Who is buried in Rosewood’s African American cemetery? To answer this question we must combine archaeological and documentary evidence. Visitors to Rosewood Black burial ground can see several long depressions, clearly representing historic graves. Depending on ground cover and training, most visitors identify between 12 and 15 graves. Most of them are unmarked and visible only because of depressions. An additional 40+ graves were identified by a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey in 2019. You can explore the results of that work in 3D/VR by visiting the Virtual Rosewood Cemetery here.

A depression is visible in the lower portion of this image from the Rosewood cemetery.
Mapping and GPR survey results in Rosewood cemetery.

Only three gravestones have been recovered at the site. The other graves either had ephemeral markers (e.g., wood) or their markers were removed during the past century. The graves of several infants are likely visible in the lower right-hand corner of the above map. Assigning names to the individual graves lacking markers is difficult, if not impossible. That is not to say we cannot locate the names of persons who are buried at the site. The following table includes a list of those buried at the cemetery as revealed via a thorough examination of historical documents, specifically State of Florida Certificates of Death, oral histories, census records, and newspapers.

Name Race Age Birthplace Birth Death Data Source
Ervinel Barclay Black 3 Rosewood 1919 1922 Cert. of Death
Halton Isiah Benbow Black 1 Rosewood 1919 1919 Cert. of Death
Nancy Bradley Black 65 South Carolina 1841 1906 Cert. of Death
Nancie (Grant) Bradley Black 19 Levy County 1898 1917 Cert. of Death
Virginia (Carrier) Bradley Black 42 Leon County 1879 1921 Cert. of Death
Frank Bunn Black 66 1852 1918 Cert. of Death
Haywood/Hayward Carrier Black 1867 ??? Census, Oral History, Newspapers
Sylvestor Carrier Black 31 Florida 1891 1923 Census, Oral History, Newspapers
James Carrier Black 56 Florida 1866 1923 Census, Oral History, Newspapers
Sarah Carrier Black 50 Gainesville 1873 1923 Census, Oral History, Newspapers
Sam Carter Black 49 South Carolina 1874 1923 Census, Oral History, Newspapers
Edmond “Ed” Goins Black 70 North Carolina 1850 1920 Cert. of Death
Harry Goins Black 1 Rosewood 1915 1917 Cert. of Death
Martine Goins Black 53 North Carolina 1852 1905 Cert. of Death, Gravestone
Orlando Gordon Black 21 North Carolina 1896 1917 Cert. of Death
Lexie Gordon Black 55 North Carolina 1867 1923 Census, Oral History, Newspapers
Infant Griffin Black 0 Rosewood 1919 1919 Cert. of Death
Simon Griffin Black 61 Florida 1859 1919 Cert. of Death
Charles Bacchus “CB” Hall Black 73 South Carolina 1847 1919 Cert. of Death
Infant Hall Black 0 Rosewood 1919 1919 Cert. of Death
Infant Holloman Black 0 Sumner 1920 1920 Cert. of Death
Infant Ingram White 0 Sumner 1918 1920 Cert. of Death
Lettie (Hall) Jones Black 43 Florida 1875 1918 Cert. of Death
Jones Parker Black 23 Florida 1895 1918 Cert. of Death
Agnora King Black 66 Florida 1852 1918 Cert. of Death
Infant King Black 1 Inverness, FL 1919 1920 Cert. of Death
Queenie Z. (Goins) King Black 20 Florida 1879 1900 Gravestone
Agnes E. (Goins) Marshall Black 34 North Carolina 1883 1917 Cert. of Death
Infant McQueen Black 0 Sumner 1919 1919 Cert. of Death
Infant McQueen Black 0 Sumner 1918 1918 Cert. of Death
Infant McQueen Black 0 Florida 1920 1920 Cert. of Death
Cary Lee Monroe Black 0 Florida 1917 1918 Cert. of Death
Clara Monroe Black 14 Rosewood 1903 1917 Cert. of Death
Sophia Monroe Black 34 North Carolina 1894 1917 Cert. of Death
Infant Nelson Black 0 Florida 1919 1919 Cert. of Death
Ella Reed Black 39 Rosewood 1883 1922 Cert. of Death
George Robinson Black 38 Florida 1880 1918 Cert. of Death
Infant Robinson Black 0 Florida 1920 1920 Cert. of Death
Janetta (Carter) Robinson Black 41 South Carolina 1878 1918 Cert. of Death
Mrs. S. M. (Sallie) Sauls White 62 Georgia 1857 1919 Cert. of Death
Infant Swayne Black 0 Florida 1919 1919 Cert. of Death
E. P.  Walden Black 63 1842 1905 Gravestone
Amos Williams Black 20 Florida 1899 1918 Cert. of Death
Fannie Williams Black 26 Florida 1874 1907 Cert. of Death

This spreadsheet includes additional details not listed in the table above. It is unlikely the above table includes all burials at the cemetery, although it is much closer to the 50-60+ graves revealed by mapping and GPR survey work. Charting out the number of burials by year provides additional information.

Burials by year shows higher activities in late 1910s.

A number of patterns are visible in this data, but they may be misleading. For instance, the absence of burials before 1900 and the large number of infant deaths between 1917 and 1920. It is likely that burials took place prior to 1900, but were simply not reported. This is possible as the state of Florida did not require death certificates be recorded until 1917.

The large number of infant deaths between 1917 and 1920 may be explained in a couple of different ways. First, the uptick in 1918 and 1919 may coincide with the 1918 influenza pandemic. Although, it is just as possible that we have access to these records because Florida required all deaths be recorded beginning in 1917. If this is the case, then the high infant mortality rates in the past means other children are likely buried in the cemetery. In truth, America continues to struggle with the the fact that infant mortality was far more common than we tend to acknowledge today.

The fact that burials continue through 1922 suggests the victims of the 1923 race riot are also buried here. Oral history accounts describe, for instance, how James Carrier was caught by a White mob while burying his mother (Sarah) and brother (Sylvester). Newspapers from the first week of 1923 also describe this, an important correspondence between oral history and historical documents.

Newspaper accounts of James Carrier’s capture and murder.

Several newspapers also ran an image, reportedly showing a group of Whites in Rosewood (or Sumner, the two were commonly mixed up in these reports) standing behind a line of 3 graves reported to be African American burials. It is unlikely that local Whites would have buried Black victims of racial violence and/or taken the bodies 2-3 miles from Rosewood to bury at Shiloh Cemetery in the neighboring community of Sumner. Rural historical cemeteries were mostly segregated along lines of race at this time, and this is certainly the case for cemeteries in Rosewood and Sumner.

The image in question published by The Kingston Daily Freeman (January 11, 1923).

Although sometimes credited as being taken in Sumner, the above image was likely taken in Rosewood, and potentially following the burial of James Carrier after his murder at the hands of a White mob. Other aspects of the image caption are incorrect as well. This is not surprising given the fragmented nature of reporting on these events in the past. For instance, there is little evidence that the burned structure is the remains of “shanties” but rather one of the large houses inhabited by one of Rosewood’s Black families. Furthermore, there is little evidence that African Americans were heavily armed at the Carrier home, although we know several families took shelter there during the first week of 1923 and were able to initially protect themselves.

Although the graves are mounded in the above photo, without constant re-mounding and other maintenance, such burials in Florida’s sandy soil tend to ‘sink’ and form depressions. This is partly due to decomposition of the burials, and partly due to the nature of soil weathering in Florida. While extracting exact measurements from the image above is difficult, the positioning and distances between these three graves appear to match a line of graves along the western edge of Rosewood’s cemetery. The spacing is similar and their placement next to a road suggests it may be the same place.

Depressions in Rosewood cemetery possibly matching historic image above.
Location of graves pictured above, and the distances between them.
Rosewood cemetery and nearby features, with area of three graves marked.

Researchers have to combine archaeology and the fragmentary documentary record to craft a more complete interpretation of Rosewood’s African American cemetery. This includes accurately locating – and possibly correcting – erroneous or otherwise unreliable data. In the case of Rosewood archaeology, census records, death certificates, historical newspapers, and oral histories all combine to remind us of the importance even a small patch of ground in Levy County might have regarding larger patterns of violence in American history. In relation to locating the historical newspaper image, it may be of another location or even be of burials associated with the White men who died in 1923. Until firm proof is forthcoming – perhaps original documentation from the photographer – there is room to theorize.