“Every year, prominent voices urge us to forget Black History Month. Some claim its reverse racism. Others say that Black History makes white people feel bad. Academics have their own concerns.” — Paul Ortiz
In his essay, Paul Ortiz reflects upon modern-day treatment of black history. Ten years ago, when his essay was published, black people still suffered. Things have always been bad. Today, ten years later, people in America are awakening. Black Lives always mattered. It’s about time someone did something about that injustice.
A few days ago, I published an article about the Black Massacres in Tulsa and Rosewood. The internet’s reaction blew me away. The article was shared on social media and was also getting many hits from google which meant one thing: People want to learn. Black history is being searched.
I may not be an American but I know that Racism needs to be contested wherever we can find it. So, today I would like to tell you of another Black Massacre that happened in Ocoee, Florida.
The Ocoee massacre, considered the “single bloodiest day in modern American political history,” was a violent race riot that broke out on November 2, 1920. African-American-owned buildings and residences in northern Ocoee, a city in Orange County, Florida, were burned to the ground. The African-Americans residing in Ocoee who were not direct victims of the race riot were later driven out by threats or force. A total of 330 acres plus 48 city lots owned by 18 Black families living in Ocoee, Florida, were lost. In 2001, the land lost by the 18 Ocoee families, not including buildings now on it, is assessed by tax officials at more than $4.2 million, according to the AP report. Ocoee would then become an all-whyte town and remain as such “until sixty-one years later in 1981.” — The Weekly Challenger
Unfortunately and heartbreakingly, there are many massacres to cover but I’ll do my best to get to those in time. For today, let’s focus on Ocoee.
It All Begins On Election Day
Imagine going out to vote on Election day and having your right to vote challenged by poll workers because of your skin color.
That’s exactly what happened to Mose Norman who tried to vote twice with no success.
On November 1st, the day before the election, with robes and crosses, the Klan paraded through the streets of the two Black communities in Ocoee late into the night. With megaphones they warned that “not a single [African American] will be permitted to vote” and if any of them dared to do so there would be dire consequences. — The Weekly Challenger.
Here’s a video I found on YouTube taken from a TV show that covered the massacre some years ago:
July Perry Taken to Custody
In their article, The Weekly Challenger tells the story of how July Perry tried to protect his home, were Mose Norman was presumably hiding, and shot two white men to their death. For that, he was taken to custody.
But the bloodthirsty white people were not satisfied with the law.
A lynch mob descended upon the jail to which Sheriff Frank Gordon handed over the keys to Perry’s cell. They wasted no time in seizing and beating Perry. They dragged him through the streets behind a car before arriving at the entrance to Orlando Country Club near Lake Concord, where Judge Cheney’s home stood.
The mob strung up the by now near-dead Perry to a telephone pole along the highway. His hanging body was riddled with bullets. This gruesome scene was left there as a warning both to Cheney and African Americans, with a chilling note saying “This is what we do to niggers who try to vote.” — The Weekly Challenger.
This was not the end of the story.
The Black People of Ocoee Also Paid The Price
In an equal world, the hanging and lynching of July Perry should never have been allowed to happen. But, those were darker times.
The story got darker still when the KKK — who was a prominent perpetrator of this massacre — essentially “cleansed” the town of black people.
After the white mob lynched Perry, their vengeful lust spread to the rest of the African-American Ocoee community. The mob surrounded the northern Ocoee black community and laid siege to it.” Fire was set to whole rows of African-American houses; those who were inside were forced to flee and get shot by the whyte mob. At least 20 buildings were burned in total, including every African-American church, schoolhouse and lodge room in the vicinity. African-American residents fought back in an evening-long gunfight lasting until as late as 4:45 A.M., their firearms later found in the ruins after the massacre ended. Eventually, the residents were driven into the nearby orange groves and swamps, forced to retreat until they were completely driven out of town. — The Weekly Challenger.
It’s baffling to me that an entire black community (in fact, two communities) was erased because of their skin color. In what normal world is this a logical solution to any problem?
Not only did the KKK made them leave, but the black people who actually owned property in Ocoee also were never able to return to it.
For a nearly a week after the incident, KKK troops set up an embargo around the town. No one was permitted to enter or leave without their permission. Specifically they sought to keep the now homeless African Americans from entering Orlando to the east and Winter Garden to the west.
The third of Ocoee’s black population who owned their own land were never able to return to their properties. Those who were offered any compensation at all were forced to sell their land for pennies on the dollar.
Within weeks of the incident, only two African Americans remained in town. And by the 1930 census there were none. In fact, not a single African-American dared live in Ocoee for sixty years until 1981. The city didn’t hire its first black worker until 1986. And for 18 years following the 1920 massacre, not a single black vote was cast in all of Orange County. — The Weekly Challenger.
It’s Important To Learn of These Events
Every time I delve into the stories of black people I found some other nightmarish racist stories and I feel like these don’t get told enough.
I have no idea how many of those stories are even included in school curriculums.
But, if I’m educating myself — and I’m not even an American — surely you can, too. Don’t wait for me or other writers to lift up those stories. Have some initiative. Google “Black Massacres” and dive into the rabbit hole. Then, do better for your black brothers and sisters. Share those stories.
At least, in this story, Mose Norman managed to escape to NYC.
Mose Norman escaped the massacre. He never returned to Florida. After visiting with friends in Apopka and Stuckey on November 3–4, 1920, he left town for New York City (presumably with his wife) where he lived out the rest of his life until his death in 1949. — The Weekly Challenger.
Other stories about white privilege and Black Massacres do not fare any better. It’s our job that they never repeat themselves.