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Legislation to highlight bloody voting suppression history ready for Senate vote

Ocoee has proclaimed the massacre an act of domestic terrorism.

The Senate is poised to pass legislation to make more Floridians aware of the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots.

The bill (SB 1262), sponsored by Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee would direct the Education Commissioner’s African American History Task Force to recommend ways the history of that massacre can be taught in schools. It’s now ready for a final vote.

The legislation would also direct the Secretary of State’s office to find ways the Museum of Florida History and other national museums could highlight that violent Ocoee history. And it would order the Secretary of Environmental Protection to see if state parks could be named after some of the victims. It would also encourage school boards to consider naming buildings after the Ocoee victims.

The original version created a descendants’ compensation fund and required the Department of Economic Opportunity to prioritize applications from black businesses in areas directly impacted by the violence. 

The violence started before the November election in 1920 because the Ku Klux Klan Grand Master of Florida sent a threatening letter to a politician who was registering African Americans to vote.

A white mob went after two black men who were recording the names of black people who had been denied the right to vote. The mob lynched one of the black men,  Julius “July” Perry, a prominent leader in the early Orange County African American community. The other man fled the area.

The white mob set fire to all black-owned buildings in northern Ocoee. Between three and 60 African Americans reportedly died from the violence, and the remaining black residents fled.

In recent decades the event has drawn significant attention in Ocoee, which last year proclaimed the massacre an act of domestic terror inflicted upon the African American residents of the community; and in Orange County and Orlando, where a historical marker was placed this spring outside the Orange County Regional History Center in downtown Orlando. But it has not garnered much state or national attention. Nor have there been significant efforts to reconcile what happened.

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

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