Overtown

Overtown is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Miami, Florida, one of the poorest cities in the United States.

Known as the African-American enclave “Colored Town” when Miami was founded in 1896, the area had begun to be referred to as “Overtown” by the middle of the twentieth century and at that time was the thriving heart of Miami’s black culture.  Though during the mid-1900’s the neighborhood was known as “the Harlem of the South,” by the last decades of the twentieth century Overtown had become a center of urban decay, poverty, and crime.  The Miami Herald reports that, according to the 2000 census, 55% of Overtown’s approximately 8,000 residents lived in poverty, unmarried women headed 62% of households, and 90% of the homes were renter-occupied.  The unemployment rate was 19.8% in 2002.   In 2006 the neighborhood’s annual median household income was between $11,000 and $12,000, and that 40.8% of its residents are under twenty years old.


View Larger Map

In his study of the African-American experience in Miami, Dr. Marvin Dunn cites a confluence of three events in the second half of the twentieth century – the economic effects of the end of racial segregation, the ill-conceived efforts of “urban renewal,” and the construction of Interstate 95 directly through Overtown – that led to the collapse of the neighborhood as a cultural and economic mecca for Miami’s African-Americans.  Dunn points out that the construction of Interstate 95, and particularly the interchange of I-95 and I-395, decimated dozens of blocks of the densely populated neighborhood, displaced up to 30,000 of the community’s residents, and left Overtown “an urban wasteland.”

Numerous times during the 1980’s, tensions between the Miami Police and residents of Overtown resulted in a series of violent disturbances in the neighborhood.  Between July, 2010, and early May, 2011, seven black men, two of whom were reportedly unarmed, were killed by Miami police officers.  In April, 2011, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Justice Department announced that it would investigate the latest incidents.

    Sources:

  • Dluhy, M., Revell, K., & Wong, S. (2002). Creating a Positive Future for a Minority Community: Transportation and Urban Renewal Politics in Miami. Journal of Urban Affairs, 24(1), 75-85.

  • Dunn, M. (1997). Black Miami in the Twentieth Century. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

  • Mohl, R. (1989). Shadows in the Sunshine: Race and Ethnicity in Miami. Tequesta: The Journal of the Historical Association of Southern Florida, Vol. 49, 63-80.

  • Whitley, E., Jarrett, N., Young, A. M., Adeyemi, S., & Perez, L. (2007). Building Effective Programs to Improve Men’s Health. American Journal of Men’s Health, 1(4), 294-306.

  • Yardley, W. (2003, July 27). Overtown. The Miami Herald (Final ed.), 1L. Retrieved June 1, 2010, from NewsBank on-line database (Access World News)

13 Comments

  • J. Bryant
    01 Aug 2014 09:08 am

    Of all the pictures that could have been used to depict Overtown, why use one of a man lying on the ground? Your narrative is not any better. Amazingly insensitive.

    ()
    Reply
  • admin
    01 Aug 2014 11:08 am

    a) It’s a woman, not a man;

    b) What do you find insensitive about the narrative?

    c) What is your experience living in or visiting Overtown?

    Thanks for the comment.

    ()
    Reply
    • QLuxor

      I thought your article was a good summary of Overtown. Thank you.

      05 Nov 2015 05:11 pm ()
  • J. Bryant
    01 Aug 2014 08:08 pm

    Man or woman, it does not matter. You seem to miss the point. The insensitively has to do with the bias nature of your narrative–dwelling on the negative. I was born and raised in the Overtown section of Miami. What is your experience living in or visiting Overtown.

    ()
    Reply
    • admin

      I lived in Overtown for several months while working on the project.

      If you think my "narrative" is biased or negative then you've obviously not watched the videos.

      If you want to continue the discussion after you've watched them (I suggest starting with "The Eye of Overtown") then I'll be happy to engage you. But please, specify what it is you find negative about the video.

      Thank you.

      01 Aug 2014 09:08 pm
  • J. Bryant
    01 Aug 2014 09:08 pm

    Sorry, I see still images, but get no sound.

    ()
    Reply
  • J. Bryant
    02 Aug 2014 09:08 am

    My immediate issue is with the introduction, not the video content. In addition to your quantitative markers—crime, poverty, unemployment, and unmarried women heading households—you might consider gaining further insight by talking with the local churches, schools, businesses, the director of the South Florida Black Archives, and the director of the Overtown Youth Center. And if I’m not mistaken, the community’s Booker T. Washington High School was recently acknowledged as having the number one high school football team in the country. All I suggest is that you present a balanced narrative.

    And again, the your home-page depiction of the woman lying on the grown (possibly intoxicated), with people walking around her, is a bit unsettling. After living in Overtown” for several months, do you really think that this images best describes the spirit of the community? Wow.

    Enough Said.

    ()
    Reply
  • HENRY WRIGHT
    03 Sep 2014 04:09 pm

    High my name is Henry and i was born and raised in overtown as well. in the appartments on 8th street right in front of what is now the new peoples BBQ pit. i would like to say that the both of you have a point. if you dont show the struggles and the unfairness of whats going on with the people then it would not give an insite of whats going on in the neighborhood. and what needs to be done. and in all fairness (SOME) of the people that live and is part of the community isn’t making it easy for things to change until we stop being at each other’s throat. and i hate to say but it’s that old crab in the bucket mentality. and whats so strange about overtown is when i go visit my grandmother i fill like i’m back home
    the people there don’t understand that overtown have so much potential, your walking distant form downtown,bayside,the bay,the miami heat arena, and if the people don’t change soon they will try and come take it from us for future development belive it are not overtown is considered water front property because it’s walking distance from all the hot spot’s its time to wake up.

    ()
    Reply
  • Angela
    04 Sep 2014 07:09 pm

    I really enjoyed the overtown videos. It’s not as bad the the other person is making it, it shows the good and bad.

    ()
    Reply
  • Rick
    18 Aug 2015 04:08 pm

    Well I’ve been to Overtown once and was assulted, beaten and robbed, needless to say im not heading back anytime soon. Not only thay but i knoe of at least two more friends who have also been robbed in the area while just driving by. Everyone who asks me about my assult always react the same, “What were you doing there? You should now that area should be completely off limits especially during night time”. Im a firm believer in that we should increase education all over Maimi to help improve lower income areas and hopefully in the future i can feel save to travel through Overtown.

    ()
    Reply
  • Ashley S.
    25 Feb 2016 10:02 pm

    I have worked in Overtown for a while now and think this is a pretty accurate depiction of the neighborhood. I think the point you were trying to express was the oppression of black individuals in this neighborhood and complacency of city officials to let Overtown remain as is.

    We as a society need to look out for one another and try to make a better life for the people of Overtown. The living conditions of most apartments is appalling. With all the resources we have in this country, no American should be living in these conditions. Because this is a historic part of town, most buildings are old and many were neglected due to extreme poverty–leaky roofs, mold, broken and boarded up windows, and etc lead to unhealthy and unsafe living conditions. While Booker T. may have a great football team, the education received in Overtown public schools is lacking and not up to par with many other schools in Miami. Without a solid education, there is no hope for youth of this neighborhood to break the cycle of poverty.

    The amount of jobless individuals, crime, drug and alcohol addiction, and homeless individuals and families is heartbreaking.

    Due to the rapid development of trendy Wynwood, Overtown is facing risk of being wiped out and redeveloped for young hipsters/artists who do not understand the rich history of this neighborhood. Since 90% of the population are renters, they have no claim. Landlords will increase rent or sell to developers. Unfortunately this is a growing concern for the area that desperately needs to be addressed.

    Without help from the government, nonprofits, and citizens who desire change, I believe Overtown will continue to decay at an increasing rate.

    Thank you for publishing this and making people aware of the devastation in this neighborhood. I hope people who stumble upon your page are inspired to do something about this situation and give back to these people who simply need to be shown their worth and given resources to change things around.

    ()
    Reply
  • David Emerson Stotler
    29 Nov 2016 07:11 pm

    Hello. I am teacher, considering moving to Overtown to live and teach. Could anyone give me some advice on housing and the Schools in the area? Thank you for your kindness. I look forward to your responses. Be well.

    ()
    Reply

Leave a Comment

Posting your comment...

Subscribe to these comments via email

http://overtowner.com/wp-content/themes/motionpicture