The Black Boys of Dozier
The Florida School for Boys, later renamed the Alfred G Dozier School for Boys, was a prison reform school/labor camp that operated from 1900 – 2011. It was known for its brutal conditions which included reports of beatings, rapes and forced labor. When it opened, children as young as 5 were held in shackles and chains. Over the decades, boys died, disappeared, and tried to runaway. Located in Marianna, Florida, site of the 1934 spectacle lynching of Claude Neal, the school was segregated with the black boys doing the brunt of the labor work. They picked cotton, sawed trees, made bricks and worked in the fields. They received no pay; local businesses profited off their labor. Discipline was achieved by instilling terror and fear through brutal beatings which often occurred at a building called the White House. Despite complaints, media investigations, and survivors coming forward, the school remained open until 2011, when the state, citing budgetary reasons, close the facility. Many survivors came forward to tell their stories, but these were mostly white men. In 2013, several black men who survived Dozier, visited the old school and testified to what they saw and endured. Many of them had no idea why they were sent to Dozier in the first place. But the experience marked them for life. The state of Florida trafficked these children and placed them into forced labor, a state sponsored form of human trafficking. My photographs and interviews with some of the men were published in Mother Jones in 2014. American writer Colson Whitehead’s novel "The Nickel Boys" is based on the history of Dozier and won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.