Thursday, April 21, 2011

Florida History: Woodlawn, Fort Lauderdale's African-American cemetery

By Jane Feehan
For more history, visit my history blog at

Since the early 1900s Woodlawn Cemetery was the final resting place for Fort Lauderdale’s African- Americans, migrant workers and indigent.  As segregation receded into the chronicles of history and caretakers died, the cemetery fell into disrepair. For years it served as a place to dump trash, sell drugs and conduct other illicit activities.

The cemetery is located at NW 9th Street off Sunrise Boulevard, adjacent to Interstate 95. Many of Woodlawn's headstones have disappeared over the decades. Infants interred in graves without markers added to identification issues. The section dedicated to them was eventually taken over by I-95 construction.

The 1990s heralded change. First, Woodlawn was brought into Fort Lauderdale’s network of city cemeteries in 1996. Then  the Woodlawn Cemetery Revitalization Committee was established and raised $250,000 in donations. Funds were used to build walkways and install landscaping, fencing and signage. The cemetery was rededicated and restored to dignity October, 2002.

The total number and identities of those buried at Woodlawn may never be known. It’s the resting place for many of Fort Lauderdale’s pioneers, including some who came from the Bahamas to help build Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway. It’s also the final home to lynching victim Rubin Stacy* (d. July 19, 1935).

*For information regarding the Rubin Stacy lynching, see:

Sun-Sentinel. “A cemetery’s revival,” Jane Feehan, Oct. 20, 2002.

Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, African-American history, cemetery history,history of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Black history

1 comment:

Mary E. McNair-Jones said...

my great grandmother Mary A. McNair is interred in Woodlawn . Im so thrilled at the preservation that was made to restore this Infamous African American Burial Ground. My great-grandmother was buried there in 1973. At that time I was young and forgot where she was interred, those family members have passed on that could've identified where her plot was located. I wish the records that held that information were available,but because of the mismanagement of records those records are lost forever. I am so thankful to the preservation of this site. Because her name is written on the monuments filled my heart. I shed tears seeing her name posted. my great-grandfather James Stephens, his wife Martha- their daughter Maggie Stephens, also their sons Charles and Fred Stephens are among the many buried there. THANK_YOU, and GOD BLESS THE COMMITTEE responsible for this beautiful gift to the black community in Broward County