John Singleton's historical drama based on real-life events is a must-see because it's the type of American history that's often left out of history books. While Rosewood does introduce some fictional characters and events, the reality that a peaceful Black community was burned to the ground out of spite is relevant cultural and historical information that's worth learning more about. Early on in the movie we see how racism is taught and passed down from one generation to the next, as well as the double standards and psychological dilemmas that accompany racial discrimination and prejudice. There are people of differing backgrounds who have empathy and compassion for one another, yet social constructs prohibit genuine, honest communication and contact in public. One little White boy, Everett, is even told by his father that he can no longer play with his friend, because he's a "little 'N' word boy."
This film provides a positive counter-stereotype with its depiction of civilized Black people who can read, own property, and live peaceful lives among themselves as well as with White members of the community. As evidenced in Cheadle's Sylvester, the people in this community were a people of pride and dignity. "I ain't no sharecropper, mama. I'm a music teacher." Classism is depicted in members of the White community being intimidated by Mann (Ving Rhames), a big, Black, intelligent World War I veteran, and his ability to bid higher for property than the White men in the room. There's also a light that shines on the peculiar reality of the history of Black women raising White babies in America. The family matriarch, Aunt Sarah, played with great ease and familiarity by Esther Rolle (Good Times, Down in The Delta), is given much respect as the town's Black female matriarch from both White and Black folks. Yet, when social pressure is applied to the community, the woman who presumably raised many of the White families' children was eventually treated like a piece of disposable property. Rhames as Mann perfectly personifies the hero that many Black communities have been dreaming of for generations. Jon Voight as John Wright is so intriguing to watch. Overall, the entire cast is nothing short of fantastic. This film is at times very uncomfortable to watch, but it leaves a powerful mental and emotional imprint.