FACTS: BLACK HISTORY MONTH began with the courageous efforts of Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Dr. Woodson noticed that black youth were not receiving enough education about their ancestors’ achievements. To encourage the sharing of this valuable information, Dr. Woodson developed Negro History and Literature Week in 1924 with his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. In a quest to continue to promote the achievements of black people in America, Dr. Woodson initiatied Negro History Week in 1926. Fifty years after Negro History Week was estabish, President Gerald Ford proclaimed February as Black History Month. Since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme. For 2021, the Black History Month theme is “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity” explores the African diaspora, and the spread of Black families across the United States.

Questions and Answers

Question: When did Black people/families arrive in Miami? Black people have always been a part of Miami’s history. Before Julia Tuttle and Henry Flagler, who were credited as the builders of Miami, Black people, mostly Bahamians, were already here as the first settlers. Black people were also critical to Miami’s incorporation in 1896 and were needed to sign the city’s charter in order to reach the number of male voters needed to form a new city. Of the 368 men who voted to incorporate Miami, 162 of them were Black. In fact, the first name on the city’s charter was Silas Austin, a Black man. Black people also mostly occupied Overtown and Coconut Grove, which is the oldest inhabited neighborhood in Miami.

Question: I live in Miami but I do not know the history of black people in Miami. Where can I start to learn more? You can begin by reading about the rich history of surrounding communities. One outstanding resource shares the history of Richmond Heights, steps away from CRHS, through written words and a movie documentary that profiles the original homeowners of the Richmond Heights community. “Miami’s Richmond Heights, by Patricia Harper Garrett and Jessica Garrett Modkins, chronicles the beginnings of the original residents who were World War II veterans, including Tuskegee Airmen, as well as Fortune 500 presidents, doctors, university professors, and many other professionals. It explores the vision for the community, how it translated to residents, and to Pres. Harry Truman’s involvement.”


A second outstanding resource is Black Miami in the Twentieth Century (Florida History and Culture) by Marvin Dunn. Black Miami is “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.”

Every home, school and public library,and coffee shop in Dade County should have these two books. While you wait for these books to be delivered to your home, access the internet. Allow yourself to be immersed in Black History: The Miami Edition by increasing your knowledge of these prominent black Miami figures: Senator Larcenia Bullard, Rep. Edward Bullard, Senator Dwight Bullard, Dr. Albert Dotson, Sr., Attorney Albert Dotson, Jr., Dr. Joseph C Coats, Sr., Dr. Herbert Greene, Rev. John Ferguson, Lt. Col. Eldridge Williams, Judge Donald Graham, Herbert Ammons, Odell John, Olivia Edwards, Dr. Linkston Thomas, Dr. Irwin M Potash, and Miriam Pratt. #blackhistoryfacts

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Let’s continue to increase our knowledge, broaden our horizons and learn about all aspects of Miami history during Black History Month and throughout the year.

Belinda Gordon-Battle, MED, MS, LCPC