I have reproduced a photo of a lynching showing a smiling girl several times. Here is the story behind that picture.
Rubin Stacy, 37 was a homeless tenant farmer who knocked on a white woman’s door, Marion Jones,a 30-year-old Sunday school teacher and mother of three who lived by an orange grove near the water plant on Old Davie Road, now Davie Boulevard. – she screamed, and he was arrested. As he was being led to jail by six deputies, a mob of about 100 overpowered them – ran their car off the road, and lynched him in sight of Marion’s house, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Marion claimed she offered him a drink of water, but he tried to assault her with a knife, which she later recanted.The New York Times later revealed that “subsequent investigation revealed that Stacy, a homeless tenant farmer, had gone to the house to ask for food; the woman became frightened and screamed when she saw Stacy’s face.” She received a $25 dollar reward for identifying him, or about $1000 in 2016 currency.
Rumors falsely spread that Marion Jones had been raped. In just a few years the Black community in Ft. Lauderdale had grown ten fold. This was at a period of heightened racial tensions. An effort to transfer Stacy to another jail for his own protection may have been staged. Indications are the local Sheriff, Clark, may have been among those running the car carrying Stacy off the road. It was initially reported that a group of masked-men over powered six Dade County deputies who were escorting Stacy to jail. As it was later revealed, the kidnapping was merely a ruse. Chief Deputy Bob Clark and other deputies had staged the kidnapping so that the mob could take possession of their prisoner. An unidentified woman who was a teenager at the time told the Sun Sentinel in 1994 that she participated in the lynching. It was Deputy Bob Clark, she said, who tossed the line over a branch and slowly raised Stacey off the ground.
At 4:30 pm Stacy was hung from a pine tree using a wire close line from the Jones house. He was then shot multiple times. The white mob took Stacy back to Jones’ home and hanged him from a nearby tree. “They just picked him up with the rope from the ground, didn’t bother to push him from an automobile or anything,” Deputy Virgil Wright, one of the escorts, told the newspaper It was alleged that Clark passed his service revolver around and let the mob fire into the hanging body. A coroner counted 17 bullet holes in Stacey’s body. Between 50 and 100 men took part.
People gathered, taking souvenirs from Stacy’s body, including bits of clothing and wire used to hang him. Stacey’s body hung on the tree for more than three hours. The newspapers reported thousands, in flatbed trucks and convoys of cars, came to see it. Observers recall blood dripping from Stacey’s toes. He was cut down at 7:15 pm. A coroner’s inquest described death by “persons unknown,” after 40 minutes. Despite at least three photographs, no indictments were ever brought.
Deputies brought the body to George Benton, a black undertaker. Bradley said it was lashed to their car bumper the way a hunter would carry a deer. Historical accounts say police, fearing reprisals, closed black businesses that night. Some say they ordered black residents to the funeral home to view Stacey’s body as a deterrent. The Clark brothers, sheriff and deputy, continued to persecute blacks, historical accounts say. Bob Clark was said to have shot a black woman after she spat on him during an argument. Louis Benton recalls when Bob Clark shot a man who had urinated in woods where a white woman could see him.
A photo of the lynching was sent to President F.D. Roosevelt to persuade him to support the Costigan-Wagner Act which would bring federal prosecution to any law enforcement officers who failed to exercise their responsibilities during a lynching incident. The NAACP hoped that the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 would bring an end to lynching. Two African American campaigners against lynching, Mary McLeod Bethune and Walter Francis White, had been involved in helping Roosevelt to obtain victory. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, had also been a long-time opponent of lynching. – Roosevelt refused to speak out in favor of the bill that would punish sheriffs who failed to protect their prisoners from lynch mobs. He argued that the white voters in the South would never forgive him if he supported the bill and he would therefore lose the next election. Rubin Stacy is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was born abt. 1898, in Thomas County, Georgia and Died on July 19, 1935.
James Bradley As a boy just shy of 6, Bradley, now 80 and a security monitor for the Dillard Museum, knew Stacey. “He was a laborer, a real tall man,” Bradley says. “He was well-liked by all the people who knew him.”
The Tuskegee Institute has recorded 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites being lynched between 1882 and 1968, with the annual peak occurring in the 1890s, at a time of economic stress in the South and political suppression of blacks. A five-year study published in 2015 by the Equal Justice Initiative found that nearly 3,959 black men, women, and children were lynched in the twelve Southern states between 1877 and 1950.
The 4 white girls have never been officially identified.