The Miami Ghetto Story
When people think about the Miami ghetto, the areas of Overtown, Little Haiti, or Liberty City are the main communities to come up first.
While those sections are the only black communities that are in the city limits of Miami, together with Coconut Grove, there are other predominantly black neighborhoods throughout Dade County, some that have been around for generations and others that did not have African-Americans living there until the 1960s and 1970s.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and originally called Colored Town, Overtown was once considered the “Harlem of the South” as 2nd Avenue was the heart of Miami’s black community and the only place black families could live at, outside of West Grove, a small community in Coconut Grove that was founded by Bahamians.
Overtown is a historic community that became the center of black society in South Florida with entertainment and black-owned businesses. Unfortunately, the decline of the community began in the 1960s as Interstate 95 was placed directly in the heart of Overtown, which displaced thousands of people and a number of businesses.
Currently, the neighborhood is still experiencing gentrification and is constantly changing as the close distance to Miami’s downtown is allowing the construction of high-rise luxury condos and upscale businesses.
In the Miami ghetto, the streets of Overtown has a number of sections in the community like Swamp City and Culmer Place, bounded by NW 7th Avenue and I-95, or apartments like Rainbow Village and Town Park.
Not until the building of the Liberty Square (Pork N Beans) housing projects, in the 1930s, did Liberty City begin to become predominantly black, with the community slowly expanding to nearby Brownsville (Brown Sub) and 15th Avenue becoming one of Miami’s most popular sites within Miami’s black community.
In the early 1900s, there was a small community known as the Railroad Shop around what is now Hadley Park, which only lasted until the 1940s after people were evicted from the area.^
Unfortunately, Liberty City is also known for one of Florida’s worst race riots in the summer of 1980, after years of racial tension from the lack of opportunities to the mistreatment of people in the community, along with a cover-up of a local African-American being killed by police. After a few days of rioting, over 10 people were found dead and over 1,000 were arrested.**
Many may know Liberty City for the streets in the Miami ghetto, whether it’s the days of the many Miami legends and entrepreneurs like Convertible Bert or the days of the Cloud 9 and John Does during the 1990s.
Liberty City or the City is one of Miami’s largest communities with neighborhoods like Lincoln Field, Pork N Beans, PSU, 6-1, 15th Avenue, and other blocks and apartment complexes.
What began as a small community named Lemon City slowly changed during the 1970s, as Haitian refugees fled the corruption of their native country to live in Miami.
Mostly all were placed in the Lemon City area, which already had a black presence, helping Lemon City to eventually become known as Little Haiti.
One of Dade County’s most legendary neighborhoods in the Miami ghetto and home to the community known by the media as the Triangle around Ali Baba Avenue and apartment complexes known locally as the Pinks and the Blues.
With the media constantly showing the violence in Opa-Locka during the 1980s and 1990s the city decided to place steel barriers in a certain area, an area that became known as the Triangle, to help keep out traffic. This section of Opa-Locka would later become known as 21 Jump Street.
Opa-Locka is a unique city with many historic and Arabic style like buildings. When the city of Opa-Locka was created there were policies that kept black residents from moving into Opa-Locka.
By the 1960s and 70s, many people began to move from their older neighborhoods and into new areas, making Opa-Locka one of the few neighborhoods that black families relocated to.
Wynwood is a neighborhood that was once called Little San Juan, after being Miami’s culture center for Puerto Ricans that arrived during the 1950s. Not until the 1970s did the community become more diverse with blacks and Latinos.
Today the community is becoming more of a gentrified neighborhood, with the near location to Biscayne Blvd, as investors are trying to make the area more of an upscale shopping and tourist district.
Neighborhoods like Behind the P, Bunche Park, Carol City, and the Norland area, which consists of Norwood and Cloverleaf, are the main sections that are in the city limits of Miami Gardens.
Before Miami Gardens, many neighborhoods had their own reputation, like Carol City with the Matchbox Projects or Opa-Locka’s Behind the P neighborhood, together with a few other communities and apartments.
Miami Gardens has 75% of its population living in the black community, making it one of the country’s largest cities that has a predominantly black population.
Miami Gardens was officially created in the early 2000s, as an attempt to make it an all-black middle-class neighborhood, but little has changed since the merger of Carol City and Miami Gardens.
South Miami-Dade County
The South Miami ghetto is less talked about as many people look over the neighborhoods of Richmond Heights, Goulds, Perrine, Naranja, Florida City or the South Miami apartments around SW 68th Street and SW 59th Place.
One of Miami’s oldest black communities in the city is Perrine, a community that was once diverse with white and black families until the community had separated with US 1 / Dixie Hwy being the dividing line.
Nearby Richmond Heights, right off SW 152nd Street, was one of the first subdivisions built strictly for black families during the 1950s in the country, as war veterans were coming home and needed better housing.
The streets of the Miami ghetto in South Dade County are no different from a Carol City or Little Haiti.
Neighborhoods like Goulds built a reputation in the areas of Chocolate City (Arthur Mays projects) or Cross the Tracks, Naranja with sections from SW 264th street to SW 268th street and the apartments and neighborhoods of Perrine like Rainbow City.
The black community of Coconut Grove is sometimes referred as West Grove or Black Grove, being located along Grand Avenue.
Coconut Grove is one of Florida’s oldest communities, after being created in the 1880s by Bahamians that worked in the service industry which included hotels and restaurants, while also helping with the early development of Miami and South Florida.^^
Coconut Grove had originally started around Charles Avenue, but would later expand from Charles Avenue to Day Avenue.^^
This once thriving area in the early 1900s started to decline beginning in the 1950s, as the city tore down and replaced many of the homes with apartment complexes, as a way to improve the community but instead actually harmed the area.
Today, Coconut Grove is one of Miami’s most luxurious neighborhoods and gentrification seems to be slowly heading towards the West Grove section, as the property values are rising.
The housing projects played a huge role in the forming of the Miami ghetto.
The first housing project that was created was the Pork N Beans (Liberty Square) in Liberty City, which was built to relieve the overcrowding in Overtown and as a way to move people from Overtown, since the community’s location and land had been sought after since the beginning of the 1900s.
Carver Village, built in the area of Little Haiti and Liberty City, was one of the first times that blacks were able to live outside of their traditional segregated communities, even though many black families had problems and confrontations moving into the community after the housing complex was originally for white residents only.
The city’s housing projects would later be under controversy, with problems from the government cutting funding, which led many complexes to not be properly up kept, to management and police evicting tenants and placing restrictions on the residents.
Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.
**PBS “Eyes On The Prize: Riots In Florida” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/eyesontheprize/story/23_florida.html
^^Labbee, William. “Black Grove Feature” http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/black-grove-feature-6365177. MiamiNewsTimes.com. 1991.
^Miami-Dade Transit presents The Black History Tours: http://www.miamidade.gov/transit/library/blackhist.pdf