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The aftermath of racial violence in Rosewood, January 1923.

Lecture to probe complexities of Rosewood Massacre

Edward Gonzalez-Tennant was a Ph.D. student in anthropology at the University of Florida in 2008 when he began studying the history of Rosewood, a tiny, mostly black community near Cedar Key that was destroyed by racial violence in 1923.

“I realized there had not been an academic study of Rosewood in years,” he said. “I was shocked.” He would spend the next three years immersed in research that eventually led to a half-dozen studies published in scholarly journals and an interactive website called the Rosewood Heritage Project. The site includes a virtual reality reconstruction of the community as it was the year before it was destroyed.

Edward Gonzalez-Tennant, Ph.D.

Edward Gonzalez-Tennant, Ph.D.

Gonzalez-Tennant, now an anthropology professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey and director of its Geographic Information System (GIS) Program, will discuss his findings during a special presentation at USF St. Petersburg at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7 in the University Student Center Ballroom, 200 6th Ave. S. See campus map and directions.

The presentation, “Violence, Memory and New Heritage: Social Justice in Rosewood, Florida,” is free and open to the public and presented by the USFSP Anthropology Club, the Honors Program and the Florida Studies Program.

“We are proud that Dr. Gonzalez-Tenant is returning to Florida for this important and thought-provoking presentation,” said Frank Biafora, Ph.D., Dean of the USFSP College of Arts and Sciences. “His background in Anthropology and GIS is a perfect example of the tremendous power of interdisciplinary training and research that we seek to cultivate here at USF St. Petersburg.”

Eight people died in what has come to be known as the Rosewood Massacre. While Rosewood has been the subject of a popular book and Hollywood movie, little is known of its early development and racial landscape, Gonzalez-Tennant says.

Gonzalez-Tennant combines documentary evidence, archaeology, GIS mapping and oral history, along with new media, to better understand the evolution of Rosewood and the roots of the violence that destroyed it.

Rosewood turns out to be a much more complex place than first assumed, Gonzalez-Tennant says. It had a core of white-owned property owners surrounded by black-owned property owners and ranged over a wide area, he says.

“This was a community where African-Americans had full access to every economic aspect, every type of job, where African-Americans owned homes and businesses,’’ Gonzalez-Tennant says. “That racial landscape is at the heart of my scholarship.”

On New Year’s Day 1923, a white woman in nearby Sumner claimed a black man from Rosewood attacked her, prompting a white mob to lynch an innocent man and then days later to burn down all the homes of black residents.

Reconstructing Rosewood in a virtual environment helps create a better understanding of the violence, Gonzalez-Tennant says. “The historical Rosewood would have stretched over two miles, making the violence more frightening when you realize how deliberate it had to be,’’ he says.

African journalists from the 2010 Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists pose along the USFSP Waterfront.

Visiting African journalists to participate in public forum

USF St. Petersburg and the U.S. State Department’s Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists will sponsor a public forum on African-American and African journalism on Friday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. at the University Student Center Ballroom, 200 6th Ave. S.

The forum, which is free and open to the public, will feature a panel discussion involving distinguished African-American journalists from the Tampa Bay area and representatives from a visiting delegation of noted African journalists.

The panelists will discuss their experiences and challenges practicing journalism in their respective settings. The forum is free and open to the public.

The Tampa Bay journalists participating in the panel discussion will be Dalia Colon, WUSF multi-media reporter/producer; Eric Deggans, National Public Radio TV critic; Boyzell Hosey, Tampa Bay Times Director of Photography/Multi-media; Ivan Penn, Tampa Bay Times business writer; and Erica Riggins, Bay News 9 morning anchor.

The panel discussion is part of a program hosted by the USF St. Petersburg Department of Journalism and Media Studies for 12 African journalists Oct. 31 to Nov. 6. The Edward R. Murrow program brings emerging journalism leaders from around the world to study journalistic practices in the the United States in a public-private partnership involving the Department of State, the Aspen Institute and several prominent schools of journalism throughout the nation.

After initial sessions in Washington, DC, the participants attend academic seminars and field activities with faculty and students at various schools of journalism.

“The opportunity to host these distinguished journalists from Africa is evidence of the international impact of our program in journalism and media studies,’’ said Vivian Fueyo, interim Regional Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

Deni Elliott, Eleanor Poyner Jamison Chair in Media Ethics and Press Policy and chair of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, said the opportunity to exchange ideas is what makes the Murrow Program so exciting. “We can learn a great deal from each other about how journalism is evolving globally in the digital age,’’ she said.

Literature professor honored for book on lynching

USF St. Petersburg Associate Professor of Literature Julie Armstrong, Ph.D., has been honored by The Society for the Study of Southern Literature for her book, Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching.

Dr. Armstrong, the Literature Program Coordinator at USFSP, received the Holman Honorable Mention Award for 2012, which was created specifically to honor her book.

The C. Hugh Holman Award is presented annually to the best book of literary criticism or scholarship in southern literature. This year the award went to Jean W. Cash for Larry Brown: A Writer’s Life. But the voting was so close and the judges were so impressed with Dr. Armstrong’s book that they created the Holman Honorable Mention Award to honor it.

“For me, to be so close was huge,” Dr. Armstrong said.

“Julie is at the forefront of her field and her faculty could not be more pleased, especially since the organization created a special award to recognize her achievement,” said Frank Biafora, PhD., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It shows the extraordinary scholarship that’s taking place at USF St. Petersburg.”

Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching tells the largely forgotten but horrific story of Mary Turner’s lynching and studies the responses to it by local residents, activists and writers.

Mrs. Turner was eight months pregnant when she was seized by a mob and taken to a bridge near Valdosta, Ga.. “There a crowd of several hundred watched the mob hang her upside down, shoot her, set her on fire, remove her fetus, and stomp the unborn child into the ground,” Dr. Armstrong writes in the opening of her book.

Mrs. Turner was murdered to prevent her from pressing charges against the people who murdered her husband.

The Tampa Bay Times called  Dr. Armstrong’s writing powerful and compelling. “She writes movingly of being so repelled by some of the research that she found it difficult to go on,” the Times Book Editor Colette Bancroft wrote. “But she did, and she finds satisfaction in having helped bring a dark chapter in our history back into the light.”

Dr. Armstrong will receive her award at the American Literature Association conference in Boston, May 23-26.