A Growing Segregated City


A bustling business district in Overtown around 1920. Courtesy HistoryMiami Museum Archives and Research Center. 


White supremacists enforced segregation through violence. Examples of this in the 1920s are highlighted in Vought's article, pages 62-65.

The city of Miami continued to grow in the early twentieth century.  Those seeking opportunities for work and wealth flocked to Miami seeking permanent residency.  By 1910, 2,258 black residents called Miami home (42 percent of the 5,471 total population).  By 1920, Miami’s black population constituted 32 percent of Miami’s population but occupied only 10 percent of the city’s available space.  Of the 50 miles of paved streets in all of Miami, none were in Colored Town.  The blatant disregard for black and poor communities by the white elite resulted in only affirming white assumptions of the link between Blacks, disease, and poor living conditions.  

Segregation was viewed as a necessary tool to divide those with diseases (overwhelmingly black) from whites.  The white community enforced segregation and resisted the expansion of Miami’s black quarter - sometimes violently.  200 Ku Klux Klan members paraded through downtown Miami in the traditional hoods and robes in the Spring of 1921.  Members of the black community were kidnapped, whipped, and some even lynched throughout the decade.   

Despite the limited availability to land, black business owners helped to give new life to Colored Town.  In 1917, Miami’s Lyric Theatre opened, which served as a major center for entertainment into the 1930s.  In 1927, Booker T. Washington Senior High School opened, the first high school for black children in Miami.  However, black entrepreneurs were barred from opening any businesses in white districts, even though white entrepreneurs could open a business in Colored Town.  For most of Miami’s black population, segregation, poor living conditions, and violence wore away any hard-earned gains.  



A Growing Segregated City