FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Commissioners renamed a portion of Davie Boulevard as a tribute to Rubin Stacy, a 37-year-old farm laborer and father who was killed on July 19, 1935, in Fort Lauderdale. There was a memorial and an unveiling ceremony.
On Tuesday, they unveiled the new street sign to mark a two-mile stretch of Davie Boulevard in the area of Southwest 31st Avenue. Chelsea Blackmon, Stacy’s great-grandniece, was part of a group of his descendants who were in attendance. Singers performed “Amazing Grace” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during the memorial.
“It’s definitely bittersweet. It’s a step in the right direction. I am grateful to the city of Fort Lauderdale for shedding light because this isn’t a part of history that we can just gloss over,” Blackmon said.
The historic photograph showing Stacy hanging from a tree as white children watched is part of the New York Public Library’s digital collection and the U.S. Library of Congress record.
“This story is so important,” Commissioner Robert L. McKinzie said about raising awareness of the time when law enforcement’s involvement in the extrajudicial killings of Black men was socially acceptable in the South.
In 1935, a local newspaper reporter wrote Marion Jones told police a Black man injured her hands and arms with a penknife on July 16. After a search in the area, Stacy was arrested on July 18, 1935. He was in the custody of the Broward Sheriff’s Office claiming he was innocent when he was tortured and killed a day later.
Members of the mob shot at Stacy as he hung from the tree in handcuffs, according to reports. On July 20, 1935, state officials ordered an investigation. After a few days, a grand jury decided not to indict the deputies who said they were transferring Stacy out of town for his own safety and blamed the murder on an out-of-control mob of masked assailants.
The haunting photograph shows witnesses. The NAACP distributed it in a flyer to “fight against lynching” and promote support for a proposed federal law to punish it. It didn’t pass in 1936.
More than five decades later, the Sun-Sentinel spoke to a woman who said she saw Deputy Bob Clark, Broward Sheriff Walter Clark’s brother, strung up Stacy and encouraged the racially-motivated killing and coverup.
The Equal Justice Initiative’s report documents there were more than 4,440 racial terror lynchings in the U.S. from 1877 to 1950. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice to commemorate the victims of lynchings opened in 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama, and it includes Stacy’s name.
There was progress in 2020 when the U.S. House of Representatives in the 116th Congress passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, but it stalled in the Senate. And while state and local courts punish murder, civil rights activists’ efforts to make lynching a federal crime continue.
“We see where racism and hatred still exist in our society, in our own backyard,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said. “We need to fight evermore hard to make sure that this is erased from who we are as Americans.”
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