 law ended decades of refusal to come to terms with the horrors committed at Rosewood.

“It has been a struggle telling this story over the years, because a lot of people don’t want to hear about this kind of history … It’s a sad story, but it’s one I think everyone needs to hear”
- Lizzie Jenkins, descendant of a Rosewood survivor