Racial Violence Threatened in 1925 Sebring

Old Sebring High School, now in the empty lot of Sebring Middle School

Many people in Sebring today like to have rose-colored glasses about race relations in the town’s history. Inescapably, Sebring was a typical segregated Southern town with plenty of racist ideals.

In September of 1925, the finishing touches were being put on updates to the old Sebring High School building (torn down in 1979, at the present location of Sebring Middle School). The contractor reported that he first tried to hire white painters but could not find the necessary help. Reluctantly, he was “forced to hire negroes” because he needed the work to be done quickly and found plentiful willing workers in the nearby black community of Washington Heights (across the railroad tracks from Sebring Middle).

This apparently was still not acceptable to townspeople and a signed was posted on the construction grounds:

“All negro painters are warned to stay off white man’s painting in Sebring. Do this and save trouble. This means you. We don’t want to have to say this twice.”

This sounds precisely like Ku Klux Klan rhetoric that was predominant in the mid-twenties. To me it was no doubt the work of local klavern members. Black workers were perplexed and feared retaliation in this era of lynching and racial cleansing. Work ground to a hault.

Local authorities kicked off an investigation that led to nothing. It never did.


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