In February, Seminole Middle School students got politically active during Black History Month. After studying about the historic Groveland case in social studies, using a book authored by sixth grade Seminole Ben Polsky, the ambitious group of 1200 students wrote postcards to members of the cabinet requesting expedited clemency review. These were delivered to the Governor and his cabinet just last month.
Ben Polsky, a 10-year-old, was so inspired after learning about the Groveland Four: Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepard, Charles Greenlee, and Ernest Thomas. Although none of these four men are still living, members of their family are. The dedicated and determined student seeks to right the wrongs of history in order to make sense of the wrongs of today.
During their lessons the Panthers also created fictional newspaper articles and envisioned and celebrated the aftermath of a successful pardon. At curriculum night, Ben Polsky was a featured speaker about Think Globally, Act Locally: The Groveland Four. He received a standing ovation for his activism and efforts.
A couple years ago Ben Polsky and his mother Nancy Polsky wrote “Re-Righting History: The Groveland Boys”. Their passionate story about the four innocent black youths found guilty and sentenced for a terrible crime they did not commit created awareness of the forgotten tale so long ago. Their book inspired the students and parents to get involved and make a difference.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” stated Ben Polsky.
The fate of the Groveland Four generated a grassroots movement of support after it was featured in the 2013 book Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Devil in the Grove,” by Gilbert King. The families of the four black men who were wrongly accused of a horrific crime and then tortured, murdered, and unjustly imprisoned after one of the most grotesque racist episodes in state history have been waiting for a long overdue apology.
“I walked into Ben’s room on the night of the Parkland shooting and overheard him leaving a message for Senator Rubio to do something about it. Ben saw firsthand how his Groveland activism resulted in political change in Tallahassee; he believes in his own power,” proudly stated Nancy Polsky. “And today more than ever, our young people need reminders and opportunities to participate – no, lead us – towards a more just and better version of our nation. Our youth can do something and can see the power of their positive political actions.”