The journalist who uncovered the story 12 years ago of the Rosewood destruction has delivered a blistering denunciation of the historical account on which legislators have based a $7-million claims bill.
Gary Moore, a free-lance writer who has investigated the Rosewood story for more than a decade, accuses a team of historians of "delusion, sloppiness and dreamy bias."
"Some $75,000 in public funds have been squandered on deception, which produced the bizarre claimant list" in the House bill, Moore said in a report he sent this week to Richard Hixson, the House Judiciary Committee special master who will make a recommendation on the Rosewood bill.
The 1923 destruction of the Rosewood community happened when a violent mob of white men set out from nearby Sumner in search of the attacker in an alleged rape. At least eight people died during the violence, and the mob torched the community's homes, stores and churches.
Six of the fatalities were black residents of Rosewood; two were white men who died of a shotgun blast after they entered Sarah Carrier's home during the mob's siege.
The story of Rosewood was unknown outside the circle of survivors until Moore broke it in a 1982 story published by the Times. He also researched the segment that appeared on 60 Minutes the next year and last year published an account in the Tropic magazine of the Miami Herald.
Moore first raised objections to the researchers' report in January. His latest report to Hixson is a response to two other university scholars' review of the Rosewood history completed for the Legislature. The Rosewood history was done by a team of history professors and students from Florida State University, the University of Florida and Florida A&M University.
Researchers Maxine Jones and Tom Dye at Florida State had planned to work with Moore and obtain his taped interviews of Rosewood survivors and other Levy County residents who knew details of the episode. But the researchers and Moore never reached an agreement on the extent of his involvement or the price they would pay for the tapes. Moore says researchers, "deeply bewildered" as they approached a deadline late last year, asked him for help.
"The sea of errors that became the team's report could not have been remedied by a few days' review of my audio tapes," Moore says.
Moore's barrage of shots at the team's report and the claims process has the bill's sponsors and Rosewood advocates mystified.
"He feels that he is the sole repository of all truth about Rosewood so nobody could ever write the truth about Rosewood without getting his tapes," said Stephen Hanlon, the lawyer who handles the public service section of Holland & Knight, a law firm that has taken the Rosewood case.
Hanlon said he has tried to persuade Moore to relinquish records, documents or information that will help illuminate what happened at Rosewood. Moore has refused, he said.
Jim Peters, the assistant attorney general handling the defense for the state, said he wants to question Moore during a hearing.
The fact-finding by the House special master continues today.
Peters also has received calls from a dozen Levy County white residents who are disputing the accounts of the Rosewood destruction.
"They're just saying there's another version of the story that hasn't been heard and they're outraged at the way it's been reported," Peters said. He plans to call some of them as witnesses in the hearing.
"All we want is a full and fair and objective hearing," he said. "If there's proof out there, we want it. If there's some myth out there, let's know it."
Moore's appearance is less certain. Hanlon said he won't oppose Moore's testimony if he provides supporting evidence of his claims about Rosewood and the purported inaccuracies of the team's history.
Moore says a list of claimants in the Rosewood relief bill was developed by one faction of Rosewood survivors.
"There is no justice in this report," he said in a letter to a legislator in January. "Some survivors are pampered and their myths are indulged. Other survivors are swept aside as if they never existed and cut from the pot of dreamed of claimant riches."
Hanlon said that problem is easily solved. The sponsors want to establish a process allowing anyone anyone with a claim to come forward. The attorney general would be assigned the job of verifying the claims.