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View of Damage After Race Riots

This photo shows the ruins of the two-story shanty near Rosewood, Florida, where twenty Negroes barricaded themselves and fought off a band of whites. The race riots followed an alleged brutal attack on a white girl by a Negro, Jesse Hunter. Source: Getty

Whispered in the hushed tones of Black folklore is the ghostly tale of Rosewood, a thriving Black town in Florida that was burned to the ground 100 years ago by a white mob looking to terrorize Black folks.  

Since then, many residents of the wooded area of Rosewood say the lost town is extremely haunted. 

Some say a ghostly Black man roams the woods pleading to the winds for mercy before disappearing into the woods. Others have claimed they heard gunshots and loud screams pouring out of the woods at weird hours of the night. While some have witnessed old lanterns glowing underneath the tree line moving as if someone is being chased, all to just disappear in the blink of an eye.

Fascinating stories like these are whispered all over Florida, but is this lost Black ghost town really haunted? 

Here is the story of the Massacre and haunting of Rosewood, one of the most tragic and overlooked events in American history. 

In 1845, Rosewood was settled by both free Blacks and white residents who worked the local timber mills. In the same year, Florida would join the Union as a slave state, which spelled trouble for any free Blacks looking to build a life for their families in America. 

The small town began to expand, adding a post office as well as a train depot on the Florida Railroad. 

By 1900, Rosewood had become predominantly Black, as most of the town’s white residents would move to the neighboring town of Sumner. But that didn’t stop Rosewood from growing and more Black families headed to Florida to join the vibrant community. By 1915 Rosewood’s population was more than 355 people. 

By the 1920s Rosewood was mostly self-sufficient.

The town boasted three churches, a school, a large Masonic Hall, a turpentine mill, a sugarcane mill, a baseball team named the Rosewood Stars and two general stores, one of which was White-owned. Rosewood was seen as a happy place and was a symbol of middle-class prosperity within the Black community, something white people at the time weren’t too happy about. 

Black prosperity scared white southerners, so they turned us into monsters in their heads to justify what comes next….torture, terror and tragedy. 

Race Riot Victims Being Buried

This photo shows three of the six persons killed in Rosewood, Florida, during the race riots there between whites and blacks. Six Negroes were killed and buried, two in each grave. A crowd of white citizens of Sumner, near the scene, are shown in the picture. Source: Getty

On Jan. 1, 1923, a white woman named Fannie Taylor claimed she was assaulted by a Black man named Jesse Hunter. 

It was typical for a white woman to blame a Black man for assault because it was the easiest way to gin up a white mob. White mobs were used throughout history, in many different eras, to destroy Black communities before they could thrive. 

After Taylor claimed, with no evidence, that she was assaulted by Hunter, a local white mob launched a manhunt in Rosewood. The next day the mob kidnapped, tortured and lynched Sam Carter, a Black craftsman from the community. They believed he had helped Hunter escape.

The mob continued to terrorize the town for days searching for Hunter, but eventually, the Black residents began to arm themselves in self-defense. 

On Jan. 4, the white mob fired into the home of Black Rosewood resident Sylvester Carrier, killing an elderly woman. A gunfight ensued between Carrier and the mob that would last throughout the night. Multiple people on both sides would lose their life. 

Outraged, the mob would return the next day with almost 300 white men. According to researchers, an estimated 30 to 40 Black men, women and children were killed on site before the entire town was burned to the ground. The Black residents who survived hid in the woods for weeks until they could find a train to Gainesville. 

Sheriff Holding Gun Used During Race Riots

Levy County Sheriff Robert Elias Walker holds a shotgun reportedly used by Sylvester Carrier, a black resident of Rosewood, to shoot and kill two deputized white men who were at his door in 1923. Carrier was killed when the other deputies returned fire, and eventually the entire town of Rosewood was destroyed by a white mob, on the false rumor that a white woman had been attacked by a black man. In 1994 the Florida legislature awarded compensation to the surviving victims. Source: Getty

But the ghosts of Rosewood haven’t forgotten about their tragedy. Their whispers still travel among the trees and their souls still searching for closure. 

One of the most intriguing ghostly tales surrounding Rosewood is about the ghost who protects innocent souls who venture into the woods. 

A woman who grew up in the area claims one night she was taking a walk through the woods when she ran into two older guys leaning against a couple of trees smoking. 

They approached her trying a cheesy one-liner to get her attention, but she politely declined their advances. 

The men continued to pursue the young woman becoming more aggressive and demanding she stays to keep them company. The woman, deciding her only chance of survival was to run, took off deeper into the woods in order to lose the men, but she couldn’t escape them.

Just as she felt the men on her heels, she turned around and the two guys were suddenly on the ground. In front of them was a tall figure who was a dark silhouette behind the trees, looming over the two men who were visibly frightened by the ghostly being. 

Scared out of their minds, the two men quickly ran in the other direction, never to be seen again.

Could this have been the ghost of Sylvester Carrier making sure to always protect innocent life just as he did 100 years ago?  

It’s almost impossible to know if the Ghost town of Rosewood, Florida is really haunted. The pain and trauma experienced by the residents of this lost community was most certainly real, and if ghosts are something you believe in, the Rosewood Massacre is worth looking into.

Florida, Rosewood Informational Sign on lynchings, Side One

Source: Education Images / Getty


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