Florida Legislative apology falls short of justice for Dozier Boys
ORLANDO, FL — “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” stated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Silence is complicity, and it is very difficult to get to the truth when our state leaders refuse to listen or speak.
The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys was opened in 1900, in Marianna Fla. as a state-run institution for troubled youth from dysfunctional and poor families. Over 111 years, the boys reported physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and some called it modern day slavery. The insanity of the treatment of boys in this school was well documented, but the system and culture always remained intact.
In 2012, a team of forensic anthropologists from the University of South Florida began field-work on the property, where they uncovered 55 unmarked graves, said Dr. Erin Kimmerle who led the team. “More than 100 people are thought to have died there” she said.
The reform school was closed in 2011, but for decades, thousands of boys were abused and beat in a white cinderblock building called “The White House or Torture Chamber.” There was a special staff of employees named homeland security, who beat the boys. The majority of men that told security, who beat the boys. The majority of men that told the story were called “The White House Boys” and the majority White. The majority of Black men were denied an opportunity to tell their side of the story.
But, Richard Huntly, 71, an African American man from Orlando, Fla is the president of Black Boys at Dozier Reform School for the past three years. All of the boys from 1940’s until 1960’s are part of a lawsuit brought against the State of Florida for sexual assault, murder, beatings, and slavery in the Judicial Court System of Marianne, Florida.
Huntly’s goal is to expose the wrongful injustices in the Florida Juvenile Court System toward Black citizens, specifically to Black boys, and all races where the rule of law is not being followed. “We seek compensation for the wrongs done to us as young boys at Dozier Reform School,” explains Huntly.
At 8-years-old was Huntley’s first negative contact with the legal system, and it lasted until he was (16) sixteen. It took him many years to figure out his purpose and place in the world.
He now has collaborated with four other Black men to write a book entitled “Dark Days of Horror at Dozier” to tell the African American side of the story. Mr. Huntly worked on the farm crew, harvesting cane, when he cut the top of his toe off with a hoe. At 11, he remembers getting beat for little things, like drinking water on a hot day. The school was segregated and the dirtiest jobs were reserved for the Black boys.
At 71, Huntly understands
the significance of courage, which took him almost 50 years to finally stand up to hate, injustice, and racism. “Paying reparations will take courage – the state of Florida would be admitting guilt and complicity in the abuse and possibility, the murder of children,” says Huntly.
The Florida Legislature has passed a bill to set aside $1.2 million to rebury the remains of children found on the grounds of the school, and will create two markers to acknowledge the children. Both the Florida House and Senate formally apologized, but is this really justice?
This was and still is an atrocity, and there are hundreds of boys still alive, who have been devastated and abused by the state school. Financial compensation or reparations would show the victims and their families that the state has made a commitment to help make them whole, and ensure them this can never happen again.
Come listen to Mr. Huntly tell it all.