Black Miami in the Twentieth Century

Black Miami in the Twentieth Century

Black Miami in the Twentieth Century

Black Miami in the Twentieth Century


"A necessity for every African American who has ever lived in Dade County, or South Florida for that matter". -- Garth Reeves, publisher emeritus, Miami Times

"A very ambitious project, and therein lies its great contribution: no one before has written a comprehensive history of Greater Miami's unique black community". -- Paul S. George, Miami Dade Community College

The first book devoted to the history of African Americans in south Florida and their pivotal role in the growth and development of Miami, Black Miami in the Twentieth Century traces their triumphs, drudgery, horrors, and courage during the first 100 years of the city's history. Firsthand accounts and over 130 photographs, many of them never published before, bring to life the proud heritage of Miami's black community.

Beginning with the legendary presence of black pirates on Biscayne Bay, Marvin Dunn sketches the streams of migration by which blacks came to account for nearly half the city's voters at the turn of the century. From the birth of a new neighborhood known as "Colored Town", Dunn traces the blossoming of black businesses, churches, civic groups, and fraternal societies that made up the black community. He recounts the heyday of "Little Broadway" along Second Avenue, with photos and individual recollections that capture the richness and vitality of black Miami's golden age between the wars.

A substantial portion of the book is devoted to the Miami civil rights movement, and Dunn traces the evolution of Colored Town to Overtown and the subsequent growth of Liberty City. He profiles voting rights, housing and school desegregation, and civil disturbances like the McDuffie and Lozano incidents, and analyzesthe issues and leadership that molded an increasingly diverse community through decades of strife and violence. In concluding chapters, he assesses the current position of the community -- its socioeconomic status, education


The Great Freeze which struck the southeastern United States in the winter of 1894-1895 propelled ruined farmers and farm workers, white and black, to settle in warmer south Florida. Ultimately, this led to the arrival of the Florida East Coast Railroad at Biscayne Bay in 1896 and the founding of the City of Miami in that year.

The black section of the new city was called Colored Town, and although other black communities developed in Coconut Grove and south Dade, it was Colored Town that became the focus of black life in Dade County. An informal color line restricted Miami blacks to living only in Colored Town, and as a result, a healthy and viable black business and professional community evolved to meet black needs. Blacks from the Bahamas continued to arrive in south Florida, and by the turn of the century a considerable percentage of the city's black population was from the islands. Their presence influenced many aspects of the cultural and religious life of the community.

The Railroad Comes to Biscayne Bay (1896)

Only the southern tip of Florida was spared by the Great Freeze. Sensing an opportunity to build the city she had envisioned, Julia Tuttle wrote to Henry Flagler. Tuttle promised to give half of her 640 acres to Flagler for the building of a city if he would bring his railroad to Biscayne Bay. William Brickell, who owned thousands of acres south of the Miami River, also agreed to donate half of his land to the new city.

A widely believed story holds that Tuttle convinced Flagler by sending him an orange blossom from her grove after the Great Freeze. However, it is contradicted somewhat by the memoirs of John Sewell, Flagler's lead man in building the city, who wrote, "Mr. Ingraham [FEC vice-president for lands and development] was in the Miami section a few days after the great freeze in 1895 that killed practically all of the citrus trees in Florida, and killed coconut trees at Palm Beach, the thermometer going down into the twenties. Mr. Ingraham found orange blooms here on citrus trees that were at that time unhurt and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.