Rosewood (1997)

 

 

 

Director:    John Singleton.

Starring:    Jon Voight (John Wright), Ving Rhames (Mann), Don Cheadle (Sylvester Carrier), Bruce McGill (Duke Purdy), Loren Dean (James Taylor), Esther Rolle (Aunt Sarah), Elise Neal (Beulah, Scrappie), Robert Patrick (Lover), Michael Rooker (Sheriff Walker), Catherine Kellner (Fanny Taylor), Akosua Busia (Jewel), Paul Benjamin (James Carrier), Kevin Jackson (Sam Carter), Mark Boone Junior (Poly), Muse Watson (Henry Andrews).

1922-1923 burning of a black town in Florida

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

A little long, but a gripping story that holds your interest.  Similar to the case of the Scottsboro Boys, a married white woman engaging in adulterous sex gets beaten by her white lover and explains away her bruises and cuts by crying rape and blaming a black man.  The whites of the nearby town start organizing what is little more than a lynch mob.  Since there is no black rapist on the loose, they have trouble finding their criminal.  This sends them into a murderous rage and they start lynching black men.

One of the black men of the small town finds himself being wanted by the mob for "questioning."  He decides to not be taken by the mob, but rather to shoot it out with them.  This leads to panic among the whites and they sent help to put down a "revolt."  This brings all the white trash into the area and some real wickedness begins. 

The story line is saved from unbearable sadness by the story of those blacks who managed to survive the murder and mayhem.  The actual story is really a variation on the old Westerns where the town people are terribly victimized by the bad guys, but are saved by the reluctant hero (Ving Rhames).

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

1923  --  Rosewood, central Florida is a mainly black town of 120 people.  
In the nearby mainly white town of Sumner, a white woman falsely crying rape by a black man leads to a white riot against the town.  In the mayhem that followed between 70 and 250 blacks were killed and the town of Rosewood burned to the ground.

The grand jury, not surprisingly, brought no indictments. Who in the south would dare charge a white man or men with murdering a black man?  Subsequently, the tragedy was quickly buried.  

1982 --  investigative reporter Gary Moore speaks to Rosewood survivors and writes it up for the St. Petersburg Times.

1983 --  CBS-TV's 60 Minutes has a report on Rosewood.

The Discovery Channel runs a documentary on the case.

1994 May 4  -- the Florida legislature votes to admit the Rosewood massacre and pay $2 million dollars in reparations to the survivors and their families. 

 

 

 

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