Every tragedy has its heroes. Rosewood had Mr. Man.
Rosewood Florida, 1923.
It began when a white woman named Fanny Taylor said she was assaulted and a lynch mob pinned the assault on a Black chain gang escapee named Jesse Hunter.
Their bloodhounds led them to Aaron Carrier. He wasn’t a suspect in the assault, but they thought he helped Jesse get away. They dragged him behind Model T until they got what they wanted from him.
Aaron Carrier confessed and named Sam Carter as his accomplice.
Only drunken conjecture connected Jesse Hunter to the assault. The only link between Jesse Hunter to Aaron Carrier are the noses of some bloodhounds. And the only thing that connected Aaron Carrier to Sam Carter was a confession obtained through torture.
They swept through Rosewood, warning all of the Black folk to get out of sight. And when they got to Sam Carter’s house, they kicked in the door, slipped a noose around his neck and pulled him outside to the nearest oak tree. They used mutilation and strangulation to get him to confess to driving Jesse to the edge of the swamp.
They made him show them where. And when the dogs didn’t pick up a scent, they killed him on the spot. Then they hoisted his body into the tree and they riddled his body with bullets.
By then, rumors were spreading that the Black men of Rosewood would retaliate for what had been done to Aaron Carrier and Sam Carter. Those rumors focused on Aaron’s cousin, a tall, dark skinned man named Sylvester Carrier. In Rosewood they called him Mr. Man.
Mr. Man was known as a tough man who was quick and accurate with his rifle. He lived off of what he could harvest from the swamps, and the occasional stolen head of cattle. The lynch mob had heard that the men of Rosewood were gathering at Sarah Carrier’s house to retaliate. Sarah Carrier was Mr. Man’s mother.
About a dozen men gathered outside of her house that night, some of whom Sara had nursed when they were children. She walked confidently onto her porch and shouted, “Y’all go on home. Get yourselves on home!” Someone in the crowd shot her. If they knew who it was, they wouldn’t admit it. After that, war broke out.
The first man to step on her porch was shot dead by Mr. Man. Another man fell almost as quickly as the first to Mr. Man’s Winchester. As the frightened mob retreated Mr. Man opened fire through the front and side windows.
He wounded a man who had tried to climb in a second floor window. And as they launched their final, lethal assault, Mr. Man wounded two more.
Soon the mob swelled to hundreds as men flocked from as far as Gainesville and Jacksonville. By the end, the entire town would burn to the ground, and those residents that survived would do so by escaping into the swamps where a sympathetic train conductor gathered them and give them safe passage.
Countless Black towns came to similar ends. Tulsa Ok and Slocum Tx ended in mass bloodshed. We forget that both Wall Street and Brooklyn New York sit on land that was once the Black enclaves of Five Points and Weeksville until the draft riots either killed them off or drove them out.
But every tragedy has its heroes. It’s about time we started remembering their names.
“Rosewood should make negroes everywhere feel proud and take renewed hope. For our people have fought back again! They have met the mob with its own deadly weapons, they’ve acquitted themselves like freemen and were not content to be burned like bales of hay.”
The Pittsburgh American
For more information please read Negroes and the Gun: the Black Tradition of Arms by Nicholas Johnson.