The Miami Center for Racial Justice

Although Florida has cultivated the image of a place for sun and fun, the state has a long history of anti-black violence. A black person in Florida was more likely to be lynched than a black person in any other southern state including Mississippi. It is the nature of people to move as quickly as possible away from stories of lynchings and mob attacks and the lasting wounds race violence leaves behind. But this is fraught with danger because forgetting makes repeating more likely. The Miami Center for Racial Justice does not forget and is committed to saving these painful stories for future generations so that they avoid the mistakes of the past.

Abandoned Cemeteries

Most abandoned cemeteries in Florida are black, including the one in Rosewood. But, are the six known black victims of the Rosewood massacre of 1923 buried there as is commonly believed? Dr. Marvin Dunn has discovered a photograph that shows the victims being buried two-to-a-grave in Shiloh Cemetery in Sumner, two miles west of Rosewood where events that led to the massacre began. The image shows whites in Sunday clothes some with small children standing in front of three open graves marked with crosses. No blacks are present. This suggests that the burials did not occur in a black community but in the nearby white community of Sumner.

Dunn believes the blacks were being buried in the rear of the white cemetery. This was a common practice at the time. He has discovered unexplained mounds and graves in the rear of Shiloh Cemetery. He doubts the picture was taken in Rosewood since whites believed Rosewood was still in a full riot that Sunday, the day the picture was taken. He holds that the whites in the photograph were attending the funeral of the black victims on the same day and place that they attended the burial of one of the two white victims of the incident. Shiloh Cemetery is privately owned and has refused requests for further research to take place on the property.

In 2001 the Florida legislature conducted a series of hearings around the state on the issue of abandoned cemeteries in Florida. Dr. Dunn appeared before the committee in Tampa arguing for a change in state law that would allow easier public access to abandoned cemeteries on private land such as the Shiloh Cemetery. The legislature did not act in this regard.

Abandoned Cemeteries

Scroll to Top