ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – In addition to Election Day, Florida is just days away from marking 100 years since an important yet dark moment in Central Florida’s history: The Ocoee Massacre.
A new exhibit, entitled “Yesterday this was Home” at the Orange County Regional History Center showcases the events that surround the Ocoee Massacre.
History Center Curator Pam Schwartz felt the responsibility unraveling the story of people such as Julius “July” Perry.
“The Ocoee Massacre is a really dynamic event to talk about,” she said. “One of the hardest things about the Ocoee Massacre is how many versions of the story exist. Behind me, there are 129 different versions of the story, all with their own elements of truth.”
What we do know and is detailed throughout is how July Perry was lynched and killed by a white mob on Election day in 1920. It’s still unclear just how many black men were killed in total, with reports as high as 60 men, when they tried to exercise their right to vote.
“Given the current research, the history center will state that at least four [died], at least four means there could have been more,” Schwartz said.
The exhibit comes after a strong push throughout the state to raise awareness on the Ocoee Massacre, including mandating the events be taught in Florida schools.
Setting an example when it comes to voting is a family affair for Sha’ron McWhite, the great niece of July Perry. News 6 interviewed her a week ago as she turned in her ballot and checked in with her to talk about this new exhibit. An exhibit she said couldn’t come at a more appropriate time.
“Definitely an historic lesson,” she said. “One hundred years later, a lot has not changed. It’s almost as if it’s a movie and with different characters.”
“We carry themes throughout this exhibit,” Schwartz added. “For several hundred years of history, we carry the same themes and the same issues. They’re called something different throughout time, there’s incremental changes but there’s still a long way to go.”
The exhibit is set to be on display through Valentine’s day next year. To learn more, visit www.thehistorycenter.org.