Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke drops institutional knowledge about Miami's African American roots.
As we spend another February celebrating Black History Month, the reality is that many African-Americans in Miami don't know dark-skinned folks were among the first pioneers to settle here. We have been hoodwinked into believing African-Americans have always been second-class citizens.
The truth is we built this city. We need to know what was taken from us.
Sixty-five percent of Miami's settlers in the early 1900s were from the West Indies. By 1920, the city's 29,571 residents included nearly 5,000 Bahamians, who created historic neighborhoods in West Coconut Grove and Overtown.
Fisher Island, the most luxurious, exclusive land in Miami, was first owned by real-estate developer Dana A. Dorsey, South Florida's first African-American millionaire. He sold the property for $100,000 to Carl Fisher, the Indiana industrialist who built Miami Beach into a resort town where black people had to leave by sunset. Miami-Dade opened a school in Dorsey's honor, the D.A. Dorsey Center in Liberty City, in 1970.
Blacks were thriving in Miami until the city let a railroad get built straight through Overtown. That was the first blow because it industrialized a once vibrant residential neighborhood. Then they built Interstate 95, driving down property values even further and forcing a mass exodus for the second blow. Now we are seeing developers trying to wipe out what's left of the West Grove's Bahamian community.
Students deserve the opportunity to learn about Dorsey's legacy and how Bahamians wre among the city's first pioneers. People look at Bahamians like they just got here. But they were the ones who established Miami. In order to overcome, like Martin Luther King Jr. preached, we must understand our place in history. Public schools should consider setting up a black curriculum, especially at schools in Overtown, Liberty City, and Miami Gardens. Native Americans learned their history and used it to their advantage. That's why so many tribes have been successful building casinos.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
If Miami's African-Americans really knew their history, we would elect more fighters to represent us. Knowing about Dorsey means I or any other black person doesn't have to feel shame or feel out of place playing golf on Fisher Island.
When people look at me like I don't belong there, I can tell them: "A black man owned this spot first."