Miami’s History of School Integration.

September 11th, 2019

 

 

 

On a fall morning in 1959, four years after the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down the “separate but equal” doctrine and ruled segregated education unconstitutional, Dade County schools took the first steps toward integration. The county admitted seven-year-old Gary Range and three other African American students to Orchard Villa Elementary School.

It was a symbolic change that would take years to accelerate. But 60 years after the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, the first day of school for a group of African American children marked the beginning of huge changes that would forever shape education and race relations throughout Florida. It was a turbulent time in an area that, while more peaceful than in other parts of the South, still included plenty of fights, death threats, protests and politics.

In 1953, Athalie Range — Gary’s mother, who would later become Miami’s first black city commissioner — filled the all-white school board auditorium with black parents to protest conditions at the old Liberty City Elementary, where she said there were just 13 toilets for 1,200 students and no lunchroom.

Despite the 1954 high court ruling, change in the classroom was virtually at a standstill. In Miami, the school board didn’t begin to integrate schools until 1959 after lawsuits were filed and some parents, including Range, fought to send their children to the all-white Orchard Villa in Liberty City.

It wasn’t until the federal courts got involved in 1969 that the school system took stronger measures to desegregate. Under a court-approved plan, the school board agreed to reduce the number of black students attending all-black schools to 24 percent.

To do that, the district rezoned schools, “paired” and “grouped” dozens more, created magnet schools to draw white students into black schools and vice-versa, and at points bused students to break up one-race schools.

A federal judge first declared Dade County’s dual school system a thing of the past in 1971, but the district continued to struggle toward diversity in its schools. In 1977, Johnny Jones became Dade’s first black superintendent. And in 1979, Jones appointed Willie Wright as the first black principal of the largely white Gulfstream Elementary in South Dade, though Wright said parents swiftly tried to have him removed, but soon gave up when they found out the superintendent was black.

The federal courts continued to monitor Dade schools until 2001 when Judge William Dimitrouleas declared that court supervision was no longer needed.

Today, Miami is among the most diverse regions and school systems in the country, with black and Hispanic students comprising more than 90 percent of the student body.

-Ursa Gil

Cross, G. O. (n.d.). Desegregation of Miami-Dade County Public Schools: 1954–1959. Retrieved from https://aquila.usm.edu/theses_dissertations/198/

Rolling Skating Back to the Past

August 22nd, 2019

Ah, who can forget roller skating in Miami! Remember when you skated through your neighborhood on a sunny afternoon or grooved to the music on the roller rink dance floor? Get ready to lace up your skates to roll back in time in this edition of Learning from Miami featuring a roller skating spectacular from Miami’s past Read More...

Miami’s Two Arenas

July 19th, 2019

  Do you remember going to your first show at the Miami Arena? Many of us who grew up in Miami have fond memories of that pastel pink amphitheater in Downtown with its name scribbled in white cursive letters across the front of the building. We had a totally awesome time at the Miami Arena, whether we were rocking out to our first concert there, or cheering for our favorite team at our first sporting event Read More...

Reopening Fort Dallas Park.

July 1st, 2019

Historic Fort Dallas park was designated a city park in 1983. Currently it is abandoned, fenced off, and in need of a major renovation. The Miami River Commission is urging City of Miami officials to reopen the city-owned park, located at 60-64 SE Fourth Street. Fort Dallas houses several major historic buildings on its property Read More...

The Evolution of Dining Halls

May 3rd, 2019

Upscale dining halls are shopping mall food court’s younger, hipper cousin, and they are popping up all over South Florida. Shopping centers such as Brickell City Centre and Aventura Mall have recently opened their own upscale dining halls. Very soon, downtown Miami will join the upscale food court trend when the former Miami Center for Architecture & Design (MCAD) building (310 SE 1st St Read More...

Bacardi Building Receives Historic Designation

February 12th, 2019

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sssuF02pAuI   On January 24, 2019, the City of Miami Commission approved a resolution supporting the nomination of the Bacardi Building Complex for historic preservation. In this edition of Learning from Miami, we celebrate the architectural history of the iconic Bacardi building Read More...

What’s Happening, Downtown Miami?

December 5th, 2018

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIrhoSfbmA0 As 2018 comes to a close, building developments continue to rise in downtown Miami. New structures are breaking ground in 2019, changing the way we live and travel, while linking us to the past. BRIGHTLINE It’s been less than a year since Brightline launched its passenger train service here in South Florida and big changes are underway Read More...

Remembering the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre

September 11th, 2018

Actor Burt Reynolds passed away on September 6, 2018 at 82 years old. He was well known for his roles in films such as “Deliverance” and “Smokey and the Bandit.” Reynolds was also a Florida native who founded one of the most famous cultural centers in South Florida, the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre Read More...

Burdines: “The Florida Store”

August 21st, 2018

  [caption id="attachment_3608" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Burdines building looking east along Flagler Street from the intersection with Miami Avenue. Photo courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida.[/caption] Before the era of mega malls, there were department stores.  One of the most memorable local department stores in Florida was Burdines Read More...

Sponge Diving at Tarpon Springs

June 5th, 2018

   Spring Bayou.  Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida. Tarpon Springs is a quaint little fishing village named after a type of fish that thrived around the waters of the city in the late 19th century. This small town is located on the Anclote River less than a mile from the Gulf of Mexico, is famous as the "sponge capital of the world," and is known for its delectable seafood Read More...