By: Dr. Dorothy Jenkins Fields
The first large migration of Blacks to Liberty City began in 1937 when many families moved to the Liberty Square Housing Project, the second Federal housing project built in the U.S.
The second major migration came in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a result of the Black displacement caused by the expressway construction that devastated Overtown.
Today, Liberty City, which was the site of the 1980 riots, is on the verge of economic revival.
Visit these 15 historic sites in Liberty City:
Martin Luther King Boulevard
62nd Street from Biscayne Boulevard to Hialeah
Named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this largely commercial street runs east and west
through several communities including Little Haiti, Liberty City, Brownsville and Hialeah. In the Brownsville section, a statue of Dr. King is in the park.
62nd Street Mural
Northwest 62nd Street and 7th Avenue
Painted by the late artist Oscar Thomas, this colorful mural depicting the legacy of Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. is one of several in the area designed to represent the pride and heritage of the
Liberty City community.
Northwest 12th Avenue from 62nd to 71st streets
Liberty City’s Wall was established in the 1930s as a result of the construction of the Liberty
Square housing development. The Wall was built as a barrier to separate the new Black
neighborhood on the west side of Northwest 12th Avenue from the already established white
neighborhood on the east side. This concrete barrier remained for many years as a symbol of
the Jim Crow era, which haunted American history over the years. The seven-foot wall was
eventually demolished, and today the remnants of the structure run along a median that
separates Northwest 12th Avenue from Northwest 12th Parkway.
Miami Northwestern High School
1100 NW 71st Street
During segregation and after the phasing out of Dorsey Senior High in 1956, Black citizens
petitioned the school board to build a new comprehensive senior high school in Liberty City.
Northwestern was the first Black high school to win a state football championship. It was
integrated with other county schools and now includes a medical and arts magnet program.
Gwen Cherry Park
7090 NW 22nd Avenue
This park honors the late State Rep. Gwen Cherry, the first Black woman elected to the Florida
Legislature. She was the daughter of Miami’s first Black physician, Dr. William A. Sawyer.
Northwest 12th to 15th avenues between 62nd and 67th streets
The first public housing project erected in the State of Florida, Liberty Square opened on February 6, 1937. It was designed as a complete community for Black residents to relieve the congestion and inadequate housing in Overtown. Besides 900 housing units, the complex also included a nursery school, a cooperative store, a Federal Credit Union and a central community building. Many Black middle-income professionals resided here prior to purchasing their own homes.
African Heritage Cultural Arts Center
6161 NW 22nd Avenue
Colorfully designed with the vision of being a center for Liberty City’s artists and youth to display their work and enhance their talents, the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center opened in 1974. The center has an auditorium, art and dance classrooms and an exhibit area that can be utilized by the community and after-school arts programs.
Joseph Caleb Community Center
5400 NW 22nd Avenue
A product of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society,” the center was designed to alleviate poverty by providing decentralized neighborhood services. It is now a hub of activity with political forums and performing arts. It houses a library, child care programs, county and state services and the Black Archives, which collects, archives and interprets information about the Black experience in Miami.
Georgette’s Tea Room
2540 NW 51st Street
Georgette’s Tea Room is a historic structure located in Brownsville and built by Georgette
Campbell. The 13-room English Tudor-style home was an elegant and lavish guest house that
offered a secluded retreat to dine and sleep for famous black celebrities and entertainers such
as Billie Holiday, Nat “King” Cole and the Ink Spots. It also served as a meeting place for black
socialites for many years.
Miami Times Building
900 NW 54th Street
Founded in 1923 by Henry E.S. Reeves, Miami Times is the oldest Black-owned and operated
newspaper in the City of Miami. Originally located in Overtown, the newspaper moved to Liberty City and then to its present site designed by Alfred Browning Parker.
Masjid Al-Ansar — Muslim Mosque
5245 NW 7th Avenue
This Mosque has been in Liberty City for more than 30 years and also includes the Sister Clara’s
school. Its presence demonstrates the diversity in religion in one of Miami’s predominantly Black residential communities.
Northwest 27th to 32nd avenues between 41st and 54th streets
This pioneer neighborhood was platted by a Black man, Rev. W.L. Brown, in 1920 and became
known as Brown Subdivision and later Brownsville.
Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery
3601 NW 41st Street
Designated as a historic site in 1991, this was one of two cemeteries where Blacks could be
buried with dignity. Before that, Blacks were buried at the back of white cemeteries. Though
records of the first people buried here were lost to fire, the cemetery remains a treasure paying
homage to the past.
Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery
3001 NW 46th Street
One of the oldest cemeteries in Miami-Dade County, it consists of 538 mostly above-ground
vaults. This manner of burial is used in areas with a high water table like Key West and New
Orleans. Black pioneers buried here include: Dr. William A. Sawyer, the first Black physician
in Miami-Dade County and founder of Christian Hospital; Arthur and Polly Mays, who opened a
school for rural Black children in South Dade; and Florence Gaskins, who formed the first local
Red Cross chapter for Blacks.
4200-4240 NW 27th Avenue
The 54-room Hampton House hotel was once promoted as the “Social Center of the South.” Opened in 1954, the hotel also operated a popular nightclub. CORE (The Congress of Racial Equality) held their weekly meetings here and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a frequent guest. It is said that he gave an early version of his “I have a Dream” speech here. Notables such as Muhammad Ali maintained a permanent room in the hotel. In 2001, the Hampton House Community Trust was formed to gain historic designation for the site, save the abandoned hotel from demolition and plan its restoration and use.
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