Survivors of the Florida School for Boys return to the site of legal kidnapping, torture and murder of children

Mother Jones has published a heartbreaking story about the survivors of the Florida School for Boys; children who were, basically, kidnapped by southern cops and sent to a hellhole where backbreaking labor, torture, and murder were the order of the day. A state court has finally given the go-ahead to exhume the graves of the children who were killed and buried in anonymous, unmarked graves by their jailers. The survivors returned for a press-conference, but found themselves with almost no press to speak to.

Mike Mechanic writes, "Johnny Gaddy, 68, still doesn't understand how he landed at Florida's Dozier reform school. When he was 11, the police showed up at his front door. 'They told me the judge wanted to talk to me,' he recalls. 'I'll never forget it as long as I live. I was watching 'The Lone Ranger' on TV. My mama said, 'The officer going to take you down, the judge going to talk to you.' I said, 'Mama, why's he going to talk to me?' She said, 'Go ahead.' He took me to the police station, told me to get in a cell. I never saw a judge. I wasn't sentenced for anything as far as I know. I was handcuffed all the way to Marianna.'

There's been a lot of press about the alleged horrors that took place at the Florida School for Boys, a.k.a. the Arthur G. Dozier reform school, but not a lot about how blacks and whites were treated differently on the campus, which was segregated until 1967. Last August, around the time of a state hearing that granted scientists permission to exhume dozens of graves on the grounds to find out what had happened to those boys, five elderly black men returned to the site of their nightmares with photographer Nina Berman. This multimedia story chronicles their visit back, and some of what they experienced at the school.

"It Was Kind of Like Slavery" [Nina Berman and Michael Mechanic/Mother Jones]

(Photo: Nina Berman)