“There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance.” ~Goethe
When American soldiers discovered the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, someone (perhaps Eisenhower, though this isn’t factually documented) ordered civilians the town near the location of at least one camp to take a forced tour of the hellish place. Many German citizens fell back on “We didn’t know.” And perhaps they didn’t. But should they have known?
This is the question facing the citizens of Marianna FL where on January 1, 1900, the state opened the Florida School for Boys, once the largest of its kind in the United States. It closed on June 30, 2011, but the history of its 111-year operations is tainted with allegations of physical and sexual abuse and even murder.
Spurred by a group of former inmates/survivors, The White House Boys Survivors’ Organization, yet another investigation is being conducted into what went on behind the fence enclosing the 159 acres of the “high risk” facility. The term “high risk” calls into question the boys committed there, some for simple offenses such as truancy and running away from home.
Some citizens of Marianna aren’t happy about stirring up what one called “a hornet’s nest”. Others point out that people from the town were employed at the facility and perhaps should have had some idea of what was going on.
Thirty-seven graves in a marked cemetery have yielded as many remains, but other unmarked sites have given up the secrets of at least 18 more. In addition, a recently exhumed grave in Pennsylvania, the casket containing the body of Thomas Curry, shipped home to Pennsylvania for burial in 1925, actually held only strips of wood.
The governor visited the “school” in 1968 and found it overcrowded and with questionable practices. The only real result was banning corporal punishment—but apparently it was a “straw” regulation.
The institution, known by several names, finally closed, but the book is still open. Forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle is leading an investigative team which will hopefully and quite literally unearth the land’s buried secrets. She mentions the lack of records kept on deaths occurring at the school and also the fact there is no plot map of burials as is customary in other institutions.
Meanwhile, the unanswered questions and lack of accountability remain.
Photos from news media