An internal bill including a provision that all Florida students learn of the 1920 Ocoee Election Day massacre has been sent to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
House Bill 1213 – sponsored by Representative Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) – involves educational instruction on historical events.
The bill requires every school district to teach students about the state’s anti-Semitism policy. The provision requiring students to also learn about the 1920 Ocoee Election Day riots was the result of an amendment tabled by Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Orlando), which Fine supported.
Under HB 1213, the Education Commissioner’s African-American History Task Force would be tasked with determining how the 1920 Ocoee Election Day riots would be included in the required instruction on the black history. The task force would be required to submit recommendations to the commissioner and the State Board of Education by a specified date.
The bill would also order the secretary of state to take certain measures regarding the inclusion of the history of the riots in museum exhibits, order the secretary of environmental protection to assess possibilities of naming the parks state or part of their facilities by recognizing the victims of the riots and encouraging district school boards to assess options for naming school facilities in recognition of the victims.
It also requires certain instructions relating to anti-Semitism in the required Holocaust instruction, as well as the designation of a certain week as âHolocaust Education Weekâ.
The provision to include education from the 1920 Ocoee Election Day riots, as well as associated name recognition opportunities, stems from Bracy’s Senate Bill 1262. This bill was passed by the State Senate on March 5 but ultimately died in messages in the House.
“It was extremely important to me and it became a mission for me, and I think people need to know what happened in Ocoee 100 years ago.” – Senator Randolph Bracy
Bracy said that as November marks the 100th anniversary of the Ocoee massacre, it was extremely important to him that future generations were made aware of the event and its victims. One of those victims was Julius “July” Perry, a leader of the first black community in Orange County who was lynched by a mob.
âIt’s been 100 years since the massacre happened, and I think the victims are looking down and would be proud if at least there was education about what happened,â Bracy said. “It was extremely important to me and it became a mission for me, and I think people need to know what happened in Ocoee 100 years ago.”
A monument installed last year in downtown Orlando indicates that a black resident by the name of Mose Norman attempted to vote on Election Day on November 3, 1920, but was turned away. Norman tried to vote again but was assaulted and kicked out by armed white men stationed at the polls. Norman reportedly fled to Perry’s house, where an angry mob surrounded and set the house on fire.
Norman escaped, but Perry was arrested, transported to Orlando, and thrown in the Orange County jail. A mob of lynchers pulled Perry out of his cell soon after and hanged him.
The following two days were marked by violence, in which a white mob torched 25 black houses, two black churches and a Masonic lodge. According to the monument, the Ocoee massacre resulted in the deaths of six to over 30 black residents, and the entire black community was driven out of Ocoee.
âI think it’s important to get it out so people know it, learn the story and it can always be a marker for us to keep fighting for the better in our community,â said Bracy. “It shows where we’ve come from and where we’re trying to go.”