3 Responses

  1. Dale Cox

    Dr. Lees, Thank you for your professional and ethical stance on this matter. I have made many of the same statements to media representatives visiting Jackson County due te the Dozier story over the last few years and have been called everything from a “Dixiecrat” to “on the wrong side of history” by them as a result. I hope they will be more respectful to you.

    Specific researchers from USF should abide by the decisions of a circuit judge, the state archaeologist and the secretary of state and cease their unending efforts to try every technical “end-around” they can to avoid complying with those decisions.

    I believe it is wrong – in the absence of evidence of a crime or an immediate threat to the graves – to exhume human bodies without the permission and participation of the next of kin or culturally-affiliated groups. In this case, the USF researchers have located only 7 of the more than 50 families with loved ones known to be buried in the cemetery. While I am not an anthropologist, I do not understand how they hope to identify the remains using DNA and “bring closure to the families” when they have taken time to locate only 7 of the families. These are not graves that date from 300 or 3,000 years ago. They are graves that date from 60 to 100 years ago. Any competent researcher knows that more than 7 of 50+ families from the 20th century could be located with diligent effort (and use of Ancestry.com!).

    In addition, the way this project has been done and the press conferences and hoopla associated with it have greatly damaged the public image of legitimate archaeological inquiry in Jackson County, a place that is rich in both prehistoric and historic archaeological sites. For those of us who have fought for decades to protect our community’s archaeological resources, it is a tragedy.

    In their filing with the state archaeologist, the USF researchers indicated that the Dozier School Cemetery is not a crime scene. The Medical Examiner, Office of the Attorney General, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Jackson County Sheriff’s Department agree with that assessment. Accordingly, the university should follow due process standards and current state and federal laws and regulations. Their petition for a court order was denied, as was their application for an archaeological permit. They should stop trying to bypass the process and instead live within its guidelines. They also should actually write the reports and provide the information to the State of Florida that they were required to do under the terms of their prior permits.

    I agree with you that they should now focus their efforts on providing the information needed to preserve the cemetery. Individuals in the community have offered to raise the funds necessary to erect a monument there with the names of the known burials. It is a historic site and known burial ground that has appeared on state plats and USGS quad maps since the 1930s. Let’s preserve it, record the names of the dead and move on to other more valid research projects.

    Dale Cox
    Jackson County, Florida

  2. Dale R. Landry

    Dr. Lees, I find your comments interesting and somewhat questionable regarding the ongoing work being done by USF in their research at the burial ground (aka Boothill Cemetery) located at the Dozier School for Boys. Your choice to use an analogy of anthropology research of Native American burial sites conducted some years ago when there was no voice speaking up for these people concerning their remains, and now that they have a “voice”, Native Americans have spoken up and requested that these sites not be disturbed, that many in the anthropology profession are honoring. Now if voices of a people are to be respected, hopefully you will be able to follow and apply this logic to my following comments.

    If you have followed the brilliant work of the USF team and most important the report that was published by Dr. Kimmerle and her colleagues, she provided a rich history of how the School was established, what had occurred there and how some of the boys died. Further, she provided an insight to the culture that pervaded the area that allowed for the atrocities to occur at the School. A lot of this information was researched through state records, but more importantly, through interviews with folks who were there. As you are aware, The Industrial School was segregated during much of its existence and only around the time it was named Dozier was it an integrated facility. The burial ground dates back to the era of the segregation period. According to the practice in that time, people of color were buried separately from the dominant culture at the time, Caucasians. It is believed that many that may be buried in the burial ground may be African American youth, however that fact is not confirmed. Further, given much of the testimony (both from research and interviews) there are a lot of unanswered questions regarding the cause of death for many of them. Finally, there is the manner of burials, some traditional, some in shallow graves, and others unknown. Collectively, a “graveyard” of unanswered questions! For many Floridians, especially African Americans, we want to know what happened there and are concerned about how these youth and people died and why were they buried under such conditions.

    As 4th Vice President of the Florida State Conference NAACP, the oldest civil rights group in Florida, an organization that has historically been the “Voice” for the African American community, we speak out on behalf of the many African American boys that are CALLING from the burial sites to be dug up and their individual and collective stories to be told. As you indicated that Secretary Detzner is under an onslaught from the Tampa vicinity; I would argue that is untrue. Detzner is under an onslaught from the African American community in Jackson County, across Florida and this Nation regarding him standing in the way of research to determine what did occur with those buried at the burial ground at the Dozier School in Jackson County.

    In closing I would like to simply state there is a small culture of people whose roots are here in Northwest Florida, Pensacola to Lake City, that are afraid about what may be revealed through the research being conducted by USF. As an anthropologist Dr. Lees, hopefully you understand and hear the “Voice” of the African American community and express the importance of voices to Secretary Detzner and both you and he support our call for the continued research by the USF team. Finally, during a meeting with Secretary Detzner and his staff, specifically Director Rob Bendus, they both emphatically stated they were glad that USF was conducting the research, because if was an important archeological site. Further, that if USF was not doing it, his office would be conducting the research as they had done (ironically) with other Native American and underwater archeological sites around the state. So, I find it ironic concerning your letter and again, hopefully hearing from those that are repeating the voices from the Dozier School burial site; as a professional please do the right thing and help support USF in their efforts.


    Dale R. Landry, MSW
    4th Vice President, Florida State Conference NAACP
    Tallahassee, Florida

  3. Richard Estabrook

    I thought today on the 50th Anniversary of one of the most moving speeches of the 20th century would be an appropriate time to post this announcement.


Leave a Reply