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Trayvon Martin case is a black eye for Sanford

As public scrutiny mounts, the city of Sanford struggles with its reputation

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The history of Goldsboro is something of a footnote in the archives of Sanford history. The names of Goldsboro's community leaders were given the dubious honor of having the city's public housing projects named after them when they were built in the 1950s through the 1970s, but now even those decrepit complexes are no longer in use, decommissioned over the past two years due to years of neglect and disrepair under the management of the troubled Sanford Housing Authority. Oliver says that for years, she was told by local historians that the reason the little town's history is so sparsely documented is that “black people didn't preserve their history.” But the museum she opened just last year in the little blue trailer, which is crammed full of yellowed newspaper clippings in binders, folders and picture frames, historic photos of Goldsboro's founding families and artifacts from original Goldsboro homes and businesses, present a different picture.

Oliver sat in on the NAACP hearings at Allen chapel, and she listened to King, Duncan and others tell their stories. She says none of the things people have been recounting to the NAACP are new – in addition to the things she documents in her book, she says, they've been going on for generations and have become a quiet legacy of, if not overt racism, an unspoken racial unrest that's always bubbling just beneath the surface.

“There has always been tension between Sanford and Goldsboro,” she says, a sentiment that was echoed by Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett in a recent story printed in the Orlando Sentinel.

In 2011, the 100th anniversary of the annexation of Goldsboro by Sanford, the Goldsboro Westside Community Historical Museum was founded with the city's help. The property it sits on is owned by the city of Sanford, and Oliver says it was a step in the right direction when it comes to recognizing the sometimes tense race relations in the city. She says she hoped some goodwill and healing could take place in the city. But then Zimmerman shot Martin and the old wounds were re-opened.

Though current city leadership may not be perfect, Oliver says, the mayor and City Commission are at least willing to listen and try to make things right. “Mayor Triplett got some sense,” she says. Indeed, the mayor has been praised by black leaders for his quick response when asked to fly to Washington, D.C., to meet with federal leaders to discuss the Martin case. When asked to release the 911 tapes from the night Martin was killed, he did so. He has appeared at contentious meetings and rallies and promised “that there will be no stone that won't be overturned” in determining whether Sanford police acted inappropriately after the shooting. He was even at the NAACP hearing, sitting in a pew and quietly taking notes as residents expressed their outrage. Part way through the meeting, Jealous called him up to address the crowd. Looking a little tired and uncomfortable and perhaps even a bit nervous, the fair-haired 43-year-old Triplett assured everyone that he shared their concerns about Martin's death and the stories they told that day. “I truly want everybody to know that I take this personally,” he said. “But you can't right the ship in one day. We have to take it one step at a time.”

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