Downtown Miami

Historic home of Miami’s first black millionaire open for tours

The D. A. Dorsey House in Overtown, the home built by Miami’s first black millionaire, Dana Albert Dorsey, in 1915, will be open for tours conducted by the Black Archives.
The D. A. Dorsey House in Overtown, the home built by Miami’s first black millionaire, Dana Albert Dorsey, in 1915, will be open for tours conducted by the Black Archives. Miami Herald file photo

The Dorsey House, a prominent reminder of the days when Overtown was dubbed Miami’s Little Harlem, has reopened for tours and a look back at life in what was then known to whites as Colored Town or Miami’s Central Negro District (CND). The area has long been known as Overtown to its black population.

Miami’s first black millionaire, Dana Albert Dorsey, built the white frame vernacular home at 250 NW Ninth St. for his bride in 1915. Dorsey, who moved to Miami from Georgia in the 1890s, bought land in Miami and built houses that black laborers rented as they helped build the city. Dorsey himself was a carpenter and helped build the railroad that set Miami on its course.

The Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida restored the home in the 1990s and it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Black Archives will conduct the tours.

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The D.A. Dorsey House, circa 1948 Black Archives, History and Research Foundation of South Florida

Dorsey, who was chairman of the Colored Trustees Board of Dade County Public Schools, was one of the community leaders who established Booker T. Washington Junior-Senior High School, Miami’s first high school for blacks. He also was instrumental in founding Miami’s first black-owned bank.

Back in the days of Jim Crow, when blacks were not allowed to frequent white hotels, places like the Dorsey House, The Mary Elizabeth and the Sir John hotels rolled out a welcome mat, housing some of the country’s most prominent blacks along with black entertainers like Lena Horne, Nat King Cole and Count Basie, among others.

The house will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

To schedule a group visit and for more information, call the Black Archives at 786-708-4610.

New rabbi at Bet Shira

A warm Neighbors in Religion welcome to Rabbi Ben Herman, the new spiritual leader at Bet Shira Congregation in Pinecrest.

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Rabbi Ben Herman

Herman, who started his new duties on July 1, comes to Bet Shira from Jericho Jewish Center in Jericho, N.Y. On the job for just a month, Herman has been meeting with congregants to acquaint himself with their needs and introducing programs to encourage increased understanding of Conservative Jewish practices.

Herman has a bachelor’s degree in history, Hebrew, and Jewish studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and was ordained as a rabbi with a master’s in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

An evening of love

What the world needs now is more love. And on Aug. 15, the congregation at Temple Emanu-El will celebrate the Jewish holiday, Tu B’Av, which is celebrated as a holiday of love similar to Valentine’s Day.

The celebration will be from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Sagamore Hotel, 1671 Collins Ave. in Miami Beach. The cost is $36 per person in advance and $45 at the door. The evening will include free drinks and a buffet with kosher hors d’oeuvres. There will also be a spiritual swing band.

To RSVP, go to tesobe.org or call 305-538-2503.

A history of Florida’s troubled racial past

Dr. Tameka Hobbs, associate professor of history and coordinator of the African American Studies Program at Valdosta State University, will be the guest speaker at the next South Florida People of Color’s Race in Retrospect series event at 7 p.m.. Thursday, Aug. 8, at The Betsy Hotel on South Beach.

Hobbs is the author of “Democracy Abroad, Lynching at Home: Racial Violence in Florida.” The book addresses the white violence frequently experienced by blacks during the Jim Crow era.

Hobbs will also speak on Aug. 10 at the Unity360 Community Race Dialogue, at a time and location to be announced. The events are free and open to the public.

For information, email info@southfloridapoc.org.

Back-to-school drives

The North Miami Ninth Annual Backpack and School Supply Donation Drive is now going on.

Donations will be collected until Wednesday, Aug. 7, at two locations: North Miami City Hall, Second Floor, 776 NE 125th St, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, and at the North Miami Police Department lobby, 700 NE 124th St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

New supplies needed include, backpacks, #2 pencils, calculators, crayons, markers, blunt scissors, pencil boxes, rulers, glue sticks, loose leaf paper, wide-ruled paper and composition notebooks. Cash donations are also welcome. Make checks payable to the City of North Miami. The memo line should say, “Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime’s 2019 Backpack and School Supply Drive.”

Also, the mayor’s Back-to-School Bash and Resource Fair will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 10 at the Joe Celestine Center, 1525 NW 135th St. in North Miami. The event is being presented with Vice Mayor Carol Keys, Dist. 2; Councilwoman Mary Estime-Irvin, Dist. 3; Councilman Alix Desulme, Dist. 4, and the Association of Haitian Educators of Dade.

For information, go to NorthMiamiFL.gov/Celebrate

Tribute to a special woman

A special tribute to Cecily Robinson Duffie, Esq., who was presented with the 2019 Eunice W. Thompson Merit Award at the 64th National Convention of Charmettes, held at the PGA National Resort And Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. The award is the organization’s highest honor.

Duffie is the daughter of the late Thelmarie Mitchell Robinson and Andrew Robinson. She graduated with honors from North Miami Senior High School and received a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Florida, where she was a presidential scholar and a recipient of the Karl and Madira Bickel Assistantship. She earned her law degree from Nova University in 1988.

Duffie worked for the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida, Legal Services of Greater Miami and the Florida Attorney General’s Office before starting her own practice.

The mother of five, including a set of twins, Duffie successfully changed the Miami-Dade County School Board policy related to the admission of twins and multiples to magnet schools. She did this while her twins were in kindergarten.

Married 33 years to Minister Troy Duffie, she serves as a deaconess and Sunday school teacher at the historic St. John Institutional Baptist Church in Overtown. She attributes the success of her marriage and her loving family to her devotion to God, having accepted Jesus Christ as her personal savior when she was only 5.

She is the founder of the St. John Youth Retreat and has served as its chair for 20 years. She also is program director for the Miami Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, board member of The Alternative Program (a pre-trial diversion program for first-time criminal offenders) and Iota Phi Lambda Sorority.

In addition to the twins — the Rev. Cecil Andrew and Cecily Anastasia — Duffie and her husband are the parents of Minister Troy Adam, Caitlyn and Trinity Duffie.

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