Roses in the Woods - Skip Snow
Repurposed Salvaged Old Sign Board and Paint
24” x 15” x 1”
Lizzie Jenkins and Rosewood
By Ronnie Lovler
Note: This is an updated of my interview with Lizzie Jenkins in 2020.
Some people have struggled for years to let us know that Black Lives Matter. Jenkins is one of those people.
Jenkins, a historian now in her 80s, is the founder of The Real Rosewood Foundation that exists to preserve knowledge and awareness of the massacre that wiped out a small African American community in Florida a century ago. She is committed to keeping the story of the 1923 Rosewood massacre alive not only because it is part of her family history, but also because she believes it directly impacts all of us.
The Rosewood massacre left at least eight people dead— six blacks and two whites. It began over allegations of a black man’s sexual assault on a white woman. The allegations triggered a wave of violence and killing and wiped out Rosewood, which had been home to more than 100 people.
Jenkins’ mother first taught her about Rosewood when she talked about Jenkins’ aunt, Mahulda Gussie Brown Carrier, one of the first black women educators in Florida. “My aunt was the Rosewood schoolteacher and I remember here in my house and in my life when I was very young,” Jenkins said.
One night Jenkins’ mother began telling her children the story of Rosewood and of Sister, as she affectionately called Jenkins’ aunt. “I had no idea what she meant. The first thing that came to my mind was that this was going to be a story about roses in the woods,” Jenkins said.
But I was hardly a flowery tale. It was a story, watered down a bit for childrens’ ears, but nevertheless one of horror.
Jenkins’ Aunt Mahulda’s husband Aaron Carrier was one of the men attacked and was saved from being killed by a compassionate white sheriff. Aunt Mahulda was also attacked. “I finally went to sleep on her story. But for some reason the story attached itself to me and my heart,” Jenkins said.
Rosewood became Jenkins’ story and her passion. “That story became our story…. I carried it to school every day. I took it to college. I took it to work. But we never talked about it, outside our home,” she said.
But Jenkins couldn’t let it stop there, and she founded the Real Rosewood Foundation in 2003. The centennial commemoration of the massacre was recently celebrated at the Rosewood site.
“My passion is because of the stories my mother told me,” Jenkins said. “We are going to continue to teach and educate people in memory of my aunt.” Jenkins said. “And we hope more positive things will happen.”