Rubin Stacy was a 29-year-old Black man who tragically became a victim of racial violence and lynching in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1935. He was lynched after a white woman named Marion Jones became frightened when he knocked on her door, leading to a false accusation.
Rubin Stacey’s life unfolded in a time when racial segregation and systemic discrimination were deeply entrenched in the fabric of the United States. The South, in particular, was a hotbed of racial tensions and violence against African Americans, and Rubin’s story is emblematic of this dark chapter in American history.
The tragic events that led to Rubin Stacey’s lynching began on July 16, 1935, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Rubin, a 29-year-old laborer, knocked on the door of a white woman named Marion Jones and asked for a drink. However, his mere presence frightened her, leading to a scream that would set off a chain of events that would ultimately claim his life.
In the racially charged atmosphere of the time, a white mob quickly formed, driven by prejudice and a thirst for violence.
After a three day search, Rubin Stacey was arrested by law enforcement, ostensibly for his own protection. However, the mob’s bloodlust was not quenched by this act. On the evening of July 19, 1935, the white mob overwhelmed the police and seized Rubin. They proceeded to brutally beat him before hanging him from a tree, near the home of Marion Jones, all while a crowd of onlookers including children watched in morbid fascination.
Two days after the lynching, the governor of Florida ordered an investigation into his death, but the coroner’s conclusion that he died at the hands of “a person or persons unknown” meant that no one was held accountable.
The lynching of Rubin Stacey drew national attention and sent shockwaves through the African American community. It exposed the pervasive racism that infected all levels of society, from law enforcement to the judicial system. One particularly disturbing image emerged from the lynching—a photograph of a white crowd, including children, standing around Rubin Stacey’s hanging body. This photo was used by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to rally support for anti-lynching legislation. Despite their efforts, the Costigan-Wagner Anti-Lynching Bill failed to gain sufficient support, underscoring the immense challenges faced in combatting racial violence.
In 1988, more than 50 years after Rubin Stacey’s lynching, new evidence came to light. Witnesses claimed that Sheriff Clark and his deputy (who was also his brother) had planned Rubin Stacey’s lynching and had been involved in the killings of other African Americans for minor offenses. This reign of terror continued until 1950 when they were removed from office and indicted on charges of corruption. Shockingly, they were later cleared when key witnesses “forgot” their testimony, revealing the deep-seated corruption and complicity that allowed racial violence to persist unchecked.
Today, Rubin Stacey is remembered at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, alongside countless other lynching victims. While the memorial opened in 2018, it took another four years for Rubin Stacey to be permanently and publicly remembered in the place where he lived and died.