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An Elegy to Rosewood

Further Research

In addition to the family heirlooms lent to An Elegy to Rosewood, Lizzie Robinson Jenkins provided further information gathered during her lifelong investigation of the 1923 Rosewood Massacre. These archival images are paired with personal reflections and anecdotes acquired through interviews and archival research.

shotgun house

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

This shotgun house is believed to have been owned by Mahulda Gussie Brown Carrier and husband Aaron Carrier, aunt and uncle to Lizzie Robinson Jenkins. Built around 1981, this house is situated southwest of the Rosewood historic Black cemetery adjacent to the only standing headstone of Martine Goins, a Black cofounder of the Rosewood township. It is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico.

Robinson shares, “My mother, Theresa Brown Robinson, would visit her during weekends when she had saved up enough money to pay 25 cents for a roundtrip ticket on the historic Suburban from Archer to Rosewood. The east side of the house is where Aaron Carrier hung his mirror to shave.”

Mr. and Mrs. Ura and Theresa Brown Robinson

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

Lizzie Robinson Jenkins was born October 25, 1938 to Mr. and Mrs. Ura and Theresa Brown Robinson on the family’s farm in Archer, Florida. A family of six lived happily in a four-bedroom shotgun house.

Lizzie Polly Robinson was born in this house

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

Lizzie Polly Robinson was born in this house on the family’s kitchen table. October 25, 1938, Tuesday morning, 9am. When Robinson was born, and her umbilical cord was cut, her father, Ura Robinson, took her in his arms, opened the door, lifted her toward the sky saying, “Bless my baby!”

Lizzie Robinson shares: “I was a blessing to the family by researching and mastering the history of a people and a nation. The task is not easy, but needed and as my mother often reminded me, ‘Someone has to do it.’ Many years I struggled and suffered silently and agonizingly. Few complaints. I stood in solidarity, alone with my husband, John. He was my bridge over troubled waters, the joy of my salvation, and my rock. Thank you, John, for all the love and respect for my mother.”

Tombstone

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

About the emotional hardship endured by assault victim and Rosewood Massacre survivor, Mahulda Gussie Brown Carrier, Jenkins states the following:

She suffered the agony of defeat for twenty-five miserable years after the Massacre. She was on the run from conspirators, The Ku Klux Klan, and Jim Crow boys who made her life a living hell. They did not want her to discuss the Rosewood Massacre with the public. According to family letters, she moved more than ten times, changing her name on five separate occassions. She died lonely with her sister Theresa Brown Robinson, my mother, by her side in a Tampa, Florida.

John M. Jenkins, Sr. and Lizzie R. Jenkins

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

Founder and co-founder to the Real Rosewood Foundation, John M. Jenkins, Sr. and Lizzie R. Jenkins have dedicated their lives to keeping the Rosewood history alive to satisfy and justify the demand of Lizzie’s mother Theresa Brown Robinson to “research, authenticate and document the facts of Rosewood’s history.”

Robinson explains: “John initiated the Rosewood peace and healing ceremony wherein we returned to Rosewood, invited family and friends to meet us in the park, and sang, prayed, and consecrated the soil. Some of our white Rosewood neighbors would come out and stand around as spectators, never joining us, but never disrupting us. They would smile and leave after a few minutes. We also cooked and sold food to the crowd. This is the type of activities that happened during the lifetime of Rosewood residents.”

Lizzie Robinson Jenkin’s great grandparents

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

Pictured here are Lizzie Robinson Jenkin’s great grandparents, once enslaved.

About her research, Jenkins recounts the following:

Grandpa Richard Sams was from Waco, Texas. At age 15, he was kidnapped and brought to the Jackson, Mississippi auction block where he first saw his future wife, Juliann Sams. She he was 13 years old in 1839, from the Parchman Farms in Parchman, Mississippi. The night the white insurrectionists came to take her from her parents was the worse day of her life. She never saw them again, lost contact with everyone she loved, and hated them for the rest of her life. She was tied up with barbed wire and forced to walk to Jackson, Mississippi where she was sold to the highest bidder, James M. Parchman, the son of the Parchman Farm heirs. Six months later, she completed her forced walk with several other enslaved African Americans which ended in Archer, Florida, where I live today with my husband. She was violated all the way and hated the hired gunmen that rode the horses. Who does not believe history doesn’t repeat itself? Same thing happened in Rosewood to her granddaughter, Mahulda Gussie Brown Carrier, 84 years later.

of Sheriff Perry Gilbert “PG” Ramsey

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

In sharing her lifelong research of Rosewood, Lizzie Robinson Jenkins considers the role of Sheriff Perry Gilbert “PG” Ramsey vital in understanding the various nuances that exist when studying race relations in 20th century Florida. As a white man in a position of power, Sheriff P.G. Ramsey successfully hid Aaron Carrier—who had been falsely accused of assaulting a white woman—in the Alachua County Jail without giving his location away to Ku Klux Klan members. This act saved his life.

Sheriff Robert “Bob” Elias Walker

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

When Lizzie Jenkins learned of the actions of Levy Coutny Sheriff Robert “Bob” Elias Walker, she traveled to visit his living descendants, pictured here, and spoke to them of the oral histories passed down through the generations. Robinson’s own mother once told her, “Sheriff Bob Walker worked 96 hours straight to save the Rosewood people because he cared and did not want anyone to die on his watch.” Robinson points out, he was fired for his act of humanity and today his photo does not hang in the Levy County halls of famous Levy County Sheriffs.

shotgun house

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

About this image, Lizzie Robinson Jenkins writes:

“This Sumner shotgun house is where the Black sawmill workers lived. During the violent acts of the Rosewood Massacre, the workers were told to send their family members on the train to Archer and/or stay quietly in their homes during the Massacre. I understand some sent their family east and others sheltered safely in the homes. When the fighting was over, the Sumner workmen returned to work as if nothing had happened, winking at each other, with deep satisfaction as winners. However, they were very involved with the fighting resistance.”

Bryceville Brothers

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

Jenkins states, “Community members share the story of the Bryceville Brothers with great emotion. As white men, the two brothers used their privilege to aid Rosewood survivors and lead them to safety. Robinson met with William Crighton Bryce’s great granddaughter who shared the family story passed down to her by her mother. He was killed in 1924 while riding his horse by an unknown assailant. To this day, Bryceville, Florida, is a lumber town.”

The Rosewood survivors in 1992, Gainesville, Florida

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

Jenkins writes, “The Rosewood survivors in 1992, Gainesville, Florida. I am standing bottom row, right. Most of them are now deceased.”

Levy County Sawmill

Image courtesy of Lizzie Robinson Jenkins

Levy County Sawmill located in Sumner, Florida.

  • Charlisa Montrope

    What has the research process for this art commission been like for you?

    The research process of this art commission has been quite extensive for me. I tried not to only rely on word of mouth or online research, so I traveled to Rosewood.  I have even found resources that have indirectly aligned to the Rosewood massacre dating back to 1837.

    How close is storytelling tied to your art philosophy? Do you consider yourself a storyteller?

    Storytelling is somewhat tied to my art philosophy. As someone whose work is based on identity, I would consider myself a storyteller. Most of the time artwork is about me telling the story of where I’ve been and where I’m from. The roads on my maps are like the sentences in paragraphs.

  • Rhea Leonard

    How close is storytelling tied to your art philosophy? Do you consider yourself a story-teller?

    Yes, storytelling is at the heart of what I do, due to my work revolving around the Black body and the Black experience. Two topics that resonate both in the here and now as well as throughout the past of this nation. I believe you cannot talk about where you are going unless you know where you have been. I find myself thinking as a storyteller when I am contextualizing my work as a whole and where the “story” is developing next through my hand. I think in terms of chapters, story shorties, and series when thinking of my drawings, prints and sculptures, and how their individual subject matter can work singularly or develop across several iterations of art to work on more complex topics.

    What does truth and authenticity look like for you? What is important to you when working with history-keeping?

    Truth and authenticity for me is honoring what is and/or what was. Without selective editing of the good or bad, but allowing all facets to exist simultaneously to complete the picture. What matters to me when working with history-keeping is honesty to the history. Honoring what was as close to the letter as one can and understanding the climate and culture of the time as well the lessons to be digested and learned.

    Exploring this painful moment within Florida history can be hard to grapple with. What do you hope to achieve with your artist book?

    Before I began any of my research, I made sure to remind myself that I wanted my artist book to be my elegy to Rosewood. I wanted my contribution to this exhibition to be a serious reflection of the events, and somehow be an honoring of those that lost their lives and livelihoods in the process. With that said, I hope that my artist book will spark discussion when remembering these types of painful events of our past. That it will bring about scrutiny at the fact that more often than not the approved record that stands as the "truth" for racially motivated violence is recorded or interpreted by individuals outside of the events or by the individuals perpetrating the violence. That rarely are the accounts of the individuals victimized by the violence allowed to be the only accounts to take center stage. This exhibition shines a light on an authentic source of Rosewood’s story which is important and so necessary. As an outsider to this community by hundreds of miles, and a hundred years in the future, I was very sensitive about any information I took in when creating my book. I would hope that attention on my book would bring the viewer back around to taking in the exhibition as a whole and giving it another walkthrough.

    Has this exhibition reinforced or changed the way you view your art practice (and professional practice) at large?

    It absolutely has. There was a meeting where I sat and listened to Mrs. Lizzie Jenkins recount the events that led up to the Rosewood Massacre and how she came to be a keeper of the story from her mother. I listened to how the story seemed to stick with her over the years. It reminded me of what it means to have a calling. That some people choose their calling, while others have their calling seek them out. I was reminded of how my art felt like something I chose early on, and only time will tell how true any of this is in the grand scheme of my life - but along the way it has steadily felt like I am in the right place at the right time, doing what I am supposed to be doing. I have had that feeling multiple times while working on my commission for this exhibition. The realization has renewed my sense of dedication and passion for what I do because I feel the discussions I want and need to have with my art have chosen me to be their mouthpiece. So I must be true to that calling and serve authentically.

  • Tori Scott

    How did you approach making your work for the exhibition An Elegy to Rosewood?

    With this exhibition, I wanted to conduct as much research as possible to be able to fully immerse myself in that time frame. We're all familiar with stories similar to the Rosewood massacre, but the fact that this was a tragedy that was buried for a long time intrigued me to create a piece that reflects on the intricacies of the events. I found religion to be one of the driving forces in my piece because, for a lot of the Rosewood residents and many others, that was a way to sort of escape mentally.

    Did you find correlations between what happened in Rosewood and this contemporary moment? Why is it important to remember Rosewood?

    One thing that caught my eye while researching the Rosewood massacre was that at one point during the attack, several news articles manipulated the narrative and stated that the black residents were the attackers, which caused an uprising in a lot of the white communities throughout the US. Issues like these can cause extreme damage and for years African Americans have taken the brunt of the media even today. Stories like Rosewood are important to remember because it reminds us all that there is still much work to be done.

    You are also represented in the collection of the Frost Art Museum by a portrait of your grandmother, Etherline Kendrick. One of the goals of this exhibition is to center the voices of Black women as keepers of traditions and history. The personal story of Lizzie Jenkins, the founder of the Real Rosewood Foundation, is well represented in the exhibition. Have you known women in your life who keep family or community histories? If yes, can you tell us more?

    For as many years as I could recall the women in my family have always been the central point for decision-making, family functions, and even giving everyday advice. The matriarchs are often the head of the family in black households for many reasons and because of that, they're well respected in their positions. With my photograph "Etherline Kendrick" I wanted to not only focus on the loss of a loved one but to also emphasize the importance of these matriarchal roles. I could think of a least six women in my family who each own a hardy collection of family photos and memorabilia dating back in time. Things like these are very important because it keeps history rich and accurate for generations to come.

  • Pedro Jermaine

    Where and when were you born?

    I was born in Gainesville, FL on March 29, 1979.  My childhood was spent in a small town called Live Oak, FL with a population of about 6,000 residents.

    How has preserving history been an important part of your practice?

    History is our story, it tells us where we’ve come from.  The understanding of that history allows us to understand ourselves. I have always been fascinated by human interaction and the consequences of those interactions; sometimes good/sometimes bad.  Through our victories and through our failures there is always some profound lesson to be learned. Art is at the forefront of self-expression and in it’s many forms is the nexus which connects each of us. I always seek to find some commonality between various cultures which unite us. History is who we are and we all have a story to tell.

    How did you become involved with the Real Rosewood Foundation?

    Back in February 2016 I attended a Rosewood Reparations Banquet at the Hilton Hotel in Gainesville FL while serving as the resident artist for UNESCO-TST (Transatlantic Slave Trade).  I saw Lizzie Jenkins but I did not know who she was. The other guests were so excited to meet her so I knew she was someone of influence.  She called me over to speak with me and I ended up sitting at her table; After a lot of conversation she asked me to serve as the Resident Artist for The Real Rosewood Foundation. I would later become the Vice-President.

    Are there artifacts in Lizzie’s possession that resonate with you?

    There is a mirror with a string tied to it which her father used to shaved.  Every time I see that mirror I think about my grandfather.  I can recall watching my grandfather shave when I was a young child and eventually he would end up teaching me. 

    There is also the old family bible.  Those who are familiar with Black Culture understand the importance of religion.  When one suffers injustice on a daily basis your faith becomes a place of refuge. You see the strength of that faith through the Spoken Word and the execution of a hymn. My public speaking engagements actually begin in the church at the age of 5 or 6 with reciting poetry. By age 15 I was traveling around North Central Florida speaking at various Churches.

    Could you tell us more about your painting in the exhibition?

    Hope Prevails was completed in 2018 after a discussion about having an image; some visual art piece representing Rosewood.  It is my interpretation of the events that unfolded during the Massacre, specifically the escape into the nearby woods.  It was a very cold night and the residents actually had to endure those freezing conditions for hours on end …maybe be even days.  Lanterns could not be used as the light would give you away so the only way was to navigate by moonlight during the night. 

    Are there other paintings about Rosewood that you plan to make? If yes, can you share more information?

    There are other paintings scheduled for release.  One will be of the Rosewood Baseball Team but I have to work out the logistics of the execution. The other will be the official portrait painting of the President and Founder of the Real Rosewood Foundation, Mrs. Lizzie Jenkins.