Florida Justice and the Tragedy of the White House Boys

By BitcoDavid

The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys opened on New Years Day, 1900, and remained open for 111 years. At one point it was the largest juvenile reform school in the U.S. Young men and boys were sent there from all over the state, for all kinds of things – some criminal, and some not. Orphans, runaways and truants were housed with – and treated the same as – hardened juvenile offenders.

View of the infamous White House. Photo: Wikipedia
View of the infamous White House. Photo: Wikipedia

It wasn’t long after her opening, that the school began developing a macabre and fearsome reputation. As early as 3 years in, reports surfaced that inmates were being held in leg irons. The school was 14 years old, when a fire caused the deaths of six students. Shortly after that, a 13 year-old inmate died after only 38 days in custody.

By the early ’60s, Florida officials were saying things like, “somebody should have blown the whistle a long time ago”. — Wikipedia

Students were discovered hogtied, and held in isolation for weeks – even months – at a time. Inmates were commonly starved, beaten, raped and denied medical attention. And these are children. Boys 10, 11 and 12 years old.

One of the school's administrators - OJ Keller with the tools of the trade. Photo: White House Boys
One of the school’s administrators – OJ Keller – with the tools of the trade. Photo: White House Boys

The most notorious and chilling place on the entire campus was a small building known only as the White House. Here students were taken to be beaten and otherwise tortured.  Many boys died there. This statement isn’t an exaggeration. Both the state and Federal governments have been investigating the school over the past several decades, and have not yet finished discovering all the bodies buried in secret graves all over the campus.

Apparently one of the rules during these beatings was that the inmate couldn’t cry out. If the student made any audible noise, the beating would start over again.

In one story, a boy’s jaw was broken before receiving his beating with the strap. After the beating he was taken to a hospital, for his broken jaw.

In another story, a boy was taken to the White House after telling the camp psychiatrist that he would not allow the man to rape him. The psychiatrist was present at the beating. Other boys have since accused this same psychiatrist of raping them.

A portable radar device used for finding the hidden graves at the Dozier site. Photo: White House Boys.
A portable radar device used for finding the hidden graves at the Dozier site. Photo: White House Boys.

Survivors of the school – and in particular the White House – have formed an organization dedicated to bringing about awareness of what went on at Dozier over the past century. They are called the White House Boys. They have published their stories on a Web site, and it’s a read that will absolutely chill you to the bone.

This is an important story, and I could go into more detail, but at a certain point it begins to become not only egregiously gruesome, but a bit hard to believe. The massive amount of torture, rape, blackmail, homicide, abuse, deception and outright – perverse – criminality on the parts of all the adults charged with caring for these children – dozens of them in total – seems so horrific it borders on nightmare-like.

Grit your teeth, tense your stomach muscles and go to the White House Boys to learn more. You can also go to this Wiki page, or here from NPR. Mad Mike’s America – my mentor site, has also covered the White House Boys’ story.

Now here’s what I don’t get about this. I understand Parchman Farm. I don’t condone or defend it, but I understand it. You had a financial motivation, a racial motivation and a resentment motivation. So I get that. But here – here you have an organization that ran for over a hundred years. Different administrators, different government officials and different staff would have resulted in policy changes, one would imagine. I can understand one psychotic warden, and maybe 20 bad years under him. The fact that this level of abuse, neglect and outright criminal behavior went on for decade after decade… well, was it built on an Indian burial ground? I just can’t understand how a place that large, and that public, could have an embedded culture of torture and murder that would last for over a century.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

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