OCOEE, Fla. - It is a dark and often-overlooked chapter in Florida’s past; 100 years ago, the largest incident of voting day violence in U.S. history took place not far from Tampa Bay.
A new scholarship fund signed into law Wednesday will directly benefit the descendants of those victimized in the Ocoee Massacre.
The Ocoee Election Day riot happened in 1920, all because a Black man tried to exercise his legal right to vote. Homes and churches were torched, an unknown number of African Americans were killed, and almost all of the estimated 280 Black residents living in Ocoee were driven out of town.
"It decimated this city, it destroyed these people’s lives," said State Senator Randolph Bracy. "This is such a milestone in this fight for justice in what happened."
The Northwest Orange County Legislator has championed turning this traumatic past into a brighter future. Starting this fall, the massacre will be taught in Florida classrooms, and now the descendants of the victims will be compensated.
"The State had a role to play in it, the state deputized the mob in 1920 in Ocoee and so there is a fiscal responsibility to repay these folks for what the state did," Bracy said.
Included in this year’s budget is the Randolph Bracy Ocoee Scholarship. The state is putting aside $305,000 annually to help 50 students. Those who apply must be related to a victim of the massacre, no matter what city or state they live in now. Any leftover funds will be awarded to African American residents of Ocoee.
"I think it speaks to unity and our society recognizing what happened, Bracy said. "And I think it really provides healing for the descendants and for our community here in Ocoee."
Additional eligibility requirements should be available through the FL Department of Education in July. Each scholarship with be for $6,100.