History

Fort Lauderdale Lynched Rubin Stacy, Then Named a Street After Him

Rubin Stacy was killed by a white mob in Fort Lauderdale in 1935 (left). The road near where it occurred was named after him (right) 87 years later.
Rubin Stacy was killed by a white mob in Fort Lauderdale in 1935 (left). The road near where it occurred was named after him (right) 87 years later. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library, Screenshot via @DeanTrantalis/Twitter
His name was Rubin Stacy, and 87 years ago he was arrested for a crime he is believed not to have committed, captured, hanged from a pine tree, and shot 17 times by a white mob. Graphic photos from that day show white adults and a little girl smiling up at his dead body.

This didn't happen in the Deep South. No one was wearing a white hood. It happened in Fort Lauderdale, near the present-day intersection of Davie Boulevard and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

"When I was younger I was a bit more naive and I thought stories like that happened closer to Tallahassee, closer to Gainesville. I didn’t know terrible stories like that happened here in South Florida, right here in Broward County," Rubin Stacy's great-niece, Sandra Blackmon-Lane, told CBS4.

On Tuesday, Stacy's surviving relatives, including Blackmon-Lane, joined Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and other members of the community to honor Rubin Stacy by renaming a two-mile stretch of Davie Boulevard as Rubin Stacy Memorial Boulevard. The last time the community is believed to have gathered here for Stacy was at his death.

"It takes communities a long time to come around to face these kinds of events. They're tragic and painful for people both white and Black," Marvin Dunn, local historian and author of Black Miami in the Twentieth Century, tells New Times.

Rubin Stacy was a Black farmhand who lived on NW Third Street in Fort Lauderdale in the 1930s. A 2020 Sun Sentinel story by Susannah Bryan notes that he had a wife and a toddler son.

In July of 1935, a white woman named Marion Jones accused Stacy, 37, of attacking her with a penknife when he came to her home to ask for a glass of water, according to Bryan's Sun Sentinel story. He was arrested three days later by the Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO).

"If a Black man had any kind of contact with a white woman in Florida at that time, he had reason to fear for his life," Dunn says.

In a 2018 story for Fort Lauderdale Magazine, John Dolen writes that BSO Sheriff Walter Clark claimed he and six deputies were transferring Stacy to a safer jail in Miami-Dade when they were "overpowered by a spontaneous mob" that had known their route. The mob then strung up Stacy and shot him 17 times.

But in 1988, a woman came forward and told the Sun Sentinel that she'd participated in the lynching and that it had been the sheriff's brother, BSO Deputy Bob Clark, who had directed onlookers to participate and fire shots at Stacy's body.

In that same 1988 Sun Sentinel story Broward County historian Cooper Kirk told reporter Bryan Brooks that he was a child at the time and remembered folks at a baseball game nearby attended the lynching and returned with "souvenirs" that included fragments of Stacy's pants.

A photo of Stacy's hanging body was later delivered to President Franklin Roosevelt to elicit support for anti-lynching legislation that was supported by the president's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. FDR demurred, not wanting to lose the support of southern Democrats.

"It's one of the few lynchings I've seen with a photograph of a white child in it," Dunn says. "It was like a big picnic for the community."

Stacy was buried in an unmarked grave at North Woodlawn Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale. 
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a monument to lynching victims that opened in Montgomery, Alabama, in 2018, includes Stacy's name.

"It is incumbent on us all to address racial and social injustices and inequities whenever and wherever they appear," Mayor Dean Trantalis tweeted after Tuesday's dedication. "#RubinStacy Memorial Blvd. will serve as a daily reminder of the progress we've made over the past 87 years and of how far we still have to go."

For Dunn, this week's street dedication is at odds with current race relations and politics in Florida, where politicians rail against seemingly any acknowledgment of systemic racism or making white people "feel discomfort" about what Blacks have endured.

"The anger is so deep in our country today that some may soon think that others may not deserve to live. We're not far from a new era of lynchings," warns Dunn. "We have to remember that while we know about the lynching of Stacy, there are many other people who were lynched in Broward County that have been kept as a deep secret."
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos