Gary Moore, a white St. Petersburg Times reporter, opened the information
floodgates with a long 1982 Sunday magazine article about Rosewood's
demise. A spate of publicity followed, including a "60 Minutes" piece, and
a movie producer named Michael O'McCarthy acquired the rights to two of the
survivors' life stories.
Ironically, it was O'McCarthy's desire that his movie have a happy ending
that led to Rosewood's survivors receiving some real-life justice from the
state. O'McCarthy contacted Stephen Hanlon from Florida's largest law firm,
Holland & Knight, and encouraged him and partner Martha Barnett to propose
a bill to compensate the Rosewood survivors for their losses of property
O'McCarthy eventually disappeared from the picture after a conflict with
other survivors, but he got his hearings and resolution, anyway--although
Singleton chose to focus his movie on the events of 1923 and reduced the
legislative action to a footnote before the end credits.
In 1994, the legislature approved a $2.1 million compensation package,
including $150,000 each for the living survivors of the rampage (fewer than
10 were known), $500,000 to be shared by survivors' descendants and
$100,000 a year in college scholarships.
But if the bill represented a state coming to terms with its past, all
wounds have not yet healed, and some residents expect the movie to reopen
"I ain't going to see it," snaps Christy Thompson, who doesn't appreciate
outsiders trespassing near her Rosewood home every time the incident gets
publicized. "I'm tired of people looking at me like I'm the guilty party,
when I didn't even live here back then and didn't have any kinfolk living
Singleton, who was signed to direct the movie by producer Jon Peters, says
his primary purpose was "to tell the story that hadn't been told on as
large a scale as possible." The story struck him as especially relevant
because it deals with "using black people as scapegoats to all of America's
Owed To Rosewood Voices From A Florida Town That Died In A Racial Firestorm
70 Years Ago Rise From The Ashes, Asking For Justice.
February 21, 1993|By MARGO HARAKAS, Staff Writer
(Page 2 of 6)
Rep. Miguel DeGrandy, R-Miami, is pressing the state to acknowledge the
wrong done in Rosewood, and he`s asking for compensation for the remaining
survivors and for establishment of a memorial to honor those who fell and
those who tried to save them.
Also, to assure that the tragedy never again is dismissed or forgotten,
film producer/writer Michael O`McCarthy has signed a contract with
Multimedia Motion Pcitures to co-produce a TV movie on the sad demise of
once proud Rosewood. It was an outraged O`McCarthy who two years ago
located the survivors, put them in touch with Holland & Knight and
initiated the action for compensation.
Why is the call for justice finally being heard now, 10 years after a St.
Petersburg Times reporter reminded the world of the chilling dark secret of
``I think the public is more sensitive to these types of issues today, more
outraged by them,`` says Manuel L. Dobrinsky, with the Miami law firm of
Holland & Knight. Dobrinsky is representing without charge Davis and her
cousin Minnie Lee Langley of Jacksonville.
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``It was a time,`` says Davis, setting the stage, ``when if you seen a
white person, you better know your place. If you seen a white child, and
that white child want your seat, you better get up no matter how old you
It was a time when racial tensions flared white hot. A time when a
7-year-old child could outlive her birthplace.
``The Rosewood massacre was not the only racial massacre in Florida,`` says
Ted Hemmingway, professor of history at Florida A&M. Between 1882 and 1968
Florida had 282 lynchings, a record exceeded only by Mississippi, 591;
Georgia, 531; Texas, 493; Alabama, 347; and Arkansas, 284, he says.
``Even as early as 1912 when Booker T. Washington toured the state, five
people were lynched in one day in Lake City.``
What set rural Rosewood apart was that the violence inflicted there all but
wiped a town from the map.
``It`s a dreadful, dreadful story,`` says Davis, now 77 and living in
Miami. Davis, her cousin Langley, now 88, and Margie Hall Johnson, Wilson
Hall and Mary Hall Daniels, all living outside Jacksonville, share the
experience of the bloody white rage, and of being the only Rosewood victims
known to be alive today.
``Rosewood was a nice town,`` Davis says, ``a lovely little place.
Everybody owned their own homes. And they were nice homes, too. Weren`t no