Rosewood Remembered

The Real Rosewood Foundation, Incorporated, founder Lizzie Robinson Jenkins and cofounder John M. Jenkins, Sr., accepted an appeal from Lizzie’s mother, Theresa Brown Robinson, to research, document and preserve the tragic history her sister, the teacher, suffered.

Today they work as gatekeepers for the foundation established in 2003. Lizzie nominated by John to serve as President of the Real Rosewood Foundation has served in that position more than thirty years.

Rosewood, a majority Black Community was a haven for people of color who settled there, beginning in the mid-1800s migrating through Cedar Key from southern states. It was a place where property owners became homeowners during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras.

Even this quaint and growing town could not escape the wrath of racial violence. On January 1, 1923, a white vigilante mob, led by James Taylor’s insurrectionists, the KKK mob of Sumner, decimated the town, murdering five (known) Black victims, and inflicting physical and psychological trauma on countless others.

The history buried for nearly 80 years, the story of Rosewood – what it was and what became of it – remained a secret in the hearts and minds of the survivors, descendants, and the white conspirators. Yet, in 1982, whispers of a town called Rosewood began to swirl when two little colored girls, Minnie Lee Mitchell Langley and LeRutha Bradley Davis told 60 Minutes Journalist Ted Bradley their protected childhood experiences of running through the Levy County swamps to board the escape train driven by  Brothers William and John Bryce.

Out of the bloodshed, fire, and ash revealed to destroy the town, the memory of Rosewood and its people live on in the hearts of those who loved/love it most. Rosewood Remembered is imprinted into their land and stamped onto the soul of North Central Florida. In honor of their sacrifices and suffrages The Real Rosewood Foundation hosted on the soil its first “Return to Rosewood Peace and Healing Ceremony” January 1, 2003. It became an annual event, and we are planning for the upcoming Centennial January 1, 2023. “The town was destroyed” but the spirited energy of Rosewood could not be extinguished, not even by fire.

This is the Real Rosewood.

All that remains of the town of Rosewood is a lonely house off of Florida State Road 24, located just nine miles east of Cedar Key, Levy County, Florida. The original structure of the house was built circa 1870 by a white settler, Charles M. Jacobs, Sr. At the time of the Rosewood massacre, the house was owned by John and Mary Jane Hall Wright, white residents of Rosewood. They provided shelter and protection to their Rosewood Black neighbors. 

The survival of the house is undoubtedly a result of the white privilege afforded to its owners. 

Today, July 12, 2021, the John Wright house has been donated to The Real Rosewood Foundation, Incorporated, by its current owners Ian and Hannah Stone, and son Silas. The house will be relocated at 14738 SW 159th Avenue, Archer, Florida, 32618, at the “Charlie and Lizzie Polly Sams Brown’s Estate” homestead of their children and Mahulda Gussie Brown Carrier, the Rosewood schoolteacher. Her Archer family and the Rosewood board members will protect and shelter the John Wright’s house, the same as the house sheltered the Rosewood survivors in 1923. A Rosewood historical marker initiated by Lizzie Robinson Jenkins and sponsored by The Real Rosewood Foundation, Inc and Florida Department of State is located in close proximity where the John Wright house formerly stood adjacent to State Road 24, which is still available for public viewing.

Images from the John Wright House

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