Black Miami Matters

Black Miami Matters Tour combines the most scenic with the most historic places in Miami.  As the gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean, Black Miami has a mixture of US influences along with Bahamian, Jamaican, Cuban, Honduran, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Seminole, Miccosukee, and Latin American influences.

In 1693 the King of Spain declared La Florida to be a “Slave Sanctuary” allowing escaped British slaves to live in freedom if they lived a Catholic life and baptized their children.  The Underground Railroad went south way before it went north. 

Don’t tell Governor DeSantis I highlight our Jim Crow past, our apartheid walls, “Colored Only” beaches, and an Underground Railroad monument.  I even show the Holocaust monument.  Shhh!  Don’t tell Ron!

Attention spans do not last past 3 hours, unless broken up by interesting stops.  Pick and choose what you want to see most.  My suggestion is to visit the Overtown sites on your own and use me to connect to all the other important parts of Black Miami, Coconut Grove, Liberty City, Wynwood, and Lemon City aka Little Haiti.   

  • Hampton House  
  • Lincoln Memorial Cemetery
  • Key Biscayne Lighthouse
  • Little Haiti Cultural Center
  • Virginia Key Beach
In Overtown, there is enough to fill half a day on your own or with me.
  • Black Police Precinct (pictured)
  • Lyric Theater for a spectacular exhibit by the Black Archives
  • Red Rooster for lunch

 

  • Key Biscayne Lighthouse – A National Underground Railroad Monument. Maybe my favorite stop on any tour.  Takes 45-60 minutes,  Opens at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm on most days just for a short time. 
  • The Lighthouse overlooks Stiltsville and the beautiful reefs of Biscayne National Park.  However, for the Black Miami Matters tour, the lighthouse signifies Freedom.  This was where Africans and Native Americans fled on boats to the Bahamas and Cuba to avoid being returned to their slave owner or sent on the Trail of Tears to a reservation in Oklahoma.  
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  • Bahamian Coconut Grove (Village West) – Home to many 4th and 5th generation Grove families, Shotgun homes, Father Gibson’s church,  GW Carver k-12, Stirrup House, an apartheid wall, and the cemetery where Thriller was filmed.  
  • Recommended time is 45 minutes

Bahamian born Father Gibson was an iconic civil rights leader with churches in Coconut Grove and Overtown. 

Athalie Range was born in Key West to Bahamian parents, another iconic civil rights leader that was in President Carter’s limo when the the limo was pelted w rocks right after the McDuffie riots.  

A black neigborhood in Coral Gables?  Wasn’t that illegal?  Yes, Coral Gables was a Restricted neighborhood, and kind of still is. However, George Merrick left two areas on the other side of US1 for his Bahamian workers.  Anywhere you see the white stone street sign on the ground you are in the Gables. Few shotgun homes are left.  

Pictured on the left is Dr. John Brown, another iconic civil rights leader.  His wife still maintains the church they built, Church of the Open Door, in the heart of Liberty CIty.  

Virginia Beach was created in August 1945 after Rev Mundi and a dozen other veterans went swimming at Haulover Beach, an all white beach.  The white people went crazy.  A week later the city created Virginia Key beach.  Usually this tour just passes by the beach, but a stop can be requested. 

Liberty City, Lemon City, Little Haiti, Little River.  Even locals don’t know where one ends and the other begins.  

The 1980 McDuffie Riots left a scar still visible today.  A decorated Marine popped a wheelie on his motorcycle and wound up beaten to death by police.  An all white jury found the police not guilty and all hell broke loose.  

  • In the heart of Liberty City is Pork and Beans aka Liberty Square, now pretty much deserted, replaced by these lovely apartments.  If Related is replacing “Concrete Monsters” w  apartments like this, I’m all for it.
  • I want to know what the Related Group got in return for their beautiful work on Liberty Square.  Related projects are scattered all over Liberty City and Brownsville.
  • Do we need an investigative reporter?

Brownsville has Georgette’s Tea room, the Lincoln Cemetery, and the Hampton House.  Guides available at Lincoln Cemetery and the Hampton House.   

Georgette’s was Billie Holiday’s home away from home.  I have been showing Georgette’s for a decade and finally renovation has begun.  

Little Haiti, like almost all of Black Miami, is undergoing rapid gentrification.  The Buena Vista neighborhood with all those elegant 1920’s homes became a Haitian neighborhood back in the 1980’s.  Now Haitians are pushing north toward North Miami and NMB.  

Wynwood is one of the best stops on any tour.  The graffiti capital of the world.  The once Puerto Rican workers of the dormant garment factories is now thriving with nightlife and street art.  Afro Boricua Roberto Clemente was the leader of the first all black Pittsburgh Pirates that won a World Series.  Roberto Clemente park lies in the shadows of the ultra chic Edgewater condos facing Biscayne Bay.  

To enter Wynwood Walls now requires pre-registration and a fee, killing that special pre pandemic vibe Wynwood Walls had.  

The Museum of Graffiti next door is a also a nice stop.  

Recommended time in Wynwood is 20 minutes without a stop.  An hour with a stop.

Overtown is back, sort of, and Red Rooster is leading Overtown’s renaissance.  A great lunch stop loaded with Overtown history.  Between the Lyric Theater, Black Police Precinct, the Red Rooster, and the Dana Dorsey house (pictured) Overtown could take an hour or two.  

Why does the Black Miami Matters tour obsess over Muhammad Ali? 

In Miami we say Casius Clay was born in Louisville, Muhammad Ali was born in Miami.   

Miami is where Cassius Clay beat Sonny Liston in the most famous fight in boxing history.  The F.B.I. was so scared of Clay’s new friendship with Malcolm X and Clay’s joining the Nation of Islam, the FBI considered  canceling the fight at the Miami Beach Convention Center.  

I always pass by Muhammad Ali’s home passing from Brownsville to Liberty City on the Black Miami Matters tour.  A very simple house.  

Black history in the United States started in 1513 with Juan Garrido, a native of the Congo, who accompanied conquistador Ponce de Leon to help claim La Florida for the King of Spain.  

Spanish Florida was declared a “Slave Sanctuary” in 1693, meaning any slave escaping British America could live in freedom in Florida if they converted to Catholicism, baptised their children, and defended Florida against British attacks.  Not that they didn’t have slavery (see picture on left).  

St. Augustine was founded in 1565 w mostly native and African population.  A mix of escaped slaves, refugees from other Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, and a few Spanish. 

A black township named Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mosé was built a mile north of the city to defend the city from a British invasion. Today called Fort Mosé.  A visit to this state park will turn the history of Florida upside down from what Tallahassee teaches us.

The 300 years of Spanish Florida history has largely been erased by Tallahassee despite our long Native American and African history.   Led by General Andrew Jackson, America’s first ethnic cleanser, the United States attacked and stole both East and West Florida from Spain, leading to 50 years of war with the Black Seminoles, called the Seminole Wars bc Jackson could never admit his real motive was to recapture slaves for his slaveowner buddies.  Northern states would never have funded a Black Seminole war to recover slaves bc Northern states did not have slaves.  So Jackson lied, saying he had to pacify the savage natives.  

Africans mixed with multiple tribes, Upper Creeks, Lower Creeks, Red Stick Creeks, Miccosukee that were chased into Florida fighting the US Army,  the first war Americans never won.  

Our rich Native American and African history has had bleach poured all over it by Tallahassee.  Visit Florida has a long list of historical black sites around Florida, even one I did not know about in Miami.  If you are driving down the state to Miami, you especially need to stop at St. Augustine to push reset on everything you learned about Black history in America.