Home » Florida » Ocoee

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.



Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Don’t Know
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Don't Know
Perhaps, Some Oral Evidence
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Probably Not, Although Still Very Few Black People

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1950 1370 0
1960 2628 0
1990 12778 168

Method of Exclusion

  • Violent Expulsion

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


On Nov. 3, 1920, in Ocoee, FL, blacks became involved
in fighting after tyring to vote… A mob surrounded the
black community and burnt it while keeping in
residents with gunfire. 35 died.”

The impact on local blacks was long-lasting. According to Parrish, “The negros were afraid to go through Ocoee and they would not be found there after dark. There was some [fruit] picking crews, I was told, that when towards the end of the day, if the crew boss stopping in Ocoee to maybe pick up a Coke or something like that, and if he got to talking and didn’t come right back out to drive the negros away from Ocoee, that they would get off the truck and start walking to get out.[i]

[i] Vernon Parrish interview, December 10, 2001, Orlando, Florida, unpublished paper, courtesy Orange County Regional History Center, Orlando, Florida

“The 1920 United States census placed the
population of Ocoee at nearly a thousand inhabitants,
about a third being African American.
“Early in the Fall of 1920, Mose Norman and Julius
‘July’ Perry, both prosperous African American
landowners in Ocoee, registered blacks to vote in
Orange County, Florida. Many sources have concluded
that Norman and Perry even paid the poll tax for those
African Americans who could not afford to vote.
“On November 2nd, 1920, Norman and Perry go to
the Ocoee polls to cast their votes. Though Norman
had paid his poll tax, he does not see his name on the
register, he and Perry are turned away and told not to
come back. Mose Norman returns to the polls later
that evening with a shot gun. An altercation ensues,
and Mose Norman is pistol whipped and sent away a
second time. Mose Norman is never heard from again.
“Word spreads rapidly of the altercation at the polls
and later that evening word of a race riot has spread
as far away as Georgia.
“By nightfall, over 250 Klansmen from around the state of Florida and white Ocoee residents have collected inside the town and begin a burning spree in the Black section of town. The Black citizens flee for their lives into the orange groves, swamps and
neighboring towns. However, many are burned in their homes or shot as they flee the infernos. In the aftermath, twenty five homes, two churches, and a
masonic lodge are incinerated; and the death toll is said to be above fifty. On the morning of November 3rd, July Perry’s body is found hanging from a light pole. The land that was fled by the black citizens was divied up and sold for $1.50 an acre. Blacks would not inhabit the city until sixty one years later in 1981.”

July Perry’s grave was unmarked until 2002, when city officials, civil leaders, Perry family descendants,
and others held a small ceremony to dedicate a gravestone.

Mose Norman survived the massacre and fled to New York City, where he lived until his death in 1949. This
was not discovered until at least 2000.

Update October 2007
Ocoee has c.500 black residents now. It hosted at least one Katrina
refugee family.

A 2013 email read: “There was a sign in this town that wasn’t taken down until the 80’s it read ‘nigger don’t let the sun set on your head’.”