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  • Writer's pictureNia Clark

S2 E9 Rosewood: Escape

Descendants of the Evans family at the Virtual Rosewood Family Reunion held July 2020


Despite the symbiosis shared by the communities of Rosewood and neighboring Sumner as well as the relative peace that made that symbiosis possible, research shows racial tensions simmered between the two communities long before the Rosewood Massacre. In hindsight, the moderate prosperity enjoyed by Blacks in Rosewood coupled with the animosity generated by those who did not believe African Americans had a right to prosperity may well have foreshadowed the unjust racial cleansing that was to come in Rosewood. The mobs that killed, maimed and ran every Black resident out of Rosewood weren’t just terrorizing the community. They were also sending a message. Blacks were to leave an never come back. Their property would be looted and/or destroyed. Those who could be caught would be killed. Those who managed to escape must never return. If they did they likely wouldn’t make it out alive again. The message was received loud and clear. The violent, deadly culture of racial superiority that made it nearly impossible for many Blacks to strive for full citizenship, let alone enjoy any measure of it for a long period of time ensured that those responsible for that racial cleansing would never have to answer for their crimes. This is why, even if the survivors of the Rosewood Massacre wanted to to return, they understand that was not an option.

Those who were fortunate enough to escape the carnage and destruction of the only home most had ever known knew that those who were responsible for the trauma they endured during that first week of January 1923 could do it all over again and still face no consequences for their actions the second time around. So when the survivors left Rosewood, most left for good. Those who did return wouldn’t do so for more than a half of a century later.

Listeners will hear an original song about the Rosewood Massacre by Blues musician Eric Bibb called Rosewood. Listeners will also hear from journalist and author, Michael D’Orso, who is the author of “Like Judgement Day:” a detailed account of the Rosewood Massacre as well as the lives of the survivors in the decades that followed and their years long fight for justice and compensation. Guests on this episode include Dr. Benea Denson, a descendant of one of the original families to settle in Rosewood: the Evans family.

“I know there are a lot of members of our family, they were separated after fleeing from Rosewood. That would be the only thing that kind of surprised me, knowing that we have so many family members out there. That we may and may not know about. We don't know where everyone went. All of the family split up. Some of them relocated to areas together. But then there were some people who were never spoke of again. So we don't know if they made it out or not." ~Dr. Benea Denson, Rosewood descendant of the Evans family.

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Journalist and author Michael D'Orso

Blues Musician Eric Bibb

Dr. Benea Denson (3rd from right): descendant of the Evans family, which was one of the original families to settle in Rosewood

Musical Attributions

1. Artist/Title: Axletree - Window Sparrows Licenses: Attribution 4.0 International URL:

2. Artist/Title: Lobo Loco - Place on my Bonfire (ID 1170) Licenses: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) URL:

3. Artist/Title: Youssoupha Sidibe - Xaleyi Licenses: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US) URL:

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