MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As Florida prepares for Election Day, it is remembering a dark day in its political history.
Monday, November 2nd, marks 100 years since a massacre on election night in Ocoee, Florida where an entire Black community was terrorized after a Black man attempted to vote.
On this day in 1920, Julius “July” Perry was captured by an armed, white mob and eventually lynched the night of the election after his friend tried to vote.
“To know that a loved one was lynched, for no reason, senseless, that is not something that you talk about day to day,” said Sha’ron Cooley-McWhite, a descendant of Perry.
Pam Schwartz, curator at Orange County Regional History Center, said many records are missing but research shows homes were burned to the ground, people injured, and at least four Black people, possibly many more, were murdered.
“You had the choice of burning in your home or going out and being shot or possibly worse,” said Schwartz.
A letter signed by the Ku Klux Klan before the 1920 election threatened white organizers who attempted to help Black voters.
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Historians said survivors fled Ocoee, their land taken and sold. Today it’s worth more than nine million dollars.
“Up until about 1976 there’s no known Black resident, a permanent resident, of Ocoee for half of a century,” said Schwartz.
This summer Florida officially renamed a stretch of a nearby highway in honor of Perry.
“I call it the roadway to a brighter future honoring the past and changing our present,” said Cooley-McWhite.
This year Governor Rick DeSantis also signed into law a bill that requires schools to teach children about the Ocoee massacre.