Research & Remembrance:

100 Years after the Fatal Fire at Dozier

NOVEMBER 18, 2014
9:00AM – 8:00PM

From 1900-1952 nearly 100 children died while incarcerated at the former Florida Industrial School for Boys (FIS) (aka Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys) in Marianna, Florida. November 18th marks the 100 year anniversary of a fatal dormitory fire in which 10 victims lost their lives. The circumstances surrounding the fire were highly controversial at the time, which lead to a national media campaign calling for the State to “Fix the Responsibility" (Miami Herald, 1914). In 2014, a USF team of researchers excavated burials located on the former school grounds to identify those buried at the school and repatriate the remains to their surviving families.

The ways in which children experience the criminal justice system is often tragic. The USF Dozier Project provides an opportunity for critical examination of the ways in which children and their families experienced the criminal justice system prior to the professionalization of law enforcement criminal investigations, corrections, and juvenile justice and allows for critical examination of impact and implications going forward. From its inception, the former Florida Industrial School for Boys was supposed to be a refuge for troubled children convicted of crimes away from the harsh Convict Lease and Peonage Systems of adult convicts. By initial design, children were to receive training and education that would propel them to become productive citizens. The institution was supposed to be a “school” not a “prison”, and the boys who were committed were “students” rather than “inmates”. This dichotomy proved conceptually sound but, in practice, difficult to maintain. Throughout the school’s early history a multitude of narratives seem to contradict the “school” and “student” focus of the institution. These contradictions resulted in many reform measures to the school itself, from its practices of child labor and corporal punishment to changes to its very name. Additionally, the school reflected laws and social norms of the time particularly with respect to race. For example, until 1968 the school was segregated into two completely separate campuses or “departments” for “white” and “colored” students. Segregation permeated every aspect of life in Florida and throughout the US South until the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. No understanding of the Florida State Reform School over the course of its history can be understood without consideration of the impact and implications of segregation, particularly those relating to criminal justice. The story of children in Florida’s correctional system is a reflection of changing attitudes, laws, and practices towards children within these systems.

Schedule of Events

9:00am - Welcome & Introduction
Dr. Erin H. Kimmerle, USF Anthropology
Provost & Executive Vice President Dr. Ralph Wilcox, USF

9:30 - Plenary Speaker: Dr. Gerald LaPorte, Director of the Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences, National Institute of Justice

10:15 - USF Investigation of 1914 Fire at FIS
(Sponsored by the Florida Institute of Forensic Anthropology & Applied Science)
Discussant & Moderator: Dr. Philip Levy, USF History

  • Dr. Erin H. Kimmerle, Forensic Anthropologist, USF
  • Dr. Antoinette Jackson, Cultural Anthropologist, USF
  • Dr. E. Christian Wells, Archaeologist, USF
  • Howard Kaplan, Visualization Specialist, USF

Catered Break
Photography and Artifact Exhibition (Room 3705)
(Sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences)
Curator:  Dr. E. Christian Wells, USF Anthropology

11:30 - Efforts in Human Identification at FIS
(Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology)
Discussant & Moderator:  Dr. Angela Stuesse, USF Anthropology

  • Master Det. Greg Thomas & Major Robert Ura, HCSO
  • Dixie Peters, UNTHSC
  • Barbara Lewis & Drew Smith, USF Library, Digital Archives

12:00pm - Lunch (on your own)              

1:00 - Keynote Speaker:  Dr. Michael Blakey,
National Endowment for the Humanities Professor, College of William & Mary & Director of African Burial Ground Project
(Sponsored by the USF Humanities Institute)

Introduction: Dr. S. Elizabeth Bird, Director, USF Humanities Institute

1:45 - Critical Engagement-Civil Rights and Activism, Social Justice, and Truth Commissions in the USA
(Sponsored by the Institute on Black Life)
Discussant & Moderator: Dr. Linda Whiteford, USF Anthropology

  • Dale Landry, Chairman of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Committee, FL State Conference, NAACP
  • Dr. Edward Kissi, USF Africana Studies
  • Jose Pablo Baraybar, USF & Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team
  • Peggy Maisel, Clinical Professor of Law,  Boston University School of Law

3:15 - Break

3:30 - Investigative Journalism and Advocacy in the Media
Discussant & Moderator: Prof. Wayne Garcia, USF School of Mass Communications
(Sponsored by the Department of Mass Communications)

  • Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald
  • Ben Montgomery, Tampa Bay Times              
  • Megan Towey, CBS
  • Vickie Chachere, USF Communications
  • Lara Wade, USF Communications

5:00 - Interpretive Performance
Introduction:  Dr. Antoinette Jackson, USF Anthropology
Prof. Fanni Green, USF School of Theatre and Dance

5:30 - Concluding Remarks

5:40 - Reception (Wine & Hors d'oeuvres)

6:30 - Recognition of Families & Commemoration
(Sponsored by the NAACP and Florida Council of Churches)
Moderator:  Rev. Russell Meyer

  • General Conversations on Dozier
  • “Boys in the Dark”: Reflections from 2005

Robert Straley, White House Boys

Interfaith Candlelight Ceremony