Content starts here
AARP AARP States Florida

Shining a Light on Rosewood

To close out Black History Month, AARP Florida is eager to bring awareness to the horrific tragedy of the Rosewood massacre.

2023 marks 100 years since this event happened in Central Florida. In the years following World War I, the small Black community of Rosewood, FL, was thriving. With a population of about 200 citizens, Black people owned land, homes, businesses, and more. That was until the first week of January 1923.

Located in Levy County, southwest of Gainesville, Rosewood became one of the many Black communities that suffered racial destruction after the war. According to historians, cruelty set about on January 1, 1923, when a white woman alleged she was assaulted by a Black man. This sent many into an uproar searching for the unidentified Black man. As a result, many were killed.

Following the search, fueled with ill intent, white mobs came and burned down the entire community in days. This resulted in the people who lived there to then be homeless, poor, and flee to other cities for survival. This leaves many people of color at a great loss of wealth, economic opportunity, and inequality.

This story went silent and left an untold story in history books until 1994. Then- Gov. Lawton Chiles signed the Florida House Bill 591. This bill served as a model for reparations for Black Americans and set in place a scholarship fund to assist direct Rosewood decedents in getting an education. The scholarship covers full tuition at a four-year university.

Raghan Pickett, a direct descendent of the Rosewood massacre survivors and student at Florida A&M University, shares her family’s struggles.

“Up until 1923, my family owned a lot of land and homes in Rosewood. There were homes, churches, and playing fields, it was ultimately known as the ‘Black Mecca.’ After Rosewood was burned down my family lost everything and had to flee to different cities and nearby towns. This also meant the students were out of school, so the entire massacre affected the trajectory of my family’s future. Many students were robbed of an education and it set back many families,” Pickett said.

Pickett also shares the importance of being aware and sharing history to ensure it doesn’t repeat itself, as knowledge is the first step in securing a promising future for all.

“Rosewood is a horrible stain on Florida’s history, but it is important we acknowledge the survivors and their resilience. Despite the horrific tragedy, my family is still standing strong 100 years later, and that’s something to acknowledge. There are also many other families who have experienced the same thing who haven’t gotten their flowers. It’s important to keep the story alive to be informed and proud of how far we’ve come.”

Highlighting this history aids in AARP’s mission to lead positive social change. Dionne Polite, AARP Florida’s Director of State Operations, shares her excitement to bring awareness to the untold Florida history.

“I’m so excited that we are bringing light to a very dark time in the state of Florida. This speaks to AARP’s commitment to ensure we live our best lives possible,” Polite said.

In bringing awareness to this topic in history and others, we can work together to educate the community and shed light on tops that have a direct reflection on other elements such as generational wealth and financial literacy.

Watch our Facebook Live on this topic, Rosewood: A Discussion on History and Heritage.

About AARP Florida
Contact information and more from your state office. Learn what we are doing to champion social change and help you live your best life.