School Librarian Looks Back on Creation of an Archives on Blacks in Miami

The Black Archives, founded from the frustration of educator Dorothy Jenkins Fields over 32 years ago has expanded into a major repository of African-American history in South Florida.

It all began with a phone call.

Fields was a librarian in then all-white Myrtle Grove Elementary School and, in preparation for the nation’s Bicentennial celebration, she wanted to teach the children about black history. When she phoned a public librarian to request information, Fields learned all that was available was a folder containing obituaries. She never will forget the librarian’s words.

‘She told me, `I guess that those people didn’t think enough of themselves to write their history,’ ” Fields recalled.

The results of that call was Fields’ inspiration. Among the myriad of things the Archives has brought to light is the history of Miami’s once-thriving “ Overtown Area and the artists who performed at the Lyric Theater there during the era of racial segregation; Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie.

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