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Editors note: The following letter was received Saturday, Aug. 1. The first day of its featured status, the Rosewood article was viewed 116,273 times.
Several months ago, I began improving the Wikipedia article on Rosewood massacre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosewood_massacre) with the intent of getting it promoted through rigorous peer review to featured article status. Featured articles on Wikipedia represent the site's finest and most comprehensive well-researched writing; only featured articles appear on the main page.
The article was promoted in late May and I just learned today that it will appear on the main page on August 4, 2009: this Tuesday. Featured articles may appear at any time following their promotion. I know this, but it surprised me that this article would appear so soon. Tens of thousands of readers from all over the world will be directed to the article on August 4.
I have written several Wikipedia articles about Florida history. Most of them involve the Everglades. My most recent is the St. Johns River. I write and improve articles about issues I would like to understand better. This is especially true of the Rosewood massacre. I grew up in Florida and live in Gainesville. I have visited Cedar Key many times, enjoy the town, and find the Rosewood incident depressing in the extreme: a jarring disconnect from what a beautiful and peaceful place it is. Writing the article was my way of trying to understand the multiple experiences of the participants, survivors, and their descendants.
Although I am confident that the article is as accurate as possible; that it reflects the best sources available that discuss the events in Levy County in 1923, I am also mindful of the reputation Levy County, Sumner, and Cedar Key carry to this day.
It is not my intention for the article to serve as further indictment on the people of Levy County although I am afraid this is exactly what will result by further attention bearing on Rosewood. The Cedar Key Beacon is mentioned in the article, particularly editor Robin Raftis' attempts to bring the January 1923 events out into the open. It was during my research for and writing of the article that I learned of the issue of posttraumatic stress disorder occurring in survivors. It seemed just as likely that the people of Levy County are burying their past in denial and it causes the towns to suffer from it.
Rosewood's notoriety will not go away. I am sure of this. This does not mean that what happened in 1923 will dictate the character of Cedar Key and Sumner in 2009 and beyond. Citizens of both towns, no doubt descendents of the horror that occurred, have the ability to redefine themselves and state publicly that who they are today is not who they were. People change, and Cedar Key and Sumner can personify the human ability to redeem themselves if the will is strong enough. The pall cast by the events of 1923 will continue to haunt Levy County until its people acknowledge it and declare the truth about what happened, and cast a new identity for the area. Cedar Key and Sumner have the option to become towns that experienced hatred and terror, but recognized it to show the world that wounds can heal.
Wikipedia gives insignificant people like me a venue at least to represent what reliable sources have printed about events such as the Rosewood incident. I unfortunately have no other authority or power to put events in motion. This is why I am writing to you. I have no audience to persuade that descendents of Rosewood could be invited to a discussion about forgiveness and moving forward and that Levy County can redefine itself by creating a public display about what occurred, why it happened, and the descendents of Rosewood and the descendents of the perpetrators can jointly assure the nation through their actions and cooperation that it will never happen again. Eighty six years is not too late. Many other locations in the world can learn from the lessons of Levy County.
Since I began writing the article I have considered this approach, but I do not know how to achieve it. I do not wish to cause further harm to Cedar Key and Sumner, and feel that if I did not suggest this, the article appearing on Wikipedia's main page helps no one really. I am writing this to you to pursuade someone with clout in Cedar Key and Sumner to take this on. I know it will be met with stiff resistance from many people, but I also feel that the time span is too long to endure such negativity. No doubt the people of Levy County are fatigued to be known only for this one awful event. They do not deserve to be, and it is within their power to change it.
I did not write this letter with the intention of it being published. I just wanted someone there to read it. I feel as if not communicating this to you is negligent. It is with the best of intentions that I am sending this, and I am mindful that as an outsider making this suggestion may be construed as interfering and patronizing. Honestly, this is not my motive, and I sincerely apologize if it appears this is what I am doing.
With best regards and sincerely sending my best wishes.