For more than ten years, Florida International University emeritus professor and Black historian Marvin Dunn has co-owned a five-acre property in Rosewood — a small northwest Florida town that was the site of a massacre of Black residents back in 1923.
Dunn, who is planning to build a "peace house" on the land in memory of the Rosewood Massacre, was at the property on September 6, 2022, with his son, Doug Dunn, and others to brainstorm how to bring his vision for the monument to life. As Dunn and his son were standing with a group of Black men on SW 96th Court, a neighbor drove up in his pickup truck, demanding to know why they were there and why their vehicle was parked on the side of the road next to the man's property.
After Dunn explained that his car was legally parked on a public road, the neighbor went into a rage.
"He started screaming at us and calling us 'niggers,'" Dunn told New Times following the encounter. "Then he guns his truck at us at full speed and makes this attempt to hit us."
Dunn said the white Ford F-250 truck nearly struck his son before speeding off. A week after the incident, the Levy County Sheriff's Office arrested David Allen Emanuel, a now 62-year-old white man who lived across the street from Dunn's vacant lot. He was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a third-degree felony.
According to prosecutors, when he was whisked away to jail, Emanuel said, "I didn't do a goddamn thing...get treated like this shit over a fucking nigger, man. I didn't do a goddamn thing to them, son. Bitch, I should have run over them motherfuckers."
In an indictment docketed in March, a federal grand injury charged Emanuel with six hate-crime counts for "willfully intimidating and attempting to intimidate" the six men with his vehicle. Just last week, he was convicted on all counts in a Gainesville courtroom.
At trial, one witness testified that Emanuel said he "came at those motherfuckers," and he "would've fucked up all those Black motherfuckers."
"As we marked 100 years since the horrific 1923 Rosewood Massacre, this verdict should send a strong message that violent, racially motivated conduct will not be tolerated in our society," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's civil rights division said in a press release.
Dunn tells New Times he's relieved justice was delivered.
"I feel badly for the fact that we had to go through all of this, but I think the outcome was good," he adds.
The state charge, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, is still pending against Emanuel in Levy County.
The assault on Dunn came just before the 100th anniversary of the Rosewood Massacre.
The massacre began on New Year's Day in 1923 when an all-white mob tore through the town 50 miles southwest of Gainesville after a white woman from a neighboring town claimed a Black man inside her home assaulted her. The mob scoured the area for an alleged assailant and approached a Black woman's local home, leading to an armed standoff that made national headlines. The mob burned the town to the ground and killed Black men, women, and children in the following days. Those who survived were forced to flee.
Initially, Dunn and his nonprofit, the Miami Center for Racial Justice, put their plans on hold to bring a group of Miami students to Rosewood on the centennial of the massacre as part of his "Teach the Truth" tour. However, following Emanuel's arrest, Dunn changed his mind and decided to go through with the visit to teach students about the state's history of racial violence. More than 200 people were at the ceremony on his property in early January for the anniversary.
Moving forward, he says, he will make sure there is a police presence when he brings a group to Rosewood.
"Frankly, I'm a little concerned about my safety because this is not going to be a popular decision, but it will not stop me from going there and continuing my work," Dunn says. "When we go out there, at least the police know we're there. It's not unrealistic to be concerned about safety."
Meanwhile, Dunn has secured funding to build his "peace house," a replica of the railroad depot that once existed on the property.
"This has encouraged me to be even more committed to having these tours in Rosewood," he tells New Times.