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.
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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.
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)