OCOEE, Fla. – It’s been more than 100 years since dozens of African Americans were killed by a white mob to keep them from voting on election day in 1920.
The mob surrounded the home of Julius “July” Perry. When Perry shot back to defend himself, the mob called Orlando and Orange County for reinforcements. Some of the African Americans were lynched and their homes burned.
“The state played a role, they deputized the mob at that time and then they didn’t do the proper investigation, so they were complicit in this massacre. I think it’s appropriate that the state play a role in addressing the redress of the descendants,” Sen. Randolph Bracy said.
During the last legislative session, Bracy proposed a bill, SB 678, requiring the Department of Economic Opportunity to prioritize certain applications for the Black Business Loan Program. It also created the Ocoee Scholarship Program for descendants of the massacre and Black students who live in Ocoee. That bill died in the Senate education committee.
Instead, the Ocoee Scholarship Program was approved as part of the state budget by the Florida House and Senate.
A total of $305,000 will be made available yearly for 50 scholarships, which equals $6,100 per student. The money can go toward any post high school education.
The students will have to apply through the Florida Attorney General’s Office. African American students who live in Ocoee are eligible, as are descendants of the victims of the Ocoee Massacre. Descendants of the victims of the massacre do not have to reside in Ocoee to be eligible for the scholarship.
“Education is a way up and a way to build a new life for yourself, so we thought that would be an appropriate way to address what happened in the Ocoee Massacre in 1920,” Bracy said.
Instead of calling the scholarship reparation, Bracy said he considers it compensation for the role the state played in the massacre.
“I think it will also provide a little bit of healing for what happened to this community, and we can honestly talk about real racial reconciliation and what’s happened in our past. It gives us an opportunity to move forward,” Bracy said.
Students can start applying for the scholarship July 1. Graduating seniors are also eligible and the scholarship funding may be distributed as early as the fall semester.
Bracy also got $600,000 included in the state budget to help fund a documentary called “July in November,” telling the story of Perry, who was the initial target of the Ocoee Massacre.
In 2020, Bracy’s bill was approved requiring the Ocoee Massacre be taught in all public Florida schools.