Grave excavations begin at infamous Florida reform school (VIDEO)


Postcard image of the Florida Industrial School for Boys in Marianna, FL.

Anthropologists will begin excavating dozens of graves at an infamous Florida reform school this weekend, in an effort to uncover what actually went on at the facility, where many men allege they were severely abused. 

"In these historic cases, it's really about having an accurate record and finding out what happened and knowing the truth about what happened," said University of South Florida anthropologist Erin Kimmerle to the Associated Press of the dig.

Read more from GlobalPost: Graves found at infamous boys reform school in Florida 

Located in the town of Marianna, in Florida's panhandle, the school has become notorious for accounts of beatings, rape, and murder during the 1940s, 50s', and 60s'. 

Nearly 100 children are known to have died at the school, writes CNN, largely due to a deadly dormitory fire and the 1918 flu epidemic. Twenty-two children who died at the school are unaccounted for, and it remains unknown which child is buried where. 

In late 2012, researchers identified at least fifty grave sites at the former reform school, nineteen more than had previously been described. The graves of black and white children were segregated. 

USF has been given a year to excavate the graves and conduct DNA testing and other work, partially in hope of giving some families closure, writes the News Service of Florida. The bodies of the unidentified will be returned to the site. 

A Justice Department grant of $423,528 will aid the research effort, coupled with $190,000 from the state of Florida, reports the Tampa Bay Times. 

"They were poor kids and a lot of times, people never came to visit them," said NAACP leader and Marianna resident Elmore Bryant to CNN. 

"Even when they were dismissed, they got home, their family had moved. So, who was going to pay attention if something happened to them while they was at Dozier?"

Known both as the Florida School for Boys and the The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in later years, the facility was finally shuttered in 2011 due to budget cuts, after 111 years of operation. 

The victims of the abuse have called themselves the White House Boys, and now speak publicly about their abuse, ever since the dark history of the facility was revealed in a Miami Herald story in 2008 — a video version of the story is embedded below.