Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Lance Rothwell Photography
Cindy Brown Austin
If you’re looking for a way to easily understand and access the complex world of racial injustice and tyranny, you need look no further than Duane C. Fernandez’s new book, Lies Uncovered; The Truth About the Arthur G Dozier Reform School for Boys!
This true story is a riveting and uncompromising Southern tale about the atrocities that occurred at a Florida juvenile institution that illegally confined and imprisoned dozens of underaged Black boys for minor offences like skipping school, and sentenced many of them to years of imprisonment and complete social isolation under the harshest conditions.
Chronicling the school’s history from “”1950 to 1980“”, Fernandez, a Connecticut-born photojournalist who was raised by a single mother in a violent, low-income Hartford housing project, aptly makes the case that dozens of boys were simply used as a form of free labor, a concept that was a common way of life in many rural Florida towns at that time. Fernandez does a great job of gleaning poignant stories from a variety of witnesses who knew firsthand what happened at the school, further revealing a disgraceful national reputation that reflected badly all the way to Florida’s governor’s office.
Little boys on the cusp of adolescence are typically expected to curiously veer off the straight and narrow path sometimes, naively wandering into forbidden territories, but these boys were yanked from their families by police officers in the dead of night, many of them never to be heard from again.
Kept apart and isolated from loved ones for years at time, restricted from writing or calling home and not allowed to have any visitors or legal representation, these boys were kept hidden away behind miles of barbed wire, often beaten within an inch of their lives. They were sexually assaulted by town pedophiles commissioned by the police, and in one particularly jarring scene, when two boys were performing after-supper chores of slopping pigs, they found body parts of other boys gone missing, a small hand or foot falling into the pig troughs.
Fernandez’s meticulous step-by-step account of this horrific hell on earth displays journalistic reporting at its best, and although there are minor grammatical areas that could use some minor tweaking, the overall power and carefully organized structure of this little-known story, makes for a read you won’t be able to put down, and has best-seller written all over it.
Read it and weep for the boys who died there, for the men who survived but lost any hopes of self-empowerment and remember those who still lie there, behind that barbed wire, in unidentified graves.
Lies Uncovered; The Truth About the Arthur G. Dozier Reform School for Boys, is a historic achievement and a must-add to your family library.