Chapter 20: Conclusion

“The Arc of History is Long, but it Bends Toward Justice.” -Theodore Parker, 1853

The arc of history is long and too often we assume that we have arrived at the moment of “justice” only to realize that the arc still stretches ahead. Historians have grappled with the long Civil Rights movement that stretches from slavery to the present. The recognition of the long arc came to the people of Ocoee in November 1920 and it seems to define our own time a century later. Bending the arc to find justice for all requires an honest confrontation with the past with all its inequities, hatreds, racism, and violence. Confronting the past is painful and engaging in honest conversations frightening. Failure to do either stands in the way of bending that arc for all and embracing the liberty and “justice” we claim to value for ourselves and our nation.

On November 2-3, 1920, a small community of Black citizens paid the ultimate price for the right to vote. They not only lost their generational wealth and their future, they lost their legitimacy as citizens. They were banished from the town they helped to build. An unknown number lost their lives. Those who escaped rebuilt and instilled in their children and grandchildren a love of God, family, and country. Their descendants became farmers, teachers, pastors, physicians, lawyers, soldiers, merchants, and tradespeople. Acting on their belief and faith in themselves and this country, they voted, they marched, they brought suit against discriminatory laws and institutions, they organized, they ran for office. They claimed their American birthright. As the Hickey family gravestone says, “they prospered and survived.” To these men and women we dedicate this exhibit with the hope that conversations about Ocoee will produce the rigorous and painful confrontations with the past that will bend the arc toward justice for all.

“Free Free” by Ruth King


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