Rosewood was once a thriving Black Community in rural Levy County Florida. Until January 1923, when a lie led to injuries, deaths and complete destruction of the community
Rosewood was settled by white and Black families in 1845. Named for the red color of cedar trees that were cut in the timber mill in town, Rosewood thrived until the mill began to run out of trees to cut down. This led to a big change in Rosewood. A majority of the white residents took jobs in, and moved to, nearby Sumner where they worked in turpentine and saw mills.
A majority of Black residents remained in Rosewood and travelled to nearby Cedar Key to work in pencil factories that had opened there or opened their own businesses in the community.
Before 1923, there had been no violent incidents between the Black community of Rosewood and white community of Sumner.
All it took was one little spark to light the fire of racial tension and hatred. That spark came from a white woman, 22 year old Fannie Taylor, who accused a Black man of assaulting her.
Fannie was the wife of James Taylor, foreman at the Sumner saw mill. On New Years Day 1923, Fannie ran from her home screaming for help. Word quickly spread that something was wrong at the Taylor house.
James Taylor ran home to help Fannie. When he asked her what happened, she explained that a Black man had forced his way into their home, robbed her and beaten her. She had bruises on her arms and her face was red and flush. Fannie Taylor did not say she had been sexually assaulted.
Fannie had indeed been hurt. Had fought with someone in her home that day. But it wasn’t a Black man.
Sarah Carrier, a black woman from Rosewood, worked as a laundress for the Taylors. On the day of the incident, she and a white neighbor, witnessed a white man they did not know, enter the Taylor home.
Later Sarah Carrier heard Fannie screaming and arguing with the man before Fannie was seen running from the house screaming that she had been attacked.
The man who had attacked Fannie Taylor was the white man she had been having an affair with. The lovers had a fight that day. Things escalated and Fannie was assaulted by her lover. She then chose to cover up her affair, by crying out that a Black man she didn’t know had attacked her.
That lie Fannie Taylor told led to death and destruction in Rosewood as Fannie Taylor’s husband called on the KKK to help him track down the Black man he beleived to be responsible for the attack.
It has been a struggle telling this story over the years because a lot of people don’t want to hear about this kind of history. But Mama told me to keep it alive, so I keep telling it … It’s a sad story, but it’s one I think everyone needs to hear.— Lizzie Jenkins, niece of Rosewood schoolteacher
Suggested Reading and Viewing
A Brief History, Florida Department of State
Rosewood Massacre. St. Petersburg Times. July 1982.
Remembering Rosewood, website by the Rosewood Heritage Foundation Inc. to preserve memory and history of Rosewood
The Real Rosewood Foundation,website for non-profit founded by Rosewood descendant Lizzie Robinson Jenkins. Real Roswood preserves the history of Rosewood and memorializing the community
Episode 63 “Rosewood Massacre”, The Florida History Podcast. July 14, 2020. Host: Kartik Krishnaiye. Guest:Neil Blackmon
A white mob wiped this all-black Florida town off the map. 60 years later their story was finally told. Timeline. April 2018.
“Emotional” by Purple Planet Music. https://www.purple-planet.com
“Beginnings in Dust” and “One” by Ross Gentry. Courtesy of Headway Recordings in Asheville, North Carolina
“Almost in F Tranquility”, “Ever Mindful”, “Dark Times” by Kevin MacLeod Licensed under Creative Commons
“St. Francis” by Josh Lippi & The Overtimers. Licensed under Creative Commons
Theme Song “Dark & Troubled” by Pantherburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use.