Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery. It was on June 19, 1865 that Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Tx. with news that the war had ended and that all slaves were free.
Unfortunately, the news was delivered two and a half years after former President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official on January 1, 1863. Because of the minimal number of Union troops available to enforce the new executive order, the document had little impact on Texans.
To celebrate Juneteenth, Old Dillard Museum in Fort Lauderdale will sponsor a jazz concert with Cynthia Strachan Sanders. The museum will also feature an exhibit including the memorabilia of the people, businesses and artifacts of the Carver Ranches community, which began in 1940. The community is now part of the city of West Park.
The exhibit is one of many celebrations of Juneteenth around South Florida.
All items featured in the exhibit were donated by some of Carver Ranches’ pioneers, and will be on display through July 30.
This is Old Dillard’s third year of celebrating Juneteenth, according to Derek Davis, the museum’s curator.
Despite the myths, Davis said, Juneteenth was a promise to “give blacks the same entitlements to life that everyone else in America had. Unfortunately, when the Constitution was written, it was decided that blacks would be denied their full rights as citizens.’’
He continued: “It wasn’t until the Emancipation Proclamation that the right to citizenship, especially in the rebellious states, was promised to blacks.”
Davis added that the exhibit “looks at the same promise, just in a more current era. In 1940, we were still seeking that promise; wanting to live free and develop our own community within the Fort Lauderdale area.”
Carver Ranches was considered as the “promise in the palmetto,” Davis said.
In 2005, Carver Ranches became a part of the city of West Park, which also comprises the communities of Miami Gardens (in Broward County), Lake Forest and Utopia.
Sanders authored the book, Promises From the Palmetto Bush: The Genesis of Carver Ranches, in which she, over a two-year period, compiled oral history interviews with Carver Ranches’ pioneers and photographs from their early years.
“It wasn’t my choice,” Sanders said about writing the book, “it came to me. When I moved back home from Trinidad,
I lived with my father. I wanted to know more about his family, who were Bahamian.’’
She continued: “Most of his childhood was spent in Carver Ranches; I was raised there. I found his stories fascinating.”
Sanders said that she went from “tracing my father’s family to tracing the entire community. My research took me on a ride and I just went along.”
The 300-acre land on which Carver Ranches sits was deeded to Carver Ranches, Inc. in September 1940 by W.G. Story and his wife, M.P. Story, according to the Abstract of Title.
The purchase price was not listed.
Carver Ranches, Inc. was owned by H.E. Foster, Donald F. Anderson and Carl T. Hoffman, all white men, according to Katherine Lumpkin Strachan, 88, Carver Ranches’ first settler. Strachan said there is no clear relationship between her and Sanders.
“It was me, my [then] husband Harrison [Strachan] and our dog,” said Strachan, who now lives in Liberty City. “It was dark; there were no street lights back then, just snakes and dirt roads.”
Strachan, who worked in a laundry in Miami, said that Hoffman came to their home in Overtown and told them about the property.
“It was on a Sunday. He said that they were building houses in Broward County and asked me and Harrison if we wanted to see them. We liked what we saw, so being the first, we got to choose the one we wanted.
“They were building three [houses] at that time.”
Strachan said she made a down payment of $75 on the $750 house and lot located at 4518 Orlando Street. The couple moved in in 1941.
“I just wanted to own,” she said, “even if I was taking a chance. At that time, I was earning 16 cents per hour in the laundry. Later I made three dollars a day, which was really good money back then. I simply made do with what I had.”
Later, Strachan became a nurse and retired from Jackson Memorial Hospital.
At that time, Carver Ranches comprised 43 city blocks; the average lot size was 150 feet by 50 feet. It was bordered by Pembroke Road to the north, Miami Drive to the south, Delerey Avenue on the east and Virginia Avenue on the west.
Street names changed to numbers sometime during the ‘50s, Sanders said.
Carver Ranches was populated by people from Liberty City, Overtown, Railroad Shop and Blood Bucket. Some purchased homes in Carver Ranches; others purchased in Miami and had the homes moved.
Some homes were actually military barracks, Sanders said, “purchased directly from the military. People installed partitions to section off rooms.”
According to Strachan, property in Carver Ranches was only sold to black people.
“When we dealt with Hoffman, and I don’t remember his exact words, but he said something like black folks were being taken advantage of with the rents and we should have the chance to buy something,” Strachan said.
She added that whites never entered Carver Ranches unless they were salesmen.
“And we never had a problem all the time we were there,” she said.
Although there was no racism in Carver Ranches, the neighboring communities were still not accepting of blacks being so close.
Strachan said that when riding the Miami streetcars to work, blacks were verbally abused if they moved too close toward the front.
“I just kept my Bible and tried to look past them,” she said. “But that was then and Miami has really changed.”
Sanders said that blacks were not allowed in neighboring Hollywood after five o’clock.
“If you worked late, your boss had to drop you off in Carver Ranches, or the police would pick you up,” she said.
“Sometimes, they would bring you back into the community, and others, you were arrested.”
Strachan recalled visiting the First National Bank of Hollywood to open a savings account.
“I didn’t realize they didn’t have any black customers. They asked, ‘What are you doing in here n-.’ I kept my money and never went back.”
Strachan kept the house after her divorce in 1954 and returned to Miami in 1962.
The house has since been demolished.
The community’s first school, Carver Ranches Elementary, opened in 1949. The seven-and-one-half acres on which it sits was donated by Hoffman. It was closed in 1977 because of integration, but reopened as the Susie Daniel Charter School in 1977.
“With integration, white children would have been bused into Carver Ranches and their parents didn’t want that,” Sanders explained.
Because of an insufficient number of schools, black children from the community were bused to Christopher Attucks in what is now Dania Beach, Dillard in Fort Lauderdale, Booker T. Washington in Miami and Lanier Jr. High in what is now Hallandale Beach.
Black people soon began to organize the community and open businesses, Sanders said. Stores, juke joints, fish markets and candy stores became neighborhood staples.
“Some are still there,” said Sanders. “Days Cleaners is the oldest business in the community, and Hanks Store is next. Many of the pioneers never left the community. Carver Ranches is a well-kept secret.”
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Cynthia Strachan Sanders
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Old Dillard’s Celebration of Juneteenth and Carver Ranches
WHERE: Old Dillard Museum, 1009 NW 4th Street, Fort Lauderdale.
WHEN: Friday, June 19, 6 to 8 p.m. The display is open through July 30. Regular museum hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
COST: Free and open to the public.
CONTACT: For additional information, contact Derek Davis at 754-322-8828 or email
In addition to Old Dillard’s Juneteenth celebration, other events will take place around the region, including:
• The city of Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation will present its Juneteenth Celebration. The event, co-sponsored by the Broward County School Board and the Rock Island Homeowners Association, will take place at Osswald Park, 2220 NE 21st Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. The event, from 6 to 8 p.m., is free and open to the public. For more information, call 954-497-1636 or visit www.fortlauderdale.gov/life
• The Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Drive in Miami, will host a celebration of the 144th Anniversary of Juneteenth on Saturday, June 20. This free celebration begins at 10 a.m. with the Championship Game of the Weed & Seed/Helping Hands Youth Center Inc. flag football tournament. Next, at 1 p.m., there will be a brain bowl competition, carnival and midway games at the park until 5 p.m. For more information, please call 305-960-4600.