The Black Experience on Miami Beach...

From its very beginnings, Miami Beach needed Black labor but disdained Blacks living on the island. To develop its potential, the land had to be cleared and many Black laborers were employed to do the work. If cash was short, the workers were paid with plots of land. But they were not allowed to build a residence or a business for themselves on their property. After the Collins Bridge to the mainland was built and opened the Beach to development, they sold their deeds. Throughout it’s development, Miami Beach relied on Black laborers, hotel maids, housekeepers and groundskeepers. In 1936, Miami Beach enacted Ordinance 457, requiring all seasonal workers at hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs, as well as domestic servants, to register with police and be photographed and fingerprinted. Once registered, those workers — many of whom were Black — had to carry ID cards at all times in the city and curfews were enforced. Miami Beach became an economic engine for all of South Florida.

Historian Marvin Dunn, PhD., in an excerpt from a recent interview for the Miami Beach Visual Memoirs project, explains how it was not unusual for Blacks to own plots of land on the Beach prior to the building of the Collins Bridge connecting Miami Beach to the mainland. This interview was filmed in Dr. Dunn’s home in March 2017.

Bea Hines was the first Black female journalist and later the first Black columnist at The Miami Herald. But before she was hired as a file clerk at the Herald in 1966, she worked as a domestic on Miami Beach, like her mother before her. In those days, it was the only job open to Black women without a college education. This interview was filmed in July 2012 in the Art Deco Welcome Center on Miami Beach.

Enid Pinkney, a retired educator, is the President and CEO of the Historic Hampton House Trust. During segregation, her parents worked and lived on Miami Beach as domestic servants for a wealthy family. As children, Ms. Pinkney and her brother had to live with relatives in the family home on the mainland in Overtown. She talks about the relationship between her parents and their employers and the laws that forbade Blacks being on Miami Beach unless they were working. Ms. Pinkney talks about her awareness of discrimination as a child.

James Jones has worked at Joe’s Stone Crab on Miami Beach for most of his life, forty-seven years and counting. He worked his way up from bussing tables to being Captain in the dining hall. In a recent conversation for the Miami Beach Visual Memoirs Project, Mr. Jones talked about those early days when Jesse Weiss was running the family business and workers had to be off the island by 11 PM.


Frank Pinkney worked on Miami Beach during World War II as a shoe shine boy to the many soldiers training there, earning money in one of the few ways a Black child could during segregation. In this excerpt, he talks about how he and his wife Enid are now welcomed as guests in places he never imagined would be possible.