Discover Black Heritage: The Revitalization of Sistrunk Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale

If you’re searching for history in Fort Lauderdale, go no further than the Sistrunk Boulevard corridor. But don’t drive too fast – if you blink, you may miss it.

Sistrunk Boulevard is named after Dr. James Sistrunk, who helped establish Provident Hospital – the first hospital in Broward County for the Black community.  Community leaders say at one point, this was once a thriving Black business and professional district during the early 20th century.

Just ask Deborah Cooper, who has worked at Ivory’s Take Out and Convenience Store only two years, but has lived in this community more than 25 years.

“A lot of the people I know, the kids are growing up,” she said. “It’s like one big family.”

The store has sat at the corner of Northwest 23rd Avenue just as long. It’s sort of a staple in this community.

“It’s convenient, it’s a way to grab what you need quickly, and you don’t have to go to the large department stores,” she said.

Cooper says her community has changed through the years. They’re building more homes and apartments. New businesses are opening. But for a while, this area seemed lifeless

Dr. Tameka Bradley Hobbs is the library regional manager for the African American Research Library and Cultural Center, which is in the heart of the Sistrunk Boulevard corridor. She says after integration and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, African Americans had more options and many of them left the neighborhoods – and many of the businesses suffered.

“So, on the one hand, there is a victory in terms of the amount of equity and opportunity in our society,” she said. “But on the other side of that it did unfortunately results in a lot of loss.”

She says fortunately, there are a few businesses and churches keeping the Sistrunk legacy alive and plans to breathe new life into this community started several years ago.

“I’m really encouraged by what I see on Sistrunk Boulevard today with the development,” she said. “I think we always are concerned with the change of character of the neighborhood, but I think that those things remain to be seen whether or not we will still continue to see lots of activity and more growth and return of Black business owners to this corridor or if we will continue to see development and change.”

Back at the convenience store, Cooper says there’s a reason some of these businesses survived through the years.

“They’re still here because people know and trust you and they want to come by and patronize and keep these businesses open,” she said.