Memoirs & Experiences
The Florida School for Boys was located in Marianna, Jackson County, in the Florida panhandle. On paper, the purpose of this school was to reform juveniles who were going astray. The Black boys who were ordered there (for minor or even falsified offenses) were not being reformed. Rather, they were made into slaves—free laborers where only their oppressors and the county benefitted. This school was where a young, strong-looking colored buck was shaped and molded into private stock owned by the State of Florida.
The courts decided there was no need for the accused children to see the Judge face to face because 98% of the colored boys were charged with the same thing. She would simply sign the papers on her desk and the boys would be taken to the farm plantation. Officers’ words were never challenged. Whatever the report said, so be it.
We were so young and our work was so hard. Our job was to work the fields all day, every other day. We could be beaten mercilessly any time we didn’t measure up. There was a good chance that some boys were beaten to death. Most times we were dog tired, but the thought of what that special-made belt would do to us kept us going. By the time we got to school the next day, it was almost impossible to sit up in class and stay awake. You paid a painful price if you got caught napping. The teacher would beat your knuckles until you couldn't close your hand.
We were the property of the State, legally. The State could do with us as they pleased. Little boys too small for the work were locked away in isolation until they were big enough to work in the fields in the bitter cold or under the scorching heat. As wards of the State, the State of Florida had the right to use us until we were 21 years of age if they wanted to. We would be free-labored slaves until they no longer wanted us. They then threw us out into the world to survive or perish.
Brutal, savage beatings and inhumane conditions were a way of life at Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. When boys went missing, we hoped they had returned home to their families, but we knew murder was likely. The bones of many of the young boys have been found in the grounds at Dozier. More than likely, many more still lie in lonely, undiscovered graves.
Past made present,
Richard Huntly, a former slave
Author, Activist and Public Speaker
President of Black Boys at Dozier Reform School
Returning to the fields after lunch
Young boy working on the hog farm
Young boy milking a cow at the dairy farm
Boot Hill Cemetery on segregated Black side
Photographs from the Segregated Black side.
Public Domain Florida Photographic Collection