If you come to Miami and only fill your itinerary with tried-and-true tourist destinations like South Beach and Miami Beach, the Design District and Wynwood Walls, then you’re missing out.
Although not as well traveled as Little Havana, where Afro-Cuban culture is represented in music, art, and dance, the tropical city of Miami is also home to distinctive historically Black and Caribbean neighborhoods and cultural landmarks that are worth checking out on your next trip.
Want to explore more of Miami’s Black history and culture? Let us be your guide.
Once called “Colored Town,” this neighborhood was settled in 1896 by Black railroad workers. As time passed, Overtown became a thriving Black business and entertainment district known as “Miami’s Black Wall Street” and the “Harlem of the South.” During segregation in the 1950s and 1960s, Black celebrities weren’t allowed to dine or stay at the ritzy Miami Beach resorts where they performed, so they flocked to Overtown for nightlife and lodging. Like many Black neighborhoods and cultural epicenters across the country, Overtown was weakened when two interstate highways divided it and displaced thousands of residents.
Today, Overtown is rebuilding thanks to renewed interest and the presence of new Black-owned businesses. The Historic Lyric Theater is a venue where music greats like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, and Aretha Franklin once performed. The restored theater reopened in 2000 and now hosts talent showcases, comedy festivals, and jazz concerts.
Although Black communities have a complicated and oftentimes contentious relationship with law enforcement, the positive contributions of the first Black police officers in the city of Miami are recognized at the Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum.
The area is a short walk from the artful Wynwood district and boasts its own eye-catching street murals, including the longest mural in the city. The 1,200 feet Overtown Hope Mural was painted by the Moving Lives of Kids Community Mural Project and features First Lady Michelle Obama, Serena Williams, and Breonna Taylor.
Just a few miles north of downtown Miami, Little Haiti is a small neighborhood that became populated in the 1970s and 1980s by Haitian refugees. Today, these residents continue to maintain their cultural traditions and foodways. Shop for produce, textiles, and Afro-Caribbean arts and crafts and enjoy Haitian food and live music at the 9,000 square foot Caribbean Marketplace, a replica of Port-au-Prince’s Iron Market located inside the pastel-colored Little Haiti Cultural Cultural Complex. Pick up fresh Creole bread and Haitian cod or beef patties at Piman Bouk Bakery and visit the Libreri Mapou bookstore and gift shop to peruse books, CDs, and DVDs by Haitian authors, artists, and filmmakers. Experience an insider’s view of the area on a golf cart tour with Tap Tap Tours & Transportation.
3 Black Eateries to Support Now
Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson is doing his part to revitalize Overtown with Red Rooster Overtown, where he puts his spin on soulful Southern staples like jambalaya and grits, fried chicken, barbecue ribs, collard greens, and mac and cheese. Plus, the Pool Hall lounge offers live music, late night bites, and artisanal cocktails.
Locals and visitors alike savor authentic island fare like conch soup, jerk chicken, oxtails, and curry goat at Lorna’s Caribbean & American Grille in Miami Gardens.
Grab healthy and tasty bites like avocado toast, gluten free pancakes and fresh salads, soups and sammies at the fast casual eatery Grown, with locations in South Miami and South Beach.
Check out the rest of our Black History & Culture blog series by following the tag below.