Chapter 17: Government Actions

Unlike what occurred in 1920 when local and state authorities denied any responsibility in the deaths and arson of the Ocoee Massacre and provided no relief for those Black citizens affected, the presence of Blacks in local and state legislative positions assured that the Ocoee Massacre would be remembered not only in 2020, but for the future.  Three oral histories detail the work accomplished by the Ocoee City Commission, the Florida State House of Representatives, and the Florida State Senate.  Proclamations by Ocoee and the Governor Ron DeSantis, an apology by the City of Ocoee, and multiple bills enacted into law are made available to demonstrate government involvement in the remembrance of the Ocoee Massacre.  

Oral History of Sen. Randolph Bracy

Topics include moving to Florida in his childhood, how his parents’ roles in the church shaped his activism, the commemoration of the Ocoee Massacre 100 years later, his role in getting House Bill 1213 (2020) passed requiring the Ocoee Massacre be taught in Florida schools, how voter suppression today compares to voter suppression a century ago, the Randolph Bracy Ocoee Scholarship Program, efforts to make Juneteenth a legal paid holiday for state workers, the upcoming anniversary of the Rosewood Massacre, and what additional efforts could be made to find justice for the descendants of those victimized by the massacre.

Oral History of Geraldine Thompson

Topics include moving to Orlando, teaching in Orange County public schools, becoming an administrator at Valencia College, what drew her into politics, founding and sustaining the Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and Culture, how her church shaped her activism, who bears responsibility for the Ocoee Massacre, and why it is important for the state and its citizens to remember the Ocoee Massacre.

Oral History of George Oliver III

Topics include growing up in Atlanta, encountering civil rights leaders, learning to interact with other races in the Navy, working for the Jacksonville Jaguars, developing technologies used by Microsoft and Bank of America, moving to Orlando, becoming a teacher and dealing with the Covid pandemic, settling his family in Ocoee, learning about the Ocoee Massacre, deciding to be a part of changing the legacy of Ocoee, being elected City Commissioner of Ocoee, helping to facilitate and implement the Ocoee Massacre official city government proclamation, the legacy of the Ocoee Massacre, and transforming a sundown town into a sunrise city.

Ocoee City Government Official Proclamation (November 20, 2018)

Ocoee City Government Official Formal Apology

Florida House Bill 1213 (2020)

Sponsored by Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee, House Bill 1213 (2020) requires the Ocoee Massacre be taught to all Florida students. The bill was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on June 23, 2020.

Randolph Bracy Ocoee Scholarship Program

The Randolph Bracy Ocoee Scholarship Program was created by the 2021 Florida Legislature to provide student financial assistance for a maximum of 50 eligible students who are either (1) a direct descendant of victims of the Ocoee Election Day Riots of November 1920, or (2) current African-American residents of Ocoee, Florida. Applicants must provide proof of ancestry or proof of residency to the Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) for initial eligibility consideration. Eligible students must attend a state university, public state college, or public postsecondary technical center in Florida and will receive an amount up to $6,100 annually, not to exceed the amount of the student’s tuition and registration fees. Funds for the program are contingent each year upon the appropriations made available by the Florida Legislature.

1920 Ocoee Election Day Massacre Remembrance Day

On November 2, 2020, 100 years after the massacre, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proclaimed “1920 Ocoee Election Day Massacre Remembrance Day.” The proclamation followed an Oct. 23 request by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Orange County Branch of the NAACP.

Juneteenth Day

Sponsored by Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee, SB 490 (2021) would designate Juneteenth Day as a legal paid holiday for state workers rather than a special observance. The bill is currently filed and awaiting process.

Ocoee Election Day Violence – November 1920

As directed by the Legislature, Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability conducted a historical review of the 1920 Election Day violence in Ocoee to provide information on the scope and effects of the incident. To complete the research for this brief, OPPAGA reviewed academic papers and books, maps, oral histories recorded by the Works Progress Administration, congressional testimony, census records, property deeds, interview notes from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) officials, death certificates from the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics, draft cards from World War I, collections at the Orange County Regional History Center, mortuary records, and hundreds of newspaper articles. In cases where there were conflicting accounts of the events, this review favors those accounts provided by eyewitnesses or people with first-hand knowledge of the event.