An African American enclave in Rosewood, Florida, was destroyed 100 years ago.

From lynchings to mob violence waged against African American communities, America has a long and tragic history of suspending law and order when it comes to race.

On January 1, 1923, in Sumner, Florida, Fannie Taylor, a young, married European American woman, racialized as white, claimed that she had been attacked by an unidentified African American man.

The too-often-unsubstantiated claim of sexual violence has consistently been used as a rationale for lynching African American men and boys.

The Scottsboro Boys, ages 13 to 20, were all accused of raping two European American women, racialized as white, in 1931.

It was the same story told about 15-year-old, Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi, in 1955 – though Carolyn Bryant later admitted that she lied.

It is the same story that was told about the now “Exonerated Five,” who were convicted of assaulting a woman in Central Park in Manhattan, New York, on April 19, 1989.

All these stories have become movies: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Rosewood (1997), When They See Us (2019) and Till (2022).

But we’re still hearing these stories of African American men and boys being killed before they stand before a jury of their peers, with some police officers taking the law into their own hands because they felt threatened.

Now we see it on Facebook Live or through the lens of a body camera, as was the case for Philando Castille, who was shot in front of his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, in 2016.

Reynolds livestreamed it on the social media platform. Castille had previously been stopped 49 times over the course of 13 years.

“Deaths continue apace this year, with Black victims disproportionately harmed, amid calls to reduce traffic encounters,” Sam Levin reported for The Guardian in April 2022. “Police in the U.S. have killed nearly 600 people during traffic stops since 2017, with the deaths continuing apace this year, a review of national police violence data shows.”

Just a few weeks ago, we watched the body and sky camera videos of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols being beaten to death by five African American police officers, following a traffic stop on January 7 in Memphis, Tennessee.

He was accused of reckless driving, a charge that remains unsubstantiated. Nichols died three days later.

His stepfather, Rodney Wells, took a picture of Nichols’s swollen face after the brutal beating, reminding some people of the story of Emmett Till. His picture was also taken by police officers and shared, reminding others of the lynching photography of the 1900s.

History is not merely repeating itself. History is stuttering.

In the case of the Rosewood massacre, Jesse Hunter, who had recently escaped from a prison gang, was accused of sexual assault.

Without a shred of evidence, local European American men, racialized as white, decided to look for suspects in the nearby town of Rosewood, its residents predominately African American.

On January 2, Sam Carter, an African American craftsman accused of helping Jesse Hunter escape, was kidnapped, tortured and lynched. On January 4, the mob shot into the home of Sylvester Carrier, whom they claimed was harboring Hunter, and killed an elderly woman.

There are reports of gunfire between Carrier and the mob, which led to the events on January 5. A mob numbering 200 or 300 killed 30 to 40 Rosewood residents – women, men and children – before burning the town to the ground.

Today, only one home is left standing in Rosewood with efforts being made to preserve it.

Survivors said that Taylor had made up the story to conceal her extramarital affair with an unnamed European American man. And for that reason, Rosewood was added to what historians have described as “the reign of terror” experienced by African Americans from 1917 to 1923.

“Restoration of the breach between the traumatized person and the community depends, first, upon public acknowledgement of the traumatic event and, second, upon some form of community action,” writes Judith Herman in Trauma and Recovery. “Once it is publicly recognized that a person has been harmed, the community must take action to assign responsibility for the harm and to repair the injury.”

After an investigation, prosecutors found “insufficient evidence” to prosecute the mob that destroyed Rosewood.

While Germany is still convicting and sentencing people who participated in the Holocaust to include a 101-year old Nazi guard, paying reparations and for the health care of its victims, victims of extrajudicial violence and police brutality and their families hear the same, old story.

The Scottsboro Boys were posthumously pardoned. Till’s murderers were never prosecuted — even after they confessed in a 1956 interview with Look magazine. Central Park now includes a gate for the “Exonerated Five,” who were wrongly accused and imprisoned.

Yet, Brandon Russell and Sarah Clendaniel were both arrested in early February after a foiled plot by the Neo-Nazi leader and his girlfriend. The couple had hoped to destroy the city of Baltimore’s power grid, creating a “cascading failure,” which would then lead to a race war.

It reminds me of another story — Rosewood.

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