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Boynton Beach commissioners unanimously repeal segregationist ordinances

City plans to burn ordinances at Sara Sims Park
Boynton Beach Commission Chambers sign
Posted at 10:16 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 22:27:08-05

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Commissioners in Boynton Beach on Tuesday night unanimously repealed three city ordinances that established segregated residential areas and created rules prohibiting residents of the opposite race from entering the areas at night.

The ordinances were created in 1924, establishing the "Negro District" and "White District" in what was then the town of Boynton.

A third ordinance passed in 1933 made it illegal for anyone 18 or older to "loiter, wander, stroll or be about in the public streets, parks, public or other places, on foot, in a vehicle or any kind whatsoever" in the other race's segregated district after a certain hour in the evening. It was created to "promote public peace, welfare, harmony and good order."

The ordinances were repealed on the 100th anniversary of the enactment of the first ordinance.

Earlier in the day, WPTV's Chris Gilmore spoke with Commissioner Woodrow Hay, who is Black, about the so-called sundown laws.

"I've seen it all turn for the better," Hay, who moved from Delray Beach to Boynton Beach in 1970, said. "Little did I know we still had these crazy ordinances on the books."

Chris Gilmore speaks with Boynton Beach Commissioner Woodrow Hay about city's segregationist ordinances, Feb. 20, 2024
WPTV's Chris Gilmore speaks with Boynton Beach Commissioner Woodrow Hay about the city's segregationist ordinances, Feb. 20, 2024, in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Hay said commissioners recently discovered the laws, which haven't been enforced, were still on the books.

"A lot of times we carry around baggage that we don't even know we are carrying around, and that's a baggage that we need to get rid of," Hay said.

Hay and fellow commissioners plan to burn the paper ordinances this weekend at Sara Sims Park and then host a community block party.

"We're going to have a great time after we burn (the ordinances)," Hays said. "We're going to explain to our kids why we're burning (the papers)."