Ocoee Massacre: A look back on the state's little-known violent political, voting history

OCOEE, Fla. (WFLA) – There’s been a great deal of talk this year about the right of every voter to cast their ballot during the 2020 presidential campaign. But that right did not come easily.

During the 1920 presidential election, a group of Black Floridians went to the polls. Some were turned away, which led to a night of violence now known as the Ocoee Massacre.

St. Petersburg resident J. Carl Devine knows the horrible history of Ocoee first hand, his grandparents, John and Roxie Williams, lived it.

“They had cried so much about it, they would laugh at some of the stuff that happened… The pain was just that great for them,” Devine said. “My grandfather was an A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) minister and they had a church in Ocoee, Florida. He worked for a guy named July Perry.”

July Perry was a central figure in the massacre.

On Nov. 2, 1920, Perry’s friend, Moses Norman, a black man, went to vote and was turned away.

Both Perry and Norman had encouraged other Blacks and women to vote that year, with Republican Warren G. Harding up against Democrat James Cox.

At the time, the Republican Party was the party

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