Julius ‘July’ Perry was attacked by a white mob and hanged for simply trying to vote.
The Ocoee Election Day Massacre
On Feb. 3, 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified, giving African American men the right to vote. By Election Day 1920, it had been legal for 50 years, but many Black citizens still didn’t exercise their right to vote out of fear of retribution. Those fears came true in Ocoee, Florida, on Nov. 2, 1920, which ultimately ended as the most violent day in American election history.
On Nov. 1, Ku Klux Klan members marched in robes, carrying crosses and threatening violence if any Black men attempted to vote in Ocoee. But African American Mose Norman, who was a prominent landowner, chose to exercise his democratic right anyway. When Norman approached the polls, a crowd was at the entrance to stop Blacks from casting votes.
Norman left and returned with a group of Black citizens demanding to vote, but they again were turned away. An altercation ensued.
Norman retreated to the home of his friend, civil rights activist Julius “July” Perry, leaving the white mob enraged. The mob of mostly KKK members went looking for Norman — and any other Black trying to assert their right to vote. The mob headed to Perry’s home, but Norman was gone. They questioned Perry and a gunfight ensued. Perry was “arrested” and lynched Nov. 3, 1920.
But the white mob didn’t stop there. They continued from house to house firing guns and torching homes, turning the day into a “gruesome racial purging” that ended with the murder of between 35 and 50 Black Ocoee residents. Every house in Ocoee’s Methodist Quarter, plus the school and the Ocoee African Methodist Episcopal Church were set on fire. Soon after, most African Americans that survived moved away, including Norman, who left Florida for New York City where he lived until his death in 1949.
This history lesson was first featured on HowStuffWorks
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