Over 100 people from around Florida gathered at the Rosewood Cemetery for the Remembering Rosewood Wreath Laying Ceremony on Sunday afternoon.
People filed into rows of fold-out chairs to remember and honor the lives lost 100 years ago during the 1923 Rosewood Massacre.
“The ceremony is about remembering the tragedy that took place on this ground,” said Florida International University professor Marvin Dunn in an interview. “This is an attempt to save history by preserving this land, which is valuable because it contains the railroad track that was an avenue to free some people who were attacked during the massacre.”
According to the Remembering Rosewood website, on Jan. 1, 1923, a married white woman claimed an unidentified black man attacked her. The woman’s husband and a group of white men invaded Rosewood, hoping to find her alleged attacker.
The mob tortured, lynched, shot, and chased out black women and men living in Rosewood during the time.
Women and children were evacuated to Gainesville with help from white Rosewood store owner John Wright. Many Rosewood survivors assumed new identities and never spoke of the incident.
The Descendants of Rosewood Foundation and Dunn hosted the event that featured music, prayer, speeches, historical lectures, and a wreath-laying presentation.
Gainesville City Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Chestnut gave the keynote address and Nii Sowa-La and Dr. D. Ayoka Jasey Sowa-La performed the drum call and libation, an African tradition of pouring a liquid as an offering in memory of those who passed.
“For all these people to come out today is overwhelming,” Dunn said. “I expected 100 people at the most and seeing how many people care is just unbelievable.”
The event had a soil ceremony in which families of the individuals who lost their lives in the Rosewood Massacre placed soil from the cemetery into their ancestor’s urns.
After the soil ceremony, Gregory Doctor, who lost an ancestor in the massacre, carried the wreath down a dirt path with his wife and placed it on the ground where an old railroad track used to lay.
The railroad was used 100 years ago to transport black families fleeing their burning town of Rosewood.
“This is symbolic to my family,” Doctor said. “They never received a proper burial, which was why this was so important for my family. These kids running around today are descendants of our ancestors who died in the horrible attacks, and it is the first time these kids have stepped foot on this ground. They need to experience this to continue spreading the history.”
The following is the schedule for upcoming events:
Rosewood Traveling Museum
UF Levin College of Law Library
Monday through Saturday, Jan. 9-14
UF Morgan & Morgan Courtroom
Thursday, Jan. 12, 7-8 p.m.
Where Do We Go from Here
Friday, Jan. 13, 10-11:30 a.m.
Legacy Forum & Reception
Friday, Jan. 13, noon-2 p.m.
A Conversation with the Next Generation
UF J. Wayne Reitz Union (Rion Ballroom)
Friday, Jan. 13, 6-8 p.m.
Movie Matinee and Q&A
UF Morgan & Morgan Courtroom
Saturday, Jan. 14, 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Hilton Conference Center
Saturday, Jan. 14, 7-10 p.m.