A small town in Florida has a little-known history that makes it a less than desirable place for Black people.
According to the Florida Times-Union, a town known as Jay has four Black residents due to its racist history. According to the outlet, it was revealed that it’s a “sundown town,” meaning that all non-white people must leave town before sundown or face the consequences.
Historian Tom Garner told The Florida Times-Union that the entire Black population was forcibly removed from Jay in 1922 after an argument between a Black farmer named Albert Thompson and a white farmer named Sam Echols. The two men fought over a stalk cutter belonging to Thompson, and after being hit by Echols with an iron bar, Thompson shot him in self-defense and fled the area. Echols died, and the town’s 175 residents were quickly run out of town.
“What happened in 1922 and the aftermath. The Black population being forcibly removed, it’s arguably the most significant thing that ever happened historically up there,” said Garner, according to the outlet.
“There’d be hundreds or thousands of descendants (of the 175 people forced out of Jay), and a lot of them would still be in Jay. The face of Jay would be completely different today.”
Mitzi Bray Dixon, one of the Black residents of Jay, notes that the history of the sundown town must be told for the community to heal.
“We have to fully and accurately tell our full history local and nationally for there to be full healing.”
The Jay area so far has been reluctant to confront its past. Signs that designated the Florida town as a sundown town didn’t disappear until the 1970s after an oil boom. Garner claims that many white residents believe the time has come for reckoning but are afraid to say so publicly.
“This history happened,” said Garner. “We need to look at it. We owe it to the Black community and the white community to know what the truth is.”