The Last House in Historic Rosewood, Florida May Become a MuseumBreaking News
tags: Jim Crow, historic preservation, Florida, violence, African American history, Rosewood Massacre
The house needs a new home.
It might someday become a museum, so it can keep sharing its story of slaughter and survival.
It’s the last house in what once was Rosewood, a community of 300 people — mostly Black — who lived along State Road 24, the road to Cedar Key.
On Jan. 1, 1923, a white woman claimed a Black man had attacked her. Her lie inflamed the Ku Klux Klan. Throughout the week, a vigilante crowd burned down the town and killed five Black people.
“It’s a place that needs to be remembered,” said Lizzie Jenkins, 82, whose aunt escaped the massacre. “That house is part of who I am.”
In 1870, a post office and train depot opened in Rosewood, which officials named for its abundant pink cedars. Residents worked in lumber yards, turpentine mills and, later, at a factory that turned trees into pencils. Families built houses, churches, a school and a baseball diamond.
One store, owned by a white man, served the town. It sat near the railroad tracks, in the man’s three-story Victorian house with stained-glass windows, surrounded by 35 acres. When the shooting began, John Wright and his wife sheltered Jenkins’ aunt, Mahulda “Gussie” Brown Carrier, and other Black women and children, hiding them in their attic, closing them into a secret closet, lowering them into the well.
“If it hadn’t been for that store owner, all of them would have died,” said Jenkins. “He kept them safe for two days, until the sheriff could get a train conductor to move them. Most of the people got off the train at the first stop, which is Archer.”
They never went back to Rosewood.
For almost 60 years, people seldom mentioned the massacre. Then, in 1982, a St. Petersburg Times reporter wrote about it, and CBS news turned it into a national story. Director John Singleton made a movie, Rosewood, in 1997, and in 2004, then-Gov. Jeb Bush dedicated a plaque alongside the highway, right behind the John Wright house. Bullet holes now pock the metal. Florida’s Legislature also issued checks up to $150,000 to 10 people who could prove they lived in Rosewood in 1923 — the first time any state paid compensation to Black people for racial injustice.
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