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 The following table includes a list of those buried at the cemetery as revealed via a thorough examination of historical documents, specifically State of Florida Certificates of Death, oral histories, census records, and newspapers.

NameRaceAgeBirthplaceBirthDeathData Source
Ervinel BarclayBlack3Rosewood19191922Cert. of Death
Halton Isiah BenbowBlack1Rosewood19191919Cert. of Death
Nancy BradleyBlack65South Carolina18411906Cert. of Death
Nancie (Grant) BradleyBlack19Levy County18981917Cert. of Death
Virginia (Carrier) BradleyBlack42Leon County18791921Cert. of Death
Frank BunnBlack6618521918Cert. of Death
Haywood/Hayward CarrierBlack1867???Census, Oral History, Newspapers
Sylvestor CarrierBlack31Florida18911923Census, Oral History, Newspapers
James CarrierBlack56Florida18661923Census, Oral History, Newspapers
Sarah CarrierBlack50Gainesville18731923Census, Oral History, Newspapers
Sam CarterBlack49South Carolina18741923Census, Oral History, Newspapers
Edmond “Ed” GoinsBlack70North Carolina18501920Cert. of Death
Harry GoinsBlack1Rosewood19151917Cert. of Death
Martine GoinsBlack53North Carolina18521905Cert. of Death, Gravestone
Orlando GordonBlack21North Carolina18961917Cert. of Death
Lexie GordonBlack55North Carolina18671923Census, Oral History, Newspapers
Infant GriffinBlack0Rosewood19191919Cert. of Death
Simon GriffinBlack61Florida18591919Cert. of Death
Charles Bacchus “CB” HallBlack73South Carolina18471919Cert. of Death
Infant HallBlack0Rosewood19191919Cert. of Death
Infant HollomanBlack0Sumner19201920Cert. of Death
Infant IngramWhite0Sumner19181920Cert. of Death
Lettie (Hall) JonesBlack43Florida18751918Cert. of Death
Jones ParkerBlack23Florida18951918Cert. of Death
Agnora KingBlack66Florida18521918Cert. of Death
Infant KingBlack1Inverness, FL19191920Cert. of Death
Queenie Z. (Goins) KingBlack20Florida18791900Gravestone
Agnes E. (Goins) MarshallBlack34North Carolina18831917Cert. of Death
Infant McQueenBlack0Sumner19191919Cert. of Death
Infant McQueenBlack0Sumner19181918Cert. of Death
Infant McQueenBlack0Florida19201920Cert. of Death
Cary Lee MonroeBlack0Florida19171918Cert. of Death
Clara MonroeBlack14Rosewood19031917Cert. of Death
Sophia MonroeBlack34North Carolina18941917Cert. of Death
Infant NelsonBlack0Florida19191919Cert. of Death
Ella ReedBlack39Rosewood18831922Cert. of Death
George RobinsonBlack38Florida18801918Cert. of Death
Infant RobinsonBlack0Florida19201920Cert. of Death
Janetta (Carter) RobinsonBlack41South Carolina18781918Cert. of Death
Mrs. S. M. (Sallie) SaulsWhite62Georgia18571919Cert. of Death
Infant SwayneBlack0Florida19191919Cert. of Death
E. P.  WaldenBlack6318421905Gravestone
Amos WilliamsBlack20Florida18991918Cert. of Death
Fannie WilliamsBlack26Florida18741907Cert. 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.