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Mount Dora High School students host mock press conference with senator

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Mount Dora High School’s 9th grade, Pre-Advanced Placement English students hosted a mock press conference with State Sen. Geraldine Thompson in the MDHS auditorium on Friday, Nov. 13.

The topic was her proposed Senate Concurrent Resolution 1332, “acknowledging the grave injustice perpetrated against Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas, who came to be known as the ‘Groveland Four.’ ”


The Groveland Four, also known as the Groveland Boys, were four black young men accused of raping a 17-year old married white woman in Lake County in 1948. The homes of black residents were burned to the ground and hundreds were chased into swamps as the search for the four ensued. Eventually, Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights crusader who became the first black justice on the Supreme Court, was drawn to the case. The story of rage, violence and racism is recounted in the Pulitzer Prize winning nonfiction book, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a new America.


Thompson recently filed a bill in the Legislature to clear the young men’s names.


Mount Dora students acted as journalists, constructing and asking the senator open-ended questions based on information they learned from reading Devil in the Grove, research on the individuals involved and other supplementary materials, including their AP Human Geography study on ethnicity and diversity.


The idea for the project came about after students saw the senator on the news talking about the case. They mentioned it to their teacher, Mary Ellen Griffith, who suggested having Thompson visit the class. “I wanted to make it a higher order, critical thinking project,” Griffith said, “so I taught them how to construct journalism questions and we decided to do a mock press conference.”