Ocoee, FL

The Horrific Ocoee Massacre Remains the Largest Incident of Voting-Day Violence in United States History

Yana Bostongirl

Described as the largest incident of voting-day violence in United States history by the Orange County Regional History Center, the horrific Ocoee Massacre was a mass racial violent event that took the lives of dozens of black people. Hundreds of others were forced to flee bullets and burning homes with their lives.

It occurred on the day of the presidential elections on November 2, 1920, in Ocoee, Florida when a well-to-do African-American farmer named Mose Norman tried to vote but was turned away twice.

The violence that ensued from that event was intended to stop Blacks from voting.

Following the incident at the polls, an angry mob of 200 white men turned up at the home of Norman's friend, July Perry, as this excerpt explains: "A white mob surrounded the home of Julius "July" Perry, where Norman was thought to have taken refuge. After Perry drove away the white mob with gunshots, killing two men and wounding one who tried to break into his house, the mob called for reinforcements from Orlando and Orange County. The mob laid waste to the African-American community in northern Ocoee and eventually killed Perry. They took his body to Orlando and hanged him from a light post to intimidate other black people. Norman escaped, never to be found. Hundreds of other African Americans fled the town, leaving behind their homes and possessions."

Gladys Franks Bell author of Visions Through My Father’s Eyes described the events that unfolded on that fateful night that is forever etched in her memory in this excerpt: "18-year-old Richard Allen Franks, who led his six younger siblings through muck and alligator-infested water in the middle of the night to safety in Plymouth, Florida (where Franks Bell was born, raised and lives to this day at the age of 81). On his back, Allen, as he was known, carried his brother, Cornell, who had paraplegia."

In 1920, there were 255 Black residents who called Ocoee home but in the months following the massacre only 2 remained. According to reports, the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability discovered an advertisement that appeared 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.”

B.M Sims who is referred to in the advertisement was a wealthy White Ocoee landowner. Per reports, no one was charged with murder, arson, or assault and the leader of the mob later became mayor of Ocoee.


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