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January 4, 1923, White Mob Destroys Small Black Community In Rosewood, Florida - Today In Crime History
On this date, January 4, in the year 1923, a white vigilante mob began a two day rampage, resulting in the burning and dislocation of the small Afro-American community of Rosewood Florida.
Rosewood is located nine miles east of Cedar Key in western Levy County, Florida. In 1920 Rosewood had three churches, a train station, a large one-room black masonic hall, and a black school. There were several unpainted plank wood two-story homes and approximately a dozen two-room homes. Additionally, there were a number of small one-room shanties. In 1923 Afro-Americans made up the majority of the Rosewood Community.
The events that culminated in the burning of Rosewood actually began on January 1, 1923 in the neighboring community of Sumner, Florida, when a white woman claimed that a black man had assaulted her. Several groups of white men assembled to capture the accused black man, believing that he had fled and was hiding in Rosewood with the assistance of the black Community. At least one black man, who was believed to have information about the assault, was lynched in Rosewood on January 1, 1923, by members of one vigilante group of white men. The dead mans body was strung up and displayed as a warning to the black community.
As news of the alleged assault upon the white woman spread through neighboring communities over January 2 and 3, several white men from surrounding areas began to travel to Sumner and the Rosewood area to assist in the search for the accused black man. A rumor circulated that members of the Rosewood community were hiding and protecting the accused man. By January 4, 1923, approximately 30 armed white vigilantes had assembled, supposedly to search for the perpetrator of the assault and those that may have assisted him.
Upon arriving at Rosewood during the evening of January 4, 1923, the white posse found a group of African Americans barricaded in one home. Surrounding the house, the white mob riddled it with rifle and shotgun fire. The occupants of the home resisted and at least two white men were killed, while several others were wounded. At least one black occupant of the house was killed. The shooting continued for over an hour. The attack ended when the white vigilantes ran out of ammunition. As these men left Rosewood, they burned one church and several unoccupied houses.
In 1923, the idea that black people had taken up arms against white men was unthinkable in southern white communities. As this news spread, armed white men traveled to Levy County from Gainesville, Starke, and Perry, Florida . By January 5, a group of 200 - 300 angry armed white men had assembled.
Members of this white mob descended on Rosewood before dawn on January 5, 1923. Homes and other buildings were burned as the black community members fled into the neighboring swamp. At least two members of Rosewood community were murdered by white vigilantes on this day. Over the next two days, the homes of all black residents in Rosewood were destroyed, burned to the ground. The actual number of dead and wounded during the entire January 1923 Rosewood massacre is difficult to determine. Estimates of the number of black community members killed range from 6 to 27.
No arrests were ever made for the murders committed in Rosewood, Florida. An all white grand jury was convened in Levy County during February 1923, but it determined that there was insufficient evidence to make any indictments. To this date, not one person has ever been prosecuted for those crimes committed during January 1923, in Rosewood, Florida.
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