Family relieved by revelation of truth about 1923 massacre

July 25, 1994|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

MICANOPY, Fla. -- At this year's Rosewood Family Reunion, there was everything big get-togethers usually have -- a Saturday picnic, a big Sunday dinner, kissing babies born since the last reunion, hand-shaking and picture-taking and the exchanging of addresses.

But there was a different feeling here among the families who held the attention of the Florida Legislature and much of the country earlier this year with their memories of a peaceful all-black town destroyed by a white mob looking for a black man accused of attacking a white woman.

"It's a relief. The story is all out and now I'm glad," said Arnett Goins, 80, a survivor of the 1923 Rosewood massacre. "I'm happy it's no longer hidden."

The story about the pillage of Rosewood is finally committed to the history books. And those like Mr. Goins, who were either too fearful or too ashamed or too saddened by the incident to talk about it for decades, now feel free to tell what they know, to share it with their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and the rest of the world.

After a study by several scholars from universities in Florida and testimony by Mr. Goins and others, the state Legislature in April voted to compensate survivors of the massacre. Each of the eight known survivors is entitled to $150,000. Another $500,000 will go to families that lost property when a mob burned down most of the homes and businesses in Rosewood. And $100,000 will go for scholarships for minority students.

Compensation wasn't much on the minds of the extended Rosewood family this weekend. Saturday's picnic in Micanopy, 40 miles east of Rosewood, and yesterday's church service and dinner were about being thankful and relieved.

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