S2 E4: 3 Years Before Rosewood - the Deadliest Election Day in US History (Part 2)
Updated: Dec 2, 2021
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A continuation of the exploration of the 1920 Ocoee Massacre. The Ocoee Massacre occurred three years before the Rosewood Massacre and followed a massive Black voter registration and get-out-the-vote movement in Florida. The movement was perceived as a threat to those who wished to keep Black Americans subjugated and as a result, many Black Americans who participated in the movement, who voted or attempted to vote, were targeted in violent attacks. Adding to the tensions was the enfranchisement of women as they gained the right to vote the same year that the Ocoee Massacre occurred, which potentially increased the number of people who could vote against one-party rule in Florida and those who attempted and ultimately succeeded in quashing the Black voter movement.
Understanding the Black experience in Florida sheds light on how tragedies such as the Rosewood Massacre or the Ocoee Massacre could occur without any form of justice or recourse for the victims. Events such as the Ocoee and Rosewood Massacres were a product of the sociopolitical and economic conditions born out of racial hatred that created the space for the Massacres to occur. Attacks on Blacks and Black communities prior to the Rosewood Massacre served as stress tests that gauged the boundaries intended to keep those conditions in check. Each racially motivated act of violence that victimized Black people and minorities that went unpunished, pushed those boundaries further and further apart while providing a wider opening for those conditions to take their place. The cause of the Rosewood Massacre is summed up in a nearly 100 page report following a state commissioned study, which characterized it as a "a tragedy of American democracy and the American legal system." In other words. Democracy and the American legal system failed the Rosewood victims. An analysis of the Ocoee Massacre in relation to the Rosewood Massacre in this context illuminates how widespread that failure of democracy and justice was for Black people at the time. In other words the Rosewood Massacre could occur - in part - because of the ability of the perpetrators of the Ocoee Massacre and dozens of other attacks on African Americans and Black communities to carry out those acts of terror with impunity.
Guests in this episode include several descendants of Ocoee Massacre victim, July Perry: Sha’ron Cooley Mcwhite, Gladys Betty Franks Bell as well as her brother, Aaron Franks. Listeners will also hear from Michigan State University English Professor Julian Chambliss. Chambliss also has an appointment in History and the Val Berryman Curator of History at the MSU Museum at Michigan State University. In addition, he is a core participant in the MSU College of Arts & Letters’ Consortium for Critical Diversity in a Digital Age Research (CEDAR).
“...you have this sort of...overarching question of autonomy of African Americans. This sort of like looming class, labor strife around African Americans. And all of those things sort of like intersect around Ocoee. And it is deliberately and very much connected to the fact that you have women gaining the right to vote." ~Michigan State University Professor Julian Chambliss
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IN THIS EPISODE
Sha'ron Cooley McWhite, survivor of Ocoee Massacre Victim Julius "July" Perry.
Michigan State University English Professor Julian Chambliss