- The Rosewood Massacre: An Archaeology and History of Intersectional Violence by Edward González-Tennant
The Rosewood Massacre: An Archaeology and History of Intersectional Violence skillfully analyzes the January 1923 racial violence that occurred in the rural Florida hamlet of Rosewood (near Cedar Key) after the alleged attack on a white woman by a black man. It follows works published by scholars and journalists since the 1990s. One of the initial studies, undertaken by university scholars from Florida, detailed the causes of the violence to aid in compensating survivors and their descendants. That work and other serious studies have described and analyzed the factors surrounding the event. Edward González-Tennant seeks to complement the earlier studies by offering a new theoretical perspective.
Specifically, through a sophisticated multidisciplinary study, the author addresses what he perceives as deficiencies in the previous work. He offers a primary historical archaeological investigation of the tragic incident while also using sociological and anthropological methods. His study, the author suggests, represents the first time a historical archaeologist has examined the connection between the interpersonal violence of race riots and the forms of structural and symbolic violence.
The book contains seven chapters. They cover American race riots and racial violence, Rosewood's historical origins, and brief overviews of previous research; the concept of intersectionality focusing on race, class, and gender; the use of historical archaeological sources, including artifacts, property deeds, census records, and oral testimonies; how intersectionality relates to the multidimensionality of violence; current use of new media technology (such as digital storytelling through the internet) that makes historical research more accessible to the public; and the potential for an archaeological approach to studying race riots in the future. The author aspires to offer a living black history that helps retrieve little-known or hidden chapters of America's past.
González-Tennant compares the Rosewood race riot with numerous others, including those at Wilmington, North Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; Memphis, Tennessee; East St. Louis, Illinois; Ocoee, Florida; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. He applies concepts of interpersonal violence (such as lynching, race riots, and other physical violence between people), structural violence (such as a lack of educational and economic opportunities for minorities), and symbolic violence (such as unconscious uses of stereotypical representation by the media that project minorities as criminals). Although structural violence and symbolic violence may not include a physical component, González-Tennant posits that these forms wreak the same devastating material consequences on minorities. [End Page 482]
Insofar as race riots are concerned, many white scholars have excused such violence as irrational, chaotic, and spontaneous. González-Tennant, to the contrary, argues that most violence of that sort grew from quite rational origins. He uses the Rosewood race riot as an example. He notes that rational thought propelled the white mob when its members went after Sam Carter, who allegedly knew the attacker, and Sarah and Philomena Carrier, who witnessed firsthand the attack on Fannie Taylor. The white mob destroyed the Carriers' home and killed Carter because its members collectively perceived their victims to be direct actors in the instigating incident. Rosewood stood out from other race riots, though, in that state and federal law enforcement agencies were contacted. They tragically failed to arrive in time to afford relief.
The Rosewood Massacre accomplishes a yeoman's job in demonstrating the sense of agency black people possessed during the Rosewood race riot, teasing out how residents took steps to protect their homes and families. Absent help from state and federal law enforcement officials, they sought to do for themselves as much as possible.
The author additionally suggests that any solid study of interpersonal violence requires a focus on civil engagement in issues of race, inequality, and social justice. Hoping to better communicate to the public the complexities of events such as Rosewood, he buttresses his approach with additional tools such as digital storytelling, online forms of public archaeology, and virtual world environments.