Miami’s 125th anniversary honoring four notable historians

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Written by Marilyn Bowden on July 20, 2021

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Miami 125, a week-long event celebrating the official 125th anniversary of the city’s incorporation, honors four notable historians, all local, recipients of so many awards and other recognitions that listing them all would fill many pages. .

Public historian Dorothy Jenkins Fields is perhaps best known for founding the Black Archives History & Research Foundation of South Florida, now known as The Black Archives Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex, which not only preserves the rich history of Black Miami, but also serves as a symbol of pride in South Florida and a legacy for future generations.

The inspiration for this achievement came in 1974 when Dr. Fields, then a librarian and reading teacher in the Miami-Dade County Public School System, searched the county library system for books written by African Americans. in preparation for the bicentennial of the United States – and came empty-handed. When asked why such books weren’t available, a county librarian said, “I guess these people haven’t thought enough of themselves to write their story.

Dismayed, Dr Fields was motivated to begin collecting primary sources from Overtown’s pioneers, photographs and letters to advertisements, which documented a thriving business and cultural community.

“As a historian specializing in public history, I use lessons from the past to provide a glimpse into the future,” she says. “It brings me joy and a greater desire to reach more young people, to encourage them to prepare to be part of this important endeavor – to be part of Miami’s transformation with a helping hand, not a helping hand. hand.”
For decades, as a resident historian of the HistoryMiami Museum, Paul George has brought history to life with popular walking, coach and boat tours filled with memorable anecdotes about neighborhoods, landmarks and landmarks. historic South Florida.

He was also a narrator and lead actor in a landmark Miami News / Freedom Tower documentary produced by WLRN Television. The documentary was selected as the best film in its category by the Florida Motion Picture Archives Louis Wolfson II in 2004.

While such activities have given Dr George a public image, they represent only a small part of his work as a historian. He organizes exhibitions, writes books and articles, gives lectures. He has taught history at several colleges and universities, most recently at Miami Dade College.

An indifferent student by his own admission, Dr George was inspired by a history teacher at Archbishop Curley High School. “He made it so alive with his lectures and his anecdotes,” he says. “Now I only have love for this discipline.

“History is important. It gives us a daily perspective on our world and everything that is happening. This can be a source of comfort as well as a warning to avoid taking certain paths that have not worked or caused disasters in the past. “

Preservation leader Enid C. Pinkney has worked aggressively to ensure that the role of African Americans in Miami’s history is recognized and preserved. As the first black president of the Dade Heritage Trust, she successfully fought to save a number of historically significant sites, from Hampton House, where black celebrities such as Nat King Cole, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. remained in Jim Crow’s day at Lemon City Cemetery.

This is another cemetery that sparked Ms. Pinkney’s zeal for preservation.

She was a schoolteacher when she attended a TV show filmed in the historic Miami City Cemetery in honor of the area pioneers who were buried there. They were all white.

“I knew black people were buried there, but they weren’t included,” she says. “I felt it had to be known, so I researched and found over 3,000 people buried there. It got me interested in what might be a forgotten part of our history. I realized that you have to know the foundation you are standing on and respect that.

Eventually, Ms. Pinkney was able to find 20 Black Miamians whose ancestors were buried in the Miami City Cemetery and get another show produced to honor them.

Historian Arva Moore Parks, whose book “Miami: The Magic City” is widely admired, died in 2020. In the “Miami Stories” archives of the HistoryMiami Museum, she left a tribute to the city and to the discipline that ‘she loved.

“How lucky I was to be born and grow up in Miami,” she wrote.

“Miami taught me to be open to change and to adapt to the unexpected. It taught me to accept people and welcome newcomers. It gave me a thirst to learn. When I first started writing the history of Miami and working to preserve its important places, I called on all of these memories of people, places and events to help me. When I write about Miami, I always include everyone in the story. Every day I realize more and more that there is no better place to live if you want to get off to a good start in America’s future and always have a great story to tell.


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