Levy Co. massacre gets spotlight in Koppel film
Published: Friday, August 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 1, 2008 at 1:03 a.m.
Lizzie Jenkins' mother sat her down near the fireplace in their old Archer farmhouse when she was 5 and told her the story of the 1923 Rosewood massacre.
Jenkins' aunt barely escaped from Rosewood after a week of violence tore apart the small Levy County community following a white woman's accusation that a black man assaulted her. Her mother told Jenkins, now 69, to make sure the story never died.
Last week, in the same Archer farmhouse, Jenkins told the story to Ted Koppel, who will in turn tell the story to the world on a Discovery Channel documentary scheduled to air sometime in September.
Jenkins, president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida and a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, said Discovery Channel producers contacted her several weeks ago, telling her they wanted to profile delegates with "unique stories."
If they wanted a unique story, she told them, they'd come to the right woman.
Jenkins told Koppel about her aunt, and gave him a tour of Rosewood. She also told him about her father, who infiltrated Ku Klux Klan meetings to report planned violence back to the black community in Archer.
Jenkins said she and Koppel spent about three hours talking, with filming taking place in Rosewood, at the Levy County Courthouse and at the farmhouse.
Film crews also attended a three-day reunion of Rosewood survivors in the Miami area recently, said Tom Bettag, executive producer of the Koppel Group for Discovery Television.
Bettag said Jenkins is one of several people to be profiled for the documentary, which aims to put Barack Obama's presidential campaign in the context of race relations in the United States.
"We wanted to consider this moment in history, where we're looking at the possibility of a black man becoming president, while also looking back at our history," Bettag said. "We wanted to see how far we've come over a very short period of time. At the same time, we're looking at how much farther we have to go."
Jenkins said she's thrilled to be a part of that — especially considering that Koppel's mission furthers her own.
"It has been a struggle telling this story over the years, because a lot of people don't want to hear about this kind of history," Jenkins said. "People don't relate to it, or just don't want to hear about it. But Mama told me to keep it alive, so I keep telling it. Now, I'm going to get some help on a national and international level. It's a sad story, but it's one I think everyone needs to hear."
Amy Reinink can be reached at 352-374-5088 or email@example.com.
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