According to a CNN report, nearly 100 boys died at Dozier School for Boys — which closed in 2011 — and after senior citizens who attended during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s began to come forward with stories of torture, rape and murder, an investigation was launched to discover exactly what happened behind Dozier’s walls.
The state has confirmed that 31 rusted crosses discovered on the school’s grounds mark the final resting place of students at Dozier, but at least 22 students remain unaccounted for.
“They were poor kids and a lot of times, people never came to visit them,” said Elmore Bryant, a lifelong Marianna resident and head of the NAACP in Jackson County, Florida, which includes Marianna.
“Even when they were dismissed, they got home, their family had moved. So, who was going to pay attention if something happened to them while they was at Dozier?”
Some believe the bodies are African-Americans, disposed of by the Ku Klux Klan. This gravesite is in what was traditionally known as the “black side” of the reform school — a reference to the era of segregation.
Even the “White House” at Dozier — where the beatings took place — was segregated.
One survivor, Bill Nelson, was 11-years-old when he entered Dozier and spent almost 3 years being tormented.
“It’s wrong what they did to us up there,” he said in an exclusive interview with ABC. “I was raped over there as a kid, and there were several boys raped. Anything we spoke out about, we went to the White House,” he said.
“A lot of boys didn’t make it. They weren’t strong enough to make it,” said Nelson. “Sometimes at night you could hear the screams.”
“Sometimes you stayed two or three days in chains and they beat you and you know, some of them made it. Some of them didn’t,” he said.
What do you think happened to them? “Well,” said Nelson, “they were beaten to death.