Cover image for Black Miami in the twentieth century
Black Miami in the twentieth century
Dunn, Marvin, 1940-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Gainesville : University Press of Florida, [1997]

Physical Description:
xviii, 414 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Reading Level:
1270 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F319.M6 D86 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"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 analyzes the 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 issues, residential patterns, and business development--and considers the effect of recent waves of immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Dunn combines exhaustive research in regional media and archives with personal interviews of pioneer citizens and longtime residents in a work that documents as never before the life of one of the most important black communities in the United States.

Author Notes

Marvin Dunn , professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University, is coauthor of The Miami Riot of 1980: Crossing the Bounds .

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Coconut Grove was one of many settlements that were central to blacks in Dade County; its history, and that of other nearby segregated communities, shaped the long, bitter history between blacks and whites over the past century and a half. Dunn has produced a model of local history by using all the unique events, personages, and economic trends to illustrate developments taking place in the large national context. The Overland and Liberty City riots in the 1980s mirrored widespread frustrations with limited economic opportunities, housing, and deep-seated police violence that blossomed after generations of abuse. Following the turn of the century, the increased availability of work resulted in a greater presence of blacks in southern Florida. Dunn illustrates how these people were exploited for cheap labor and for blocks of votes to suit the dominant white business community. Segregated life did not necessarily suffocate enterprise and talent. However, the spheres of black activity remained heavily circumscribed and brutally repressed, as demonstrated by the findings of a Dade County grand jury that the local police force was guilty of using a "crude electric chair" to extort confessions from black suspects. This dramatic anecdotal evidence is complemented by statistical information, photographs, and a wealth of data. A thoughtful discussion of recent Caribbean immigration, notably Haitians and Cubans, and its impact on the native black community also brings this study's relevance up to the moment. All levels. J. Kleiman University of Wisconsin Colleges