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Ocoee Massacre Of 1920: When One Black Man Voting Sparked Over 30 Murders

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Incidents of Election Day violence have occurred for generations, but one of the most gruesome and demoralizing acts of it was the Ocoee massacre, where at least 50 black voters were murdered on November 2, 1920 in the small town in Orange County, Florida. Beginning with the lynching of Julius “July” Perry, a well-to-do businessman in the Ocoee area, the massacre spread across the county as the K.K.K. poured into Florida to destroy black-owned homes and businesses and kill anyone who got in their way. Many of the facts of this story were lost to time or never properly recorded in the first place, but what we do know exposes one of the most disheartening stories of modern American history.

Denied Their Rights

A day before the election in 1920, Klan members strolled through Southern streets wearing white robes, carrying crosses, and shouting through megaphones that any black residents who tried to vote would be sorry. Ocoee was no different. When Election Day came, many black voters found that their names were mysteriously missing from voter registration roles, while others were simply forced away from the polls.

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Labor broker Moses Norman was initially turned away for not paying his $1 poll tax, and it’s not clear if he went home to get a dollar or just left and came back. When he returned, he was in a car and ready to vote, but he was turned away once again. According to some versions of the story, he had a gun in his car, but others make no mention of it.

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