Epilogue (from the end of the film)
In 1993, 70 years after the massacre, the Florida House of Representatives granted reparations to the Rosewood families, spearheaded by Philomena’s son , Arnett Doctor. The success of the case was due largely to the sworn testimony of several survivors, who were children at the time of the events, and to the deposition of one white citizen who testified on behalf of the victims.
The official death toll of the Rosewood massacre, according to the state of Florida, is eight… two whites and six blacks. The survivors, a handful of whom are still alive today*, place the number anywhere between 40 and 150, nearly all of them African-American.
*update: with the death of Mrs. Robie Martin, there are no longer any living eyewitnesses to the events in Rosewood.
Additional information on the film “Rosewood” from the DVD special features:
Art Imitates Life
In 1982, Gary Moore, a journalist for the St. Petersburg Times, was working on a weekend feature story about the Levy County area of Florida, where Rosewood had been located.
He noted that there seemed to be no Black residents of the region and asked why. His research brought more questions than answers. Many survivors had moved away. Newspaper accounts were sketchy and few would discuss Rosewood. Eventually, Moore identified about 20 survivors and their descendants.
Arnette Doctor, the son of a Rosewood survivor, helped Moore bring the full story to light. Doctor’s mother Philomena had told him the story when he was six years old. As he got older, Doctor traveled on his own to meet the survivors. He explains, “For me, Rosewood became more than a mystery to be solved. It was my roots.”
In 1983, the news program “60 minutes” reported the story of Rosewood. For the next 10 years, Doctor led the fight to pass a bill offering reparations to the Rosewood survivors and their families. The bill passed in 1994 and the story of Rosewood came to the attention of producer Jon Peters.
Looking for a Director
Producer Jon Peters and executive producer Tracy Barone acquired the rights to the Rosewood survivors’ story. Now they need a director.
Peters says, “I’ve known John Singleton since the beginning of his career and I knew he had the talent, the guts and the heart to tell this story.”
Singleton says, “I’ve always had this strong aversion to the South as it pertains to people of African descent. It evokes so many negative images – slavery, whipping, bodies hanging on trees – that I never thought I would approach any subjects on film that would deal with anything Southern.”
Singleton met with Peters and Barone about the story. He explains, “As I pondered it, the idea became increasingly interesting to me. Ours is a morbid history; most of us try to evade it.” Peters add, “You can look at recent stories about white people who have committed violent crimes and blamed them on unnamed black people and see how willing everyone was to believe their stories, which were later proven false.”
Singleton says, “And in Florida, even after the Rosewood reparations have been approved, a TV station reported that many people in Cedar Key still ‘sneer at the massacre’. I think the need to tell this story is as great today as it has ever been.”