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Ocoee, Florida 1920; Part 1

This is part of the research I am doing on inherited trauma in families. While the specifics of that research will be shared later, along the way I will share some of the stories and places I encounter. This is the first of several focusing on Ocoee with a link to several written acounts and the first of the reports from area newspapers in 1920. In every case, the syntax and grammar used in the original papers were preserved. Oh, and obstreperous means marked by unruly or aggressive noisiness; stubbornly resistant to control; unruly.

56 Black people killed and the entire Black population driven from town after a single Black man attempted to vote on November 2nd.

Before reading the newspaper accounts transcribed from the Tampa Tribune, please consider reading these articles or the story of Zora Neale Hurston about the event, and watch the following documentary; The Ocoee Massacre: The Truth Laid Bare.

"Unspoken memories of “that night” haunted the region for nearly 80 years. Any kind of redemption had been muffled in the silent chasm between then and now, between white and Black."

"The daughter of a prominent white Ocoee official would tell a researcher nearly 50 years later that “90 percent of all law enforcement officers, judges, public servants and lawyers in Winter Garden and Ocoee were Klan members.”

"It’s an advertisement in the December 12, 1920, edition of the Orlando Sentinel: “Special Bargains. Several Beautiful Little Groves Belonging to the Negroes That Have Just Left Ocoee. Must Be Sold—See B.M. Sims.” Sims was one of Ocoee’s wealthiest white landowners." Sims was also a former slave-owner who had sold July Perry his land and who resold it after the massacre. With fellow slave owner J.D. Starke, Sims is still celebrated as one of the town's founders.


Picture of new monument in Ocoee. Taken on 5 Sep. 2021.


The Tampa Tribune, Tampa Florida 04 November 1920, Thursday

OCOEE RACE WAR ENDS WITH DEATH LIST AT EIGHT of the number six are Black and two are white men

BURN NEGROES IN HOUSE – Had Barricaded Theselves - the Ringleader is Captured and Hanged – Blacks Flee

Orlando, Nov. 3

With the clearing away of the smoke of battle which has hung over the little town of Ocoee in west Orange county for the past twenty-four hours, as the result of this section’s first race clash, a close check-up tonight shows that eight men are dead – two whites and six negroes – and that five whites and an unknown number of negroes have been wounded in varying degree. In addition to the loss in killed and wounded the clash between negroes and whites resulted in the burning of twenty-five negro houses, two negro churches and a negro lodge which were swept by flames when the whites fired a house in which a group of negroes had barricaded themselves after shooting down two young white men and wounding a third.

The white men killed are: Lee C. Bogard of Winter Garden and Elmer McDaniels of Ocoee. Jules Perry, the negro in whose house the blacks barricaded themselves, was captured, and early this morning was taken from the Orlando jaol by a mob of more than a hundred men who strung him up on a tree on the Country Club road and riddled his body with bullets.

The white men wounded are: Sam Salisbury, Charles Beatty, Young Wilson, Frank Robinson and John Hamner.

Negro Got Ugly

The race clash as Ocoee, which has stirred this entire section, was precipitated by a negro names Mose Norman, who was refused permission to vote at the Ocoee polling place Tuesday morning when he was unable to produce proof he had paid his poll tax. He threatened trouble, but little was thought of it until the man returned in a car about 5 o’clock in the afternoon with a shotgun. When he was again refused permission to vote Norman made some ugly remark that he “would see why” he couldn’t vote and started for his car, where he had left his gun. A white man who was nearby gave the black a drubbing and ordered him away from the polls, the order being obeyed by Norman.

Shortly after dark word was received in Ocoee that a band of fifty armed negroes was marching on Ocoee, “ready for trouble.” Before this time a truckload of armed negroes had arrived from Apopka, a town some ten miles from Ocoee, and had stopped at the house of Jules Perry who is said to be a chronic trouble maker. When the report was received that the negroes were preparing to make trouble a posse of citizens was formed and proceeded to the Perry house, which is midway between Ocoee and Crown Point – these towns being two miles apart.

Sam Salisbury, who served as a major during the World War, and who was formerly chief of police of Orlando, headed the posse, pending the arrival of Sheriff Frank Gordon, from Orlando. At the Perry house pickets were posted ar the rear to prevent the blacks escaping, and Salisbury and some companions walked to the door and demanded to talk to Perry. Their answer was a shot, from the interior of the building. Salisbury’s right arm was pierced by the bullet. A return volley from the white posse riddled the negro house.

Intermittent firing continued on both sides for some time, several of the white men, and it is thought a number of the negroes, being wounded. When Sheriff Gordon and his chief deputy, L.H. Furen, arrived at the head of a force of deputy sheriffs and a hundred or more Orlando citizens the spotlights from automobiles were flashed on the negro house from all points.

The firing from within the building had ceased some time before this, and when an entrance was effected the blacks were missing, having taken advantage of the lull in the attack to slip into the woods by way of a cane patch which came close to the rear of the building. While searching this can patch an officer located the negro, Jules Perry, who was clinging to a Winchester rifle, which he attempted to fire, although he was already “down” with a broken leg, as a result of the earlier firing. Before Perry had been overcome one of his arms had been practically shot away, and he had been otherwise wounded. The man was rushed at once to Orange General hospital, Orlando, where he received surgical attention, later being removed to the city jail for safekeeping.

In the early morning hours a band of a hundred or more men appeared at the jail, and overpowered Officer T. P. Smith who was the only man on duty owing to the demands for officers to assist in putting down the Ocoee trouble, and to keep order in the city. Taking the prisoner Perry, the mob escorted him to a quiet spot along the Country Club road, where they hung him, and where his bullet riddled body was later found. The body was cut down at 8:30 o’clock this morning.

Ammunition and Arms in Plenty

Evidence that the negroes of western Orange were ready for trouble was not wanting, according to officers participating in the attack. In the house where the blacks barricaded themselves more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition for a varied assortment of guns, was found, and the crackling of rifle, pistol, and tent “rat-tat-tat,” during the burning of several others of the negro homes and one of the churches it is said. Examination of the debris of several of the negro houses which were burned showed numerous firearms of varied kinds and cal’bres.

Gruesome Scene at Burned House

A gruesome scene was exposed in all its frightfulness as the morning sun peeped over the smoke-laden battlefield. One pile of debris showed two charred bodies of negores who fought to the last.

One negro woman is known to have been killed. No children were victims. The situation is in the hands of reliable citizens, ex-service men and home guards and no further trouble is anticipated. It was the first race riot in the history of Orange county.

One negro woman discovered under the hay in a white man’s barn was allowed to proceed after she testified that the Perry shack was filled with seven or eight negroes heavily armed and awaiting the approach of the white men who came after Perry who had started the tragedy by carrying a gun to the polls.

Upon the white sand in the rear of the Perry shack were bloodstains where two white boys had lain for some time after having been killed by close and direct rifle and shotgun fire, both boys being frightfully wounded.

All day long hundreds of curio visitors went to the battle-scarred shambles and carried away souvenirs such as twisted firearms, axes, and cartridge shells. One visitor was observed carrying away two puppies found around one of the burning buildings.

L.C. Bogard of Winter Garden, who was killed in last night’s fighting, was a member of the tank corps with the American expeditionary forces in France. He was twenty-five years old and unmarried.

J.E. McDaniel of Ocoee, a prominent farmer and fruit grower, the other white man who was killed, had resided in Ocoee for the past eighteen years, coming originally from Georgia. He is survived by a wife and three children.

Help from Winter Garden

When it was learned that trouble with the negroes was impending a hurry call was sent from Ocoee to Winter Garden a town of 3,000 population, some three miles distant. About 200 well-armed men answered the call, and hastened to join the attacking posses of whites.

As darkness approached tonight officers stated that they had the situation well in hand, and that they have little fear of further trouble. It is said that the negroes in the Ocoee region have been dispersed, most of them having taken flight for points unknown.

In order to guard against any possibility of further trouble several Orange county towns are being patrolled tonight by deputies from the sheriff’s office, assisted by American Legion members.

The coroner’s jury which today investigated the death of the two young white men rendered a verdict that the victims came to their death as the result of shots fired from the Perry house at 9 o’clock last night. This verdict is borne out by the fact that the Perry house was filled with negroes who were armed and evidently planning to cause trouble. Three companies of former service men, hastily organized are patrolling Orlando tonight under the command of three captains. These companies have a total strength of 250 men.

Mayor Duckworth today has conferred with local negro leaders, who declare that they are peace-loving and desire to avoid trouble. As a result all of Orlando’s negro population – totaling probably two or three thousand – will remain indoors at night, until the alarm is over. Reports from other towns in this part of the state indicate that precautions are being taken to prevent any occurrence similar to the west Orange race clash.

Two Negroes Brought Here for Safekeeping

Chief Deputy Sheriff L.H. Furen, accompanied by Deputy H. Taylor of Orange county, arrived in Tampa last night by automobile, bringing with them Estelle Perry and Caretha Perry, wife and daughter, respectfully, of Jules Perry, the negro who was lynched yesterday morning just out of Orlando, and placed them in the county jail. The officers expressed the opinion that final reports on the Ocoee race clash would show a number more killed, as they believe the bodies of some of the negroes who were shot have not yet been located. They anticipate no further disturbance, stating that when they left Orlando late in the afternoon the home guard and other forces had the situation well in hand and other nearby towns are well protected. The two negro women were brought to Tampa to prevent any possible violence which their presence in the trouble zone might incite.

The negro Perry who was killed, has killed one and possibly two other negroes, the officers state, but has always escaped on the self-defense plea.


The Tampa Tribune, Tampa Florida 06 November 1920, Saturday



Boston, Nov. 5

Federal investigation of the lynching of Jules Perry and the burning to death of five other negroes at Ocoee, Fla., on election day, was asked of Attorney-General Palmer in telegram sent him toady by officers of the National Equal Rights League, of which Rev. M.A.N. Shaw is president. The telegram declared Perry and his associates “heroes in the cause of freedom” and “victims of an election massacre prepared by the Ku Klux Klan for every colored citizen who insisted on casting his ballot.”

The demand on the attorney-general was based on the claim that the Federal government should defend a citizen’s right to vote.

The trouble at Ocoee, a small town about twelve miles from Orlando, in Orange county, on election day, arose through the obstreperous conduct of one Mose Norman, a negro who was refused the right to vote, by the board of elections at Ocoee because he had not paid his poll tax. Norman went away and later returned with a shotgun and announced he was going to vote and when he was knocked down by a white man he tried to get the gun which he had left in his auto. He was prevented from doing so and left the polling place in a hurry.

Later in the evening a report reached Ocoee that the negroes were marching against Ocoee, armed and hunting trouble. A posse of white men went in search of them, to make arrests, and were fired upon as they approached the house of Jules Perry, where it was found the negroes had stopped, and where they later barricaded themselves. The first volley fired by the blacks killed two whites – Lee C. Borgard of Winter Gareden and Elmer McDaniels of Ocoee, and wounded several others. The whites returned the fire and Perry was wounded, along with other negroes. Later Perry was captured in a cane patch near his house and taken to Orlando and given medical treatment and locked in the city jail. Hours later, after the whites had burned the Perry home and several negroes who were in it, and a number of other negro shacks, a church, and a lodge room in the settlement, a mob went to the Orlando jail, overpowered the jailer and took Perry from his cell and hanged him.

A considerable number of both races were wounded in the fighting.

Estelle Perry and Caretha Perry, wife and daughter respectfully, of the negro who was hanged, were brought to Tampa and placed in jail here Wednesday night to prevent any recurrence of trouble, but the obstreperous element among the blacks had either been thoroughly subdued or had fled, and there has been no more trouble at Ocoee.

There has been no mention of Ku Klux Klan, either openly or in secret in connection with the Ocoee affair; nor had there ever been any serious clash between whites and blacks in that section before Tuesday’s affair.


Note - Florida law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in June of 2020 (100 years after the events of Ocoee) requires that Florida schools teach about the events in Ocoee. On July 14th, the State Board of Education voted to bar specific race lessons from being taught - which the governor applauded. That means that not even a full thirteen months after DeSantis claimed credit for discussing racial justice issues, his administration has barred the teaching of those same issues. This is not unusual. Even these articles demonstrate how double talk and racial bias have clouded every moment of our national history.

For at least 40 years, Ocoee was a sundown town and it wasn't until 2018 that the city finally issued an official recognition of the events and an official end to the sundown status.

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