Introduction to Voting Rights & Voter Suppression

On November 2, 1920, Blacks living in the farming community of Ocoee, Florida, experienced the worst election day violence in the history of the nation when they were attacked by a White mob. Twenty-five houses, a school, two churches, and a Prince Hall Masonic lodge were destroyed by fire. An indeterminate number of Black men, women, and children were killed by the flames and gunfire with estimates of the dead ranging from 6 to 35 to 60.

The following exhibit explores the Ocoee Massacre as a local case study of the national effort to suppress the vote. Phase 1 of the exhibit focuses on the town of Ocoee and events of 1920 that inflamed the mob action, the efforts of Black Ocoee citizens to rebuild their lives, and the local and national investigations that followed the massacre. Phase 2 examines the legislation that expanded and contracted voting rights, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, extralegal efforts to suppress the vote, and the actions of Black Americans to exercise their citizenship. Phase 3 brings the legacy of Ocoee into the present as it explores the ways in which the 100th anniversary of the Ocoee Massacre provided an opportunity for reflection, an examination of the history of race and voting, and a landscape for social justice.

EXHIBIT OVERVIEW

This exhibit has been broken up into three major phases--each containing several chapters--and our comprehensive bibliography. Currently, only the first major section--covering the town of Ocoee itself--is available. All the others are in development and will be released soon.