MEET THE FOUNDER
A lyric voice for the black history of South Florida, Dorothy Jenkins Fields has devoted her life to preserving the heritage of the African-American community and raising awareness of African-American history to a national level. A Miami native, she is responsible for the establishment of Miami’s Black Archives, the designation and restoration of the landmark Lyric Theater and other historic sites, the creation of the Black Heritage Trail, and the designation of the Historic Overtown Folklife Village as a National Trust “Main Street” community. Fields was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities for her unprecedented research and documentation of African-American history.
Fields’ maternal family moved to Overtown from the Bahamas in 1903 and immediately became an integral part of the fabric of South Florida’s history themselves. Fields’ grandfather, in fact, was one of the gardeners who planted the original gardens at the Deering Estate, Villa Vizcaya, in 1914. The Fields lineage came full circle in 1999 when Fields was appointed to the Vizcaya Trust by Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas.
A teacher and educator for Miami-Dade County Public Schools for more than 30 years, Fields began her career in 1964 after graduating from Spelman College. Then, in 1974, in preparation for the nation’s bicentennial, she began a search for curriculum materials on the black experience in South Florida. When she was unable to find any information about South Florida’s black history in any school or public library, she embarked on a journey that would become her lifelong professional mission.
The first step in her journey was to establish The Black Archives, a nonprofit manuscript and photographic repository for the legacies of Miami’s black community. She was assisted in her effort by University of Miami history professor Gregory Bush, who introduced her to the field of public history. Later she earned her certification in archives administration at Emory University, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at the University of Northern Colorado, and a Ph.D. in 20th-century African-American history, historic preservation, and public history from The Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio.