MIAMI, Fla. – Florida might be transﬁxed by the injustice of limiting lessons about systematic racism with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Stop WOKE law and his administration’s rejection of an Advanced Placement African-American studies course in high schools, but that hasn’t stopped Dr. Marvin Dunn from telling his story about how Blacks were unfairly treated in the state especially during the Jim Crow era.
Dunn, professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University and decades-long racial and social justice activist, is gearing up for another one of his Teach the Truth tour in April when he will take a bus load of people to visit chilling sites where Blacks were brutally attacked and murdered including the Rosewood Massacre.
In 1923, in rural Levy County, at least 150 Blacks were killed in the town of Rosewood during a race riot.
Blacks were lynched in a targeted attack after a white woman claimed she was assaulted by a Black drifter.
The three-stop tour also includes visits to Live Oak, Fla., where a young Black boy was allegedly forced to jump in the Swanee River and drowned after he wrote a love letter to a white girl, and Ococee, Fla., where in 1920 an uprising erupted over Blacks voting in an election and July Perry, a key ﬁgure in the riot, was brutally attacked inside his home by white men.
The tour’s ﬁnal stop will be at the state Capitol in Tallahassee to protest the state’s rejection of the Advanced Placement studies course and other Black history events that are banned from the classrooms due to Stop WOKE legislation.
Case in point, Dunn, 82, said his book, entitled “Florida through Black Eyes,” is not allowed to be discussed in Florida schools. "We are going to Tallahassee and hope the legislature listens to people, their parents and grandparents because they want to have a visible presence at the Capitol," Dunn told the South Florida Times. "That’s the main purpose of the tour."
Dunn said he grew up in Deland, Fla., during Jim Crow, which was Florida’s darkest time for Blacks. The small central Florida town, in Volusia County, is about 40 miles northeast of Orlando and the population was 35,000 people when Dunn lived there.
The town was founded in 1876 by northern industrialist Henry DeLand after he took a tour of the upper St. Johns area.
"I was so used to seeing the signs that read, “Whites seat from front-Colored seat from rear” on public buses that, when they were ﬁnally removed in the 1960s, sometimes I thought I still saw them there," Dunn said. "Even after his death, Jim Crow was, for a while, omnipresent mentally and emotionally in our lives; such had been his reach. No Black person I knew escaped the impact of the Jim Crow system or the possibility of being killed for no other reason than being Black. A Black person in Florida, during the time I grew up, lived with a pervasive awareness of the limitations a racist society imposed and of the impact those limitations imposed upon one’s life."
Dunn talked about the cruel tale of the Live Oak, Fla., Black boy who was given a choice by a group of White men: get shot in the head or jump in the Swanee River.
Dunn said after the White girl’s father found the boy’s letter, he and other White men kidnapped him from his home, bound and gagged him, took him to a rural area and placed a gun to his head.
Dunn said the boy’s father helplessly looked on crying and gave his son a hug before he jumped in the river.
Dunn said Willie James Howard made a ﬁlm about the story called “Murder on the Swanee.”
Dunn said he had visited the boy’s grave dozens of times.
‘He was Florida’s Emmett Till," Dunn said.
Dunn said the Teach the Truth tour has been in the works since 2008 when he purchased the site of the Rosewood Massacre for $30,000.
He wanted to preserve the vacant land and make the property accessible to Blacks for visitation for the centennial of the massacre last month.