History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc.
Collecting and preserving the history and culture of black people in
Miami Dade County from 1896 to the present
The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc. was founded
in 1977 by Dr. Dorothy Jenkins Fields as a non-profit organization to collect and
preserve the rapidly vanishing material that reflects the African American experience in
Miami-Dade County. Over the years, the collection has grown, and the Black Archives is
now a national resource for this history of the 19 th and 20 th centuries, providing a rich
repository of materials that used by scholars, students, teachers, the media and the
The Black Archives also works to preserve historical sites in the Historic District of
Overtown, the city’s first black community. Most prominent among these is the Historic
Lyric Theater, which opened in 1913, and quickly became the major entertainment
gathering place for blacks in Miami, serving as a symbol of economic influence, as well
as a social gathering place – free of discrimination – and a source of pride and culture.
Today, it is the focus of a public-private partnership, in which the Miami-Dade
government has committed $10 million for its renovation and expansion.
The Black Archives also owns the D.A. Dorsey House, which was built in the 1920s by
the area’s first millionaire for his bride, and is now used by a social service organization.
As part of its role in preserving history, the Black Archives provided the necessary
documentation to place six Overtown buildings on the National Register of Historic
Places, a designation that played an important role in the community’s renaissance.
The Black Archives also contributes to the preservation of Overtown’s artistic and
cultural legacy. The Lyric Theater is now home to the “Purvis Young Returns to
Overtown” art collection, which is comprised of 15 masterpieces by the internationally
acclaimed Overtown artist. Since its installation at the Lyric, thousands of visitors have
viewed the collection, which is especially popular with school children and families.
In addition to its own active efforts, the Black Archives is viewed as an important
resource for other organizations.
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
presented the Black Archives’ Clyde Killens/Sam Rabin billboard collection, which traces
the history of black entertainers who performed in the Historic Overtown’s clubs and
hotels. Other organizations that have utilized materials from the Black Archives
collections include the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, Vizcaya Museum and
Gardens, the City of Miami and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.