Generations of Rosewood descendants keep a once-forgotten history alive

Zack Wittman for The Washington Post

The families gathering were not related by blood but by a cruel history. Nearly a century ago, their forebears had to flee their town of Rosewood, Fla., after a white mob burned their prosperous, mostly black town to the ground.

Zack Wittman for The Washington Post

Rosewood descendant Raghan Pickett poses for a portrait at the reunion in Wesley Chapel, Fla., in July.

Rosewood descendant Alfred Doctor.

Rosewood descendant Benea Denson.

The Rosewood descendants still meet at least once a year to keep the story alive. After the town was wiped off the map, the incident was wiped out of the history books and the state’s collective memory — until the families convinced Florida officials in 1994 that they deserved reparations.

Rosewood descendants lock hands in a prayer circle at the July reunion.

Braelyn Denson, 3, at the reunion in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

The eldest present descendant, Altimese Wrispus, ties the final knot in a ceremonial cloth, a tradition during the annual Rosewood reunion.

One of the family traditions at each reunion is tying the ceremonial cloth. Each knot symbolizes a deceased relative from a Rosewood family, and the red cloth illustrates the loving bond that connects them.

Ebony Pickett, president of the Rosewood Family Reunion organizing group, surrounded by her children at last year's event.

The $1.9 million that the state gave to survivors and descendants came and went quickly, but families still utilize the state’s offer to send Rosewood descendants to Florida colleges tuition-free. The most lasting effect of the fight for reparations, though, might be events such as these, uniting groups of families that were once fractured after this incident of racial terror.

Wrispus poses for a picture during the reunion.

Rosewood descendants laugh during a game of charades.

Evelyn Williams holds her 3-month-old nephew, Renzo.