The Florida Industrial School for Boys, established near Marianna, Florida, in 1900, became infamous for abusive treatment of youth sent to live and work there. Set up as what was essentially a juvenile delinquent detention center with a school, and later known as the Dozier Boys School, the camp had segregated dormitories for white and black inmates. In 1914, a fire in the dormitory for white boys, probably the result of arson, claimed the lives of two employees and (as far as records can determine) nine students. The darkest history of the school came to public notice in the 1980s, when former inmates, who had served sentences at the school in the 1950s and 1960s, began to speak out about being brutally beaten inside a small building called “the White House.” From 2009 to 2012, these allegations, along with others about sexual abuse at the school and rumors that boys “disappeared” without trace, led to a State of Florida investigation and a University of South Florida forensic analysis of remains interred in the school cemetery. The school was officially closed in 2011. Colson Whitehead’s 2019 novel The Nickel Boys, a fictional presentation of life at Dozier, won the Pulitzer Prize and brought national attention to the story of survivors, now known as “the White House Boys.”
The school was segregated for most of its history, and accounts of former white inmates tend to appear in different places than those of the black inmates. Roger Dean Kiser’s The White House Boys (2009) is one of the longest and most in-depth memoirs of a former white student/inmate at the school. Accounts from black men about the trauma of abuse at Dozier are presented in Dark Days of Horror at Dozier (2013), and in Lies Uncovered: The Long Journey Home(2019)
In response to interest in the investigations at Dozier, the P.K. Yonge Library has been acquiring these and other books, made possible through the support of the Todd C. Prosser Memorial and Ted C. Prosser III Book Endowment in Florida History.
RECENTLY ACQUIRED WORKS
Memoirs and Compilations of Memoirs
Roger Dean Kiser, The White House Boys: An American Tragedy (Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Health Communications, Inc., 2009). 224 pp. ISBN 978-1250039255. Kiser, a survivor from the school, tells the history of his incarceration and the abuses he experienced and witnessed. He is also the author of numerous articles about Dozier and creator of a survivor website.
Robin Gaby Fisher with Michael O’McCarthy and Robert W. Straley, The Boys of the Dark: a Story of Betrayal and Redemption in the Deep South (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010). 247 pp. ISBN 978-1250039255. A collaborative work to present survivor accounts of life and abuses at Dozier in the 1950s.
Antoinette Harrell, Richard Huntly, John Bonner, Johnny Lee Gaddy, Arthur Huntley, Dark Days of Horror at Dozier: Rapes, Murders, Beatings and Slavery (N.P., Black Boys at Dozier Reform School, 2013). 189 pp. ISBN 9780615894003. Four black survivors recount their stories of abuse at the hands of their caretakers at the Florida Industrial School for Boys in Marianna, known also as the Dozier Reform School. Compiled by Antoinette Harrell.
Marshelle Smith Berry, Salih Izzaldin, Joseph Carroll (Editor), It Still Hurts: My Father’s Painful Account of Survival at the Florida Industrial School for Boys (Columbia, South Carolina: Create Space, 2020). 75 pp. ISBN 979-8665082837. The account of a Dozier survivor told at age 84 to his youngest daughter.
Johnny Gaddy (with Antoinette Harrell), They Told Me Not to Tell: Dozier Reform School was a Living Hell (Published by the authors). 106 pp. ISBN 978-0692373521. Johnny Lee Gaddy, a survivor of abuse at Arthur G. Dozier Reform School, from 1957 to 1961, recalls his life there.
Duane Carl Fernandez, Sr., Lies Uncovered: The Long Journey Home: the Truth about the Arthur G. Dozier Reform School for Boys (Daytona Beach, Florida: hardnottsuniversity.com, 2019). 82 pp. ISBN 9780578607481. Accounts of black survivors of the school compiled by photo-journalist Duane Carl Fernandez, illustrated with photographs of the school.
Claude Wayne Robins, After the White House: Memories of a Survivor of the Reform School in Marianana, Florida. Survival, Murders, Redemption, and the Search for Justice (Columbia, South Carolina: Create Space, 2017). 301 pp. ISBN 978-1976492990. A history about the school drawing on the memories of numerous survivors.
Dale Cox, Death at Dozier School: the Attempted Assassination of an American City (Bascom, Florida: Old Kitchen Books, 2014.) 167 pp. ISBN 978-0692346334. A historical review of the school cemetery and burials by a historian of Jackson County, highly critical of the state and university investigations there.
Juvenile Literature (Non-Fiction)
Elizabeth Murray, The Dozier School for Boys: Forensics, Survivors, and a Painful Past (Twenty-First Century Books, September 3, 2019). 120 pp. ISBN 978-1541519787. An account of forensic investigations at Dozier, written as a “true crime” narrative for middle- and high-school-age readers. Recommended by Booklist for teen readers.
Fictional or Fictionalized Works
Colson Whitehead, The Nickel Boys: A Novel (Doubleday; 1st Edition (July 16, 2019). 224 pp. ISBN 978-0385537070. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Whitehead’s novel is set at a fictionalized Florida reform school based on Dozier and follows the plight of Elwood Curtis, a young black boy incarcerated there in the 1960s.
Daryl McKenzie, The Boys of Dozier: Based on a True Story (Columbia, South Carolina: Create Space, 2020). 317 pp. ISBN 978-1520636757. A work of fiction featuring supernatural phenomenon set against the background of the Dozier Boys School.
Trina Ward, Dozier School for Boys (FeedaRead.com, March 6, 2015). 248 pp. ISBN 978-1785106101. A mystery-thriller dealing with Dozier and the supernatural.
Abandoned Florida: Documenting the Sunshine State’s Past (with images of Dozier after closure by photographer David Bulit)