Revisiting the Rosewood Massacre, 100 Years Later
While flipping through cable channels searching for something to watch, I settled on Rosewood (1997), featuring Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, and Elise Neal. I was generally aware of what happened there and that I was watching a fictionalized account of the events. I compartmentalized my anger while watching, angry about things I know happened elsewhere, if not Rosewood (like cutting off body parts of lynched men like ears and penises). I set other matters aside until I could research what happened so I could be mad for the right reason.
It shouldn't be a spoiler that the end result was that all Black residents of the town were murdered or burned out. Rosewood was an almost all-Black community after white residents moved away after the cedar trees were wiped out and the pencil mills closed. Whites lived in nearby Sumner, Blacks stayed in Rosewood, and the communities generally got along, except for the normal segregation, voter suppression, and white supremacy.
Rosewood was mainly self-sufficient. It had three Black churches, a school, a Prince Hall Masonic Lodge (different than the white Masons), a turpentine mill, a sugarcane mill, and their own baseball team, the Rosewood Stars. Some Black men worked at the nearby sawmill in Sumner. Some women worked as domestics for white families. One of those domestics was Sarah Carrier (Aunt Sarah), who figured prominently in the film and real life.
The first thing that angered me was the date of what would become known as the Rosewood Massacre. It came three years after Ocoee, Florida, another Black town, was wiped out after two men tried to vote in the 1920 Presidential election. It was less than two years after the Greenwood District of Tulsa, known as Black Wall Street, was bombed, burned, and ravaged. The only lesson white citizens seemed to learn from all over the state of Florida learned from the previous destruction of two Black communities is that there would be no consequences.