A look back at local history.

🗣️ Memories of the Civil Rights Movement in Miami

A look back at local history.

By Zach Schlein

Welcome to Tuesday, Miami.

Yesterday may have been Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but as noted in last Friday’s newsletter, the pursuit of equal rights for all is hardly limited to just one day in the calendar year.

In honor of yesterday’s holiday and the ongoing fight to secure fair and decent treatment for all people, let’s have a look back at Miami civil rights history vis-à-vis this piece from The New Tropic archives…

💧 What Miami is talking about 


 (📸: Courtesy photo)

The Miami Oral Histories Collection features first-hand accounts of civil rights in Miami. Students at William H. Turner Technical High School recorded interviews and the FIU Libraries’ Digital Collection Center digitized, transcribed, and published the oral histories online. It’s a fascinating collection, and we’ve chosen a few moments from those interviews to remember the civil rights movement in our city.

On being a Civil Rights leader in Miami


M. Athalie Range.

M. Athalie Range was a civil rights pioneer in Miami, who led numerous efforts to improve schools and city services, establish parks, and organize the Black community. She was appointed Miami’s first Black city commissioner in 1966, after losing a campaign in 1965 when her opponent hired trucks to drive through white neighborhoods broadcasting the message that a Black woman would make laws if they did not vote. In 1971, she became the first woman and the first Black person since Reconstruction to head a state agency in Florida when she was appointed Secretary of the Department of Community Affairs. Interviewers asked her what it meant to the Black community when she was appointed to the city commission.

“Well, it meant a lot to the Blacks of Miami because prior to that time, Black people expressed no interest in what was going on. The laws were passed, we were overlooked, our garbage was picked up whenever they got around to picking it up, many, many things that may not seem important now was just thrust upon the Black community, street lights were very sparse, no sidewalks throughout most of the area, and as I– when I became city commissioner and began to learn of what it would take to get certain things done for the community, naturally I went after those things. I have said on several occasions that as simple as it is, one of the things that I started in my tenure was a regular garbage pick-up. Can you imagine having to sit in a governmental body and fuss about whether your garbage is picked up or not? Well, that is what was happening. They were — they had regular routes in the white areas for a bi-weekly pick-up, twice per week. And in the predominantly Black sections, which was segregated at that time, you were lucky if you got your garbage picked up once in two weeks. So I brought about the idea of having this equalized and after a demonstration of sorts, that did come about and today we still enjoy the equalization. Now if you can imagine garbage being a equal factor, then you know how bad things must have been.”

Virginia Key Beach

Virginia Key Beach was the only beach in Miami open to Blacks. It was a critical place in Black life in Miami, and most of the interviewees in the collection mention the beach. Jacob Sanders worked as a cook in a concession stand on the beach, and describes what it was like:

“Well, at Virginia Key Beach, it was very pleasant over there because we was thrilled to death to have it — have the beach because we didn’t have any other place to go swimming unless you go to what we called the ‘swimming holes’, you know, people always do that, this type of thing. And — but, the — you could — at Virginia Key Beach, you had the — on the other crossing — on the other side, you could see the whites over there, you know, swimming, enjoying the beach. But, they had a lot of facilities over there that we didn’t have on Virginia Key Beach. It was much nicer over there on that side, but we just enjoyed the beach, going out there swimming and they had the merry-go-round and they had the — an area for dancing, you know, the jukebox playing, you know, and this type of thing. They had the train, the train that run around in through the tunnels and all of this, you know, they even had softball fields out there, playing softball, they go out there and play softball and I do remember they had the — they had I think it was two or three buildings, wooden buildings that they moved to Virginia Key and they used them as a — if you — if they wanted to allow you to stay there, if you say it’s qualified to stay in one of those while your at the beach or during vacation time, but most of the time, they was used for entertainers, because I remember, like, Louis Jordan (living?) staying over there, and other entertainers, you know, most of it that’s what they used it for. But, it was very pleasant over there, we enjoyed it, we enjoyed it very much.”

You can read more about civil rights in Miami by checking out the full piece on The New Tropic website.

Things to do


🌊 Help keep the seas clean by clearing up beachside clutter during the latest Trashy Tuesday volunteer cleanup (Miami Beach)


🍿 Enjoy a new take on movie night and explore one of Miami's most famous homes after hours during the Vizcaya Late | Silver Screen event (Coconut Grove)

😂 Head to The Lincoln Eatery food hall for Laughs on Lincoln, a top-notch comedy show blending food, nightlife, and laughs (Miami Beach)

🗣️ Dissect a variety of tropes, clichés, themes, and stereotypes from Black Hollywood’s beginnings through the present during The Heritage Project’s latest panel (Downtown)


🎤 Get blown away by Miami powerhouse vocalist Yoli Mayor during a Soulful Evening at The Doral Yard (Doral)

💃 Freak out on the dance floor with French house legend Sébastien Léger at Space Park (Little Haiti)


🎨 Walk on the vibrant side with Loriel Beltrán as the artist leads a tour of his exhibition Constructed Color and shares insights about his paintings and creative process (Downtown)

🌇 Learn the basics of Biscayne Bay from marine biologist Laura Eldredge during a scenic sunset boat tour (Key Biscayne)

🌌 Camp under the stars and have an unforgettable night in Everglades National Park with The Alliance for Florida's National Parks (Homestead)

💚 Take a taste of the future and tour through Imagine Farms, Miami's very own indoor vertical hydroponic farm (Little Haiti)

💿 Boogie down with ARTBAT (Little Haiti)


🍷 Sip quality wine and enjoy sonically adventurous sounds during the latest Tropico Virgo at Margot (Downtown)

👋 That’s all for today

Thanks for reading, folks. The New Tropic will return tomorrow with your regularly scheduled news roundup — take care until then.

See you tomorrow,

Zach at The New Tropic

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