“A white boy’s life wasn’t worth much and a black boy’s life wasn’t worth anything” explains Robert Straley a victim of the horrors of Dozier School for Boys. He was a resident and victim of the school for boys in 1963. Straley was one of the survivors. Many boys sent to Dozier school was never seen or heard from again. Their bodies were never returned to their families.
Human bones and remains of hundreds of young boys that resided at the school of horror are being unearthed on the grounds of Dozier School in Marianna, Florida. Boys were sent there from 1900 to 2011 to face brutal treatment, horrible beatings, sexual abuse and for many, death. Finally, the surviving victims get a chance to speak out.
The Florida State Reform School was opened in 1900 and for over a century was known for its cruelty, brutality and even murder of some of the boys. This abuse was allowed to go on for over a century. Some boys went happily thinking the school would be a haven for bully prevention and they would be safe from bullying at home or school. Instead the boys faced child abuse and degradation. Boys were sent there because they were orphans or runaways. They were truant or were caught smoking in school. Jerry Cooper, 67, one of the survivors in an interview with Associated Press stated, “We weren’t bad boys. We might have needed help in some respect but that wasn’t the place to find it.”
A group of about 300 surviving victims of the institution of horror, now band together in what they call the White House Boys. Many of these survivors of the institution fifty years later are still haunted and continue to have difficulties from the abuse. They use the name White House because that is where they were taken on the campus to receive cruel, brutal and heinous sexual and physical acts meted out by the administration. This group is determined to make known the abuse they endured and are seeking an apology and restitution from the State of Florida.
Surviving victim, Robert Straley, now 66 tells Associated Press of the abuse by the school staff when the boys were beaten bloody and their clothes were beaten into their skin. Jerry Cooper relates the time he was rousted out of bed at 2 a.m. and taken to the white house where he was tied to the bed. He was beaten so hard he said, “That first blow lifted me two feet off the bed.” Finally he passed out. The boy in the next room counted 135 blows received by Cooper that night. Richard Huntley, another White House Boy survivor revealed to Al Jazeera life at the institution in the 1950s. He compared it to the cruelty of slavery. Haunting screams from the victims dead and alive are finally being heard.
Anthropologists from the University of Florida are searching for the bodies after a 2008 story in a Florida newspaper. The school was divided in “a colored section” which is where the unmarked graves are located. But former students reveal that bodies are also buried elsewhere since there probably were separate burial grounds for black and white boys. The investigation that began in 2008 was closed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2010. The exhumations were resumed in August, 2013. The first body to be found was listed as, 1911 “Unknown Colored Boy” next to the garbage dump where the black boys were housed, no name or reason for death. According to the survivors there may be hundreds of unnamed boys buried on the campus.