Nina Berman

Documentary photographer
The Black Boys of Dozier
Location: New York City
Nationality: American
Biography: Nina Berman is a documentary photographer, author and educator, whose photographs and videos have been exhibited at more than 100 international venues including the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the... read on
Public Story
The Black Boys of Dozier
Credits: nina berman
Updated: 05/06/20
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 work 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, investigation, and survivors coming forward, the school remained open until 2011, when the state closed it citing budgetary reasons. 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.  In my view, they were trafficked by the state of Florida and put into forced labor, and denied their civil rights.  Pictures and interviews with some of those 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.

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