By: Mike Vasilinda
June 11th, 2013
Friday is the deadline for the state to decide whether researchers can resume exhuming bodies at a former north Florida boys school. A judge has already said no, and the Secretary of State may be the last hope at finding out who is buried there and why.
In addition to these known graves, researchers believe there as many as 50 more unmarked graves at the now defunct Dozier School for Boys. Citing a lack of evidence, a local judge has already said no to exhuming the bodies. So researchers turned to the state. A decision is due by Friday. Civil rights activists believe the state is dragging its feet. “What is the hold up. What is the stall? Why can’t we go in and go ahead and help identify these bodies.” says Dale Landry, NAACP.
Digging up the bodies under an archeological permit has rubbed people in this small community the wrong way. “They’re buried. Leave the dead alone,” says James C. Smith. When asked if he wants to know what has happened there and who is really buried in those graves, Mr. Smith responded, “Why? They died. How can I tell now? Got a hole in a head or something?”
The surrounding area was a haven for the Ku Klux Klan In its heyday. The NAACP believes researchers may find the bodies of lynching victims dumped at a cooperative Dozier. “There is a history back in that time about men that were outspoken in the black community. They disappeared. There are some people over in that area they don’t know whatever happened to them.” says Dale Landry.
There are fears the property will be sold soon, ending state control, before any bodies can be unearthed. Sealed bids have been received to sell this property, but a court injunction is prohibiting the department from opening them. But that injunction expires on July first.
A single security guard keeps watch over Dozier’s dead and the ghosts of the past that many believe are better left unearthed.