In the history of the United States of America, there is, unfortunately, no shortage of racism-inspired tragic events. Due to the general white-washing of American history – and the persistence of lies about the founding of America – several of these incidents do not regularly appear in history books, nor do they receive much attention in the mainstream media; a perfect example of this is the Rosewood Massacre. What started the Rosewood Massacre was a classic combination of ignorance, dishonesty, and roiling racial hatred, but what kept it under wraps for so long was a concerted desire by many to forget the most troubling moments in America’s history.
The Rosewood Massacre occurred well into the 20th century – in January of 1923. Taking place in sleepy and rural Levy County, Florida, the massacre resulted in the deaths of untold innocent people and the complete destruction and abandonment of a previously thriving Black community. In keeping with a troubling trend that has plagued American history, there were no arrests ever made in connection with the Rosewood Massacre. The incident itself says as much about American history as the fact that you’ve probably never heard about it.
In the decades following the Civil War and Reconstruction, locales around the American South had ongoing issues with racial tension and violence. While many in America were enjoying the happy-go-lucky days of the Roaring ‘20s, the Sunshine State was experiencing continued issues with lynching and other race-related hate crimes. The KKK was active in the Rosewood area, and there had been another terribly similar event just weeks before the Rosewood Massacre. The Perry Race Riot in December of 1922 saw a Black man burned at the stake and several Black community buildings and homes destroyed. This tragedy set the stage for the Massacre that was to come.
Rosewood was a small town with origins much like those of other small Florida towns. It got its start in 1845 thanks to the timber industry, with the name of Rosewood referring to the red color of freshly cut cedar. When the industry ran out of trees to cut down, most of the white residents left for nearby Sumner, where work could be found in several turpentine mills. The Black residents remained in Rosewood and commuted to Sumner for work, resulting in a close-knit community of successful Black Americans. Despite their segregated nature, the towns of Rosewood and Sumner got along for most of their history without any violent incidents.
The Rosewood Massacre began, as many hate crimes of that era did, with a white woman making accusations against a Black man. The woman in this case was Fannie Taylor, the wife of a millwright in Sumner. Taylor had a reputation of being “odd” and “aloof,” but nothing could have prepared neighbors for what she would do in 1923. On New Year’s Day, 1923, Taylor began screaming that she needed help, and that her baby was in danger. Taylor was discovered with bruises on her face, while her baby was unharmed, and Taylor claimed that a Black man had entered her home, attacked her, and robbed her. Taylor did not say that she had not been sexually assaulted, but the men she told her story to decided that must have been the case.
Fannie Taylor was lying about her story, but it had nothing to do with whether she had been sexually assaulted or not. Several witnesses, including Taylor’s laundress, Sarah Carrier, saw a mysterious white man leaving the Taylor residence a while before all the shouting began. After a short time, Taylor ran out and started to scream, but no one else was seen leaving the premises. The most likely scenario seems to be that Taylor was having an affair and had a spat with her lover, resulting in her bruises, his storming off, and her desire to formulate a cover story.