Marvin Dunn, an 83-year-old Black psychology professor at Florida International University, has been called the N-word four times throughout his life.
While the first three incidents went without consequences, the fourth time led to a guilty conviction on federal hate crime charges.
David Emanuel, a 62-year-old Rosewood resident, was convicted on six counts of federal hate crime charges July 26 for a racially motivated attack in September 2022, according to court records. Emanuel, who was also Dunn's neighbor, reportedly yelled the N-word and nearly hit the professor and five other Black individuals with his truck on Dunn's property in Rosewood.
“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 DOJ press release.
Emanuel will be sentenced Oct. 17.
Emanuel’s conviction by an all-white jury helped restore Dunn's faith in the U.S. justice system, he said.
“America is still alright,” Dunn said. “There’s still reason to believe that good people knowing the facts will decide things fairly.”
Dunn and a group of five Black men, including his son, were surveying his Rosewood property along with two white contractors on Sept. 6, 2022 when Emanuel approached the group about why their car was parked on a public roadway near Emanuel's property.
When Dunn tried to explain the car was parked on a public street, he said Emanuel cut him off and started screaming racial epithets at them.
“I won’t repeat what he said, but the N-word was used several times,” Dunn said. “He also yelled at one of the white men ‘You’re just as bad as the N-words.’”
Emanuel left the property only to return in his truck, driving full speed toward the group, Dunn said. The vehicle almost struck Dunn’s son, who had to jump into the grass.
Among the victims was Dunn’s longtime friend, John Robinson, a 69-year-old Black man. He was shocked by the incident, he said.
“It really was a terrible setback,” Robinson said. “This guy missed Marvin’s son by inches, and it was a tragedy that showed us that you can experience things like that in this day and time.”
The Levy County Sheriff’s Office arrested Emanuel on state charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a third-degree felony, on Sept. 12, 2022, according to Levy County court records.
Dunn contacted the FBI after the incident, resulting in Emanuel’s indictment on federal hate crime charges filed Feb. 28.
The FBI Jacksonville Field Office, Department of Justice Spokeswoman Aryele Bradford, Levy County Sheriff’s Office’s Lieutenant Scott Tummond and Emanuel’s federal case defense attorney Darren Johnson declined to provide comment on Emanuel’s federal conviction to The Alligator before publication.
Although Emanuel was convicted on federal charges, his aggravated assault charges with the state are still pending.
Dunn has channeled his frustrations into educating others about Rosewood’s history of racial violence since the assault.
Rosewood was a thriving Black community before the Rosewood massacre in January 1923. Today, Dunn is the only Black man to own property in the town.
The Rosewood massacre was sparked by a white woman from a neighboring town called Sumner who claimed a Black man from Rosewood had attacked her. A mob soon gathered and marched into Rosewood, burning the town to the ground.
Official studies report six Black people died, but historians have estimated many more were killed.
Even 100 years after the 1923 massacre, Dunn said his assault demonstrates how prevalent racist attacks are in the U.S.
“It’s related to the fact that Rosewood was Rosewood,” Dunn said. “That is a particularly sensitive spot in American race relations. [It’s] a combination of that and just outright prejudice, just outright racism.”
Dunn founded the nonprofit Miami Center for Racial Justice in 2020 as part of his mission to preserve pieces of Black history, like the Rosewood massacre, he said.
The center offers two educational, all-expenses-paid tours of cities historically relevant to Black history. For the Teach the Truth tour, high school students and their families visit Mims, Newberry and Rosewood. The Teach No Lies tour takes K-12 teachers to Ocoee and Rosewood.
Dunn took 30 Miami Dade County teachers to his Rosewood property on a Teach No Lies tour Aug. 13. During the tour, he saw a confederate flag on Emanuel’s lawn and decided to take a picture with it. He posted the photo on Twitter on Aug. 14 to bring awareness to Emanuel’s conviction, he said.
“I wanted the world to see that in Rosewood, Florida, justice still was possible despite the message that flag sends,” Dunn said.
Dunn hopes to turn his Rosewood property into a private park called Rosewood Park. The space would be available to rent for events. Dunn organized a commemoration event on the lot for the 100th anniversary of the Rosewood massacre in January.
Dunn has also acquired funding to build a "peace house" on the property, replicating a train depot that formerly occupied the lot.
“A place for people to come and find reconciliation, discuss difficult issues, particularly race,” Dunn said. “Where they can walk that hallowed ground and maybe start to make sense of what’s going on in our country and in our state.”
Contact Valentina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @valesrc.
Valentina Sandoval is a third-year journalism major and the Race and Equity/East Gainesville reporter for the Enterprise Desk. She has also worked writing and translating stories in Spanish for el Caimán. Whenever she's not writing, she's expanding her Animal Crossing island, making Spotify playlists or convincing someone to follow her dog on Instagram.