OCOEE, Fla. - The City of Ocoee will honor the 100th anniversary of the bloodiest Election Day in American history with a week-long commemoration starting Sunday, Nov. 1.
On Election Day in 1920 an unknown number of African-Americans were killed in Ocoee after a Black man tried to legally vote. Among those murdered included Julius “July” Perry, a prominent, black landowner, who was lynched the next day, on Nov. 3. The violence that took place on November 2-3, 1920 would become known as the Ocoee Massacre, the largest incident of voting day violence in U.S. history.
The City of Ocoee has four days-worth of events scheduled to honor the descendants of the Ocoee Massacre and the horrific tragedy. The city will start the week-long commemoration by sharing the Ocoee Massacre story.
The presentation will be followed by a candlelight vigil on Wednesday evening when church bells will ring 100 times in honor of the 100th anniversary and the names of the 257 African-Americans listed in the 1920 U.S. Census as living in Ocoee will be read aloud.
An interfaith service will be held on Friday evening followed by a day of remembrance on Sunday, when a historic marker detailing the Ocoee Massacre will be unveiled in front of the Ocoee City Hall plaza.
“When I look at the history of Ocoee I think of a history of avoidance,” said William Maxwell, chairman of the Human Relations Diversity Board for the City of Ocoee. “If we tell [the Ocoee Massacre] story and tell it succinctly and to the truth that that would offer some aspects of healing to our community, to the descendants who have every right to have an emotional tie to it,” Maxwell said.
“I can’t wait to see it,” July Perry’s great-great niece, Sha’ron Cooley-McWhite, said about the historic marker. “We can talk the talk, but when it comes to facts I’d like to see it.”
Maxwell said for the first time in Ocoee’s history, the mayor will also publicly read a formal apology for the Ocoee Massacre.
McWhite said she is grateful the City of Ocoee is recognizing and honoring its tragic past. She said she would like to see the city do more though. “I really would appreciate them doing more definitely establish more African-American businesses, restaurants, parks and recreations,” she said. “When it comes to officials that run the town of Occoe, we need to be in more leadership positions and I don’t see that.”
The City of Ocoee 100 Year Ocoee Massacre Remembrance Ceremony:
- Nov. 1: 2-4 PM The Ocoee Story- Historical Presentation
- Nov. 4: 5-7:30 PM Honoring the Memory- Candlelight vigil
- Nov. 6: 7-8:30 PM Healing the Wound- Interfaith Service
- Nov. 8: 4-7:30 PM A Day of Remembrance- unveiling of historic marker
*All events will be held at the Lakeshore Center located at 125 N Lakeshore Dr in Ocoee. The events are free.
For more information visit the City of Ocoee website.