Why is Ocoee celebrating its lynching history?
Updated: Dec 8, 2019
The west Orange County city of Ocoee must like its lynching history.
Why else would city leaders plan to celebrate Ocoee Founders’ Day on the same date when white people in Ocoee began a murdering rampage the ended in the lynching of a black man?
The rampage – known as the Ocoee Massacre -- began on Nov. 2, 1920, when a black man in Ocoee tried to vote.
On Nov. 2, 2020, the city plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Founders’ Day.
Some residents circulating an online petition are asking for the Founders’ Day celebration date to be changed. Historical records indicate Ocoee was founded in May 1925..
The petition calls for Nov. 2nd to be declared July Perry Day in Ocoee.
July Perry is the name of the prominent black landowner in Ocoee who sheltered and tried to defend Mose Norman, the man who tried to vote. Perry responded with gunfire when the white mob tried to invade his home.
The white mob regrouped with hundreds of vigilantes from as far away as Tampa. During the ensuing melee, Perry was wounded and then transported to the city jail in Orlando. The mob kidnapped Perry from the jail and lynched him in Orlando.
Other black families in Ocoee also were attacked. Many black people were killed. All the black residents were chased out of the city. The bloodshed continued for a week. Until the 1980s, Ocoee was an all-white Sundown Town, where blacks were warned to leave before the sun went down at night.
The on-line petition says: “For the past 25 years, the City of Ocoee has inappropriately failed to recognize the horrible date and events of the Ocoee Massacre. But have instead observed what they have dubbed 'Founders Day.' which seems to be a country jamboree festival showcasing non-diverse artists, which denotes a lack of inclusion. “
Ironically, it’s likely that some of the Ocoee founders who are honored during the Founders’ Day event were involved in the massacre. This past summer a ceremony was held at the Orange County History Center to unveil a monument honoring July Perry.
George Oliver, one of 2 black city commissioners recently elected to the Ocoee City Commission plans to raise the topic of changing the Founders’ Day date tonight (Dec. 3) at the City Commission meeting.