Phase 1: Ocoee, A Case Study

The Ocoee Massacre, which occurred on election night 1920, originated with the efforts of Black citizens to exercise their right to vote and White determination that they would not cast their ballots. The event is local in its effects on the lives of Black families living in Ocoee and central Florida, but it is also the most horrific example of Black voter suppression in American history. Along with Eufaula, Alabama in 1874, Hamburg, South Carolina in 1876, and Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898, Ocoee stands as a case study of violent suppression of voting rights.   

This exhibit frames the Ocoee Massacre within the context of local, state, and national events that acted to both advance and suppress the economic, political, and social rights of Black Americans. Segregation and disfranchising laws are the most recognizable barriers to full Black citizenship, but the events of November 1920 were also influenced by the modest economic advancements by Blacks, the efforts by the NAACP to get out the vote in the presidential elections, the gathering of data for the 1920 federal census, and the lingering effects of World War I and the 1918 influenza pandemic. As a case study, the Ocoee Massacre transcends its local boundaries and stands as a cautionary tale for the fragility of American democracy.