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Miami's Black History

Once known as Colored Town, and now the “Harlem of the South”, Overtown is one of the oldest Black cities in Miami and was the epicenter of Black wealth, entertainment, and culture. Though segregated, the Black residents, entrepreneurs, and professionals built a thriving community. However, with the construction of I-95, this progress was decimated and over 15,000 people were displaced. Systemic neglect and isolation caused dozens of businesses to close and widespread poverty. Hundreds of community members and activists have come together in years since to reclaim the history and valor of this historic community.

Liberty Square was home to a thriving Black community in the United States’ first public housing project in the Southeast. Though segregated, with a physical wall still in existence today, this community was the promise of a better life for many Black Miamians. However, by the 1960s white flight had taken many resources and promises to other parts of the city. By 1980 with the acquittal of several police officers who beat and killed resident Arthur McDuffie, years of injustice boiled over into race riots that destroyed much of the community. The city received funds to restore and rebuild, however, these funds were again distributed elsewhere. The community has struggled to recover and with the redevelopment of Liberty Square, Liberty City Rising, many of the age-old concerns about neglect and displacement continue. Read a history of Liberty City from the New Tropic here.

Coconut Grove is the earliest settlement in Miami-Dade as many Black Bahamians settlers came to build what is now known as the Peacock Inn. The community thrived in the mid-1880s and the early 1900s with Black-owned businesses and historic shotgun houses. After WWII, the community began to have an influx of veterans and other white settlers who then pushed out most of the community. Many legacy residents, historians, and activists are speaking out about this rich history and seeking to preserve the remnants of this fruitful community. Click here to watch episodes 2 and 3.

Miami’s historic Black-only beach opened in 1945. The luxurious Miami Beach we know today was off-limits to Black Miamians without a work-only permit. Therefore, Virginia Key opened as a sacred and safe haven for the Black community as a major gathering place. It remained segregated through the 50s but was closed in 1982 by the city of Miami due to claims of the high cost of maintenance and operations. In 1999 the Virginia Key Beach Trust was established as a board of Black stakeholders to oversee the park and in 2002 was registered as a National Historic Place. In 2022 the park was taken over by the Miami city commission in replace of the historic trust with talks of placing a homeless encampment on the site.

Miami Carol City Senior High School. Photo courtesy of Tilt-up Concrete Association.

Miami Gardens, once developed as military housing became home to many advancing Black Miamians as they were displaced from communities like Overtown into Carol City and Richmond Heights. The community has since been a place called home for many Black Miamians and was pushed to incorporate by Black activists in 2003.

Brownsville is home to the Historic Hampton House and was a bustling community during the Green Book era. The community is known for its historians like Dr. Enid Pinkney and its impact on the civil rights movement as a gathering place for leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali. The Dade Heritage Trust in the community is now a staple committed to preserving Black Miami’s historic places. The fight to keep Brownsville from being annexed into the city of Hialeah and to maintain its integrity has been upheld by local activists, and the mayor has halted plans to divide this community.