Julius “July” Perry was born in South Carolina in 1868. Though his parents were former slaves, he was proud to have been born a free man. African Americans during this time took great pride in being born free: Free from the fear of their master’s whip, free to live a life of their choice, free to own and work their land, and free to raising a family under one roof.
At the age of 18, he was living in Travelers Rest, South Carolina. It was at this time that he decided to venture out and make his mark in the world. July Perry, along with two of his childhood friends, Moses Norman and Vincent Hightower, agreed that a town called Ocoee was their land of milk and honey. These three pioneers arrived in Ocoee in 1886 with a strong work ethic and dreams the size of mountains.
Ocoee, Florida was the place that July Perry and his friends would build their empire. July Perry and Moses Norman eventually became the town’s richest Black men. Over time, July Perry became a Civil Rights leader in the community.
He was also a labor leader, a Deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Northern Methodist Quarters, and a founding member of Ocoee Lodge #66, having reached the level of Worshipful Master.
At the time of his death, he was a good standing member, under the auspices of the Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity, Free and Accepted Masons, State of Florida, and Belize, Central America, Jurisdiction, Incorporated, Prince Hall Affiliated.
July Perry was married to Estella Perry, and they had five children. July Perry was a pivotal force behind registering voters during the 1920 Presidential Election Campaign. Women were given the right to vote for the first time in 1920. Black women registered to vote outnumbered white women nearly four to one.
This new electorate changed the dynamic at the ballot box. The right to vote sparked Ocoee’s racist white citizens to begin intimidation tactics to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote.
July Perry paid the ultimate price for his efforts to ensure that all black citizens had the opportunity to vote in the upcoming election.
On the evening of November 2, 1920, July Perry was forcibly removed from his home by an angry white mob and taken to the jail located in Orlando.
In the early morning of November 3, 1920, this same racist mob returned and subsequently murdered Mr. Perry.
He was beaten, dragged to a location in Orlando, Florida, and brutally lynched. The murderous mob left his lifeless body riddled with bullets, swinging from a light pole.
Survivors of Mr. July Perry included his wife, Estella Perry, children Coretha Perry, Louise Perry, Mack Perry, Clifford Perry, Charlie Perry, and Betsy Perry.
July Perry sacrificed his life for a worthy cause, and we shall never forget his determination and bravery. We honor the life of Mr. Julius “July” Perry, a champion of freedom.
Content Compliments of Pam Grady, Executive Director, The Julius July Perry Foundation
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