Latitude / Longitude:
29° 14′ 0″ N, 82° 56′ 0″ W
Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
Rosewood is an unincorporated community in Levy County, Florida, United States. The site is located just off State Road 24, approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) northeast of Sumner and 9 miles (14 km) northeast of Cedar Key. The town was destroyed by whites and subsequently abandoned in 1923 as a result of a white woman claiming that a black man had raped her, leading to the Rosewood massacre.
The initial settlers of Rosewood were both black and white. When most of the cedar trees in the area had been cut by 1890, the pencil mills closed, and many white residents moved to Sumner. By 1900, the population in Rosewood had become predominantly black. The village of Sumner was predominantly white, and relations between the two communities were relatively amicable. The population of Rosewood peaked in 1915 at 355 people. Two black families in Rosewood named Goins and Carrier were the most influential. The Goins family brought the turpentine industry to the area, and in the years preceding the attacks, were the second largest landowners in Levy County. To avoid lawsuits from white competitors, the Goins brothers moved to Gainesville, and the population of Rosewood decreased slightly. The Carriers were also a large family, responsible for logging in the region. By the 1920s, almost everyone in the close-knit community was distantly related to each other. Although residents of Rosewood probably did not vote because voter registration requirements in Florida had effectively disfranchised blacks since the turn of the century, both Sumner and Rosewood were part of a single voting precinct counted by the U.S. Census. In 1920, the combined population of both towns was 344 blacks and 294 whites.
In the spring of 1994, the Florida state legislature voted to give $2 million in compensation for the nine surviving family members (equaling $150,000 each). In December 2010, a state scholarship was established for descendants of families that survived the massacre. A plaque commemorating the massacre was placed in front of John Wright’s general store, the only remaining structure from the Rosewood Massacre, by Governor Jeb Bush in 2004.
In January 1923, white men from nearby towns lynched a Rosewood resident allegedly in response to a lie that a white woman in nearby Sumner had been beaten and possibly raped by a black drifter. The woman was actually beaten up by her lover while her husband was at work. When black citizens defended themselves against further attack, several hundred whites organized to comb the countryside hunting for black people and burned almost every structure in Rosewood. Survivors hid for several days in nearby swamps and were evacuated by train and car to larger towns. Although state and local authorities were aware of the violence, they made no arrests for the activities in Rosewood. The town was abandoned by black residents during the attacks. None ever returned.