Magic City and Fairyland: Miami’s 20th Century, an Overview and Bibliography

Editor’s note: March kicks off The Metropole’s coverage of its Metropolis of the Month: Miami. We begin with our usual overview/bibliography to be followed each week with at least one article on the city for the month.

In Michael Mann’s 2006 film, Miami Vice, detectives Sonny Crocket and Ricardo Tubbs jump from pastel-hued 1980s television fame to big-screen mid-aughts ambivalence: the exuberance of Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas replaced by the gruff, nearly incomprehensible mutterings of Colin Ferrell and a perfectly audible Jamie Foxx. As one critic noted, “It’s dark and loud. The dialogue is filled with jargon. It has (multiple!) shitty Audioslave songs.”[1]

That’s all true. But in one of the movie’s early scenes, Crockett begins courting “crimelord” Isabella (Gong Li) and in a telling moment confides: “I’m a fiend for mojitos.” “I know a place,” she responds, and they soon abscond to Havana via speedboat for drinks, dancing, and romance. Or as critic Dan Jackson wrote: “He travels to Cuba. He dances. He listens to Moby.” In the morning, Crockett awakens in a simple apartment and peers out his window to watch a group of children playing in the street. The simple life of Havana confirmed.

For all of its gorgeous cinematography, the sequence is ultimately ridiculous. Though only 90 miles from Florida, accessing Cuba by speedboat would be a bone rattling experience, hardly conducive to mojito drinking and canoodling afterwards. Still, the scene demonstrates Miami’s place in and dependence on the Caribbean orbit in which it revolves—and it gestures at its long transnational and colonial connections across the region.

Miami’s formal establishment in 1896 intersected with the United States’ most heightened moment of imperial power. In 1898, the U.S. used the Spanish-American War as pretext for a colonial smash and grab: occupying colonies and territories in Asia and the Caribbean. Miami’s proximity to the latter enabled city boosters to attract a military camp, which, though a miserable experience for soldiers, functioned to stimulate the local economy and served as a spark for urban development. Other aspects of American imperialism would shadow Miami’s development—notably the municipal government’s colonial relationship with its Black and Caribbean populations.[2]

Throughout the early twentieth century and especially by the 1920s, boosters — oil/railroad baron Henry Flagler, Miami Chamber of Congress President E.G. Sewell, and entrepreneur Carl Fisher, among others — promoted Miami’s tropical setting as “a site for heterosexual romance and tourism.” For example, just after Miami’s incorporation, Flagler, hoping to expand business ties and perhaps secondarily, project American imperial power within the region, welcomed the Bahamas Governor General at his Royal Palms hotel as a means to demonstrate the “modernity and opulence” that might Miami might extend to the islands through a closer relationship.[3]  

Waterfront of Havana, Cuba, F. Gilbert, before 1921, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Touring companies offered excursions to Havana, where American men might imbibe while pursuing Cuban women. “To Latin people love and courtship are a romantic affair,” noted one Miami brochure. Guidebooks provided Spanish translations for the English phrases “give me a kiss” and “you are very charming.” As historian Julio Capo observes, “what was really being sold was a growing heterosexual culture,” all imbued with a colonial gaze.[4]

Cuban excursions provided only one point on Miami’s axis of sexuality. On the one hand, the city welcomed sexual transgression and gender and sexual non-conformity. At the same time, boosters and even municipal officials sold Miami as a playground for middle- and upper-middle-class straight white people. “For a price,” writes Capo, “Miami’s modern beaches, dance pavilions, shops, theaters, and sea- and airports catered to this new consumer: the heterosexual.”[5]

As Miami rose out of the marshes of South Florida, boosters promoted the region as a fantastical “fairyland,” that privileged the desires of white, middle-class men and women, both heterosexual and homosexual, over those of the city’s Black residents. Promoters and journalists depicted a city in starkly gendered language: Miami “is the harlot of American cities, and, like many harlots, it is unusually favored by nature.” Metaphorically and physically, the city functioned as a stage for tourists, whose experiences there functioned as movie scenes in their own fantasies.[6]

Political intrigue and the threat of revolution hounded Cuba and by extension Havana, but benefited its “younger, more modern sister city, Miami.” Though we remember the 1950s for the island’s revolutionary uprising, it had witnessed unrest before. Over drinks in the Cuban capital on the eve of Castro’s ascension in the Godfather II, Jewish mobster Hyman Roth tells Michael Corleone he’d been running liquor out of the city since the 1920s and even then there had been rebels. In 1933, with diplomatic assistance from the United States, rebels ousted the sitting government and drove thousands of exiles to Miami. Hence, by the 1930s, “Cuba’s social and political turmoil helped market Miami as a sinful paradise that could simultaneously guarantee its tourists’ stability and safety,” writes Capo. Even so maintaining fairyland required effort; the Florida metropolis still needed to mimic Havana’s exoticism and loose enforcement of laws to compete.[7]

Modern ticket booth for the Historic Lyric Theatre in downtown Miami, Florida’’s, Overtown, a largely African-American neighborhood that was called “Colored Town” in the days of rigid Jim Crow segregation regulations. Built in 1913, the Lyric was the major entertainment center of Miami’’s Black community. Carol M. Highsmith, 2020, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. ”

Bahamian Influence, 1900-1930

While the city’s Cuban population has understandably dominated popular perceptions of Miami for several decades, during its first nearly half century, Bahamians exerted a far greater influence and presence than any other Caribbean population. From its incorporation in 1896 through the 1920s, Miami’s Black population included more foreign-born persons than any other U.S. city, and Bahamians made up the majority. Of the 368 individuals who elected to incorporate the city in 1896, 162 were Black, and over half of them Bahamian.[8]

Immigration to South Florida increased with Miami’s economic and spatial expansion. Rural economic depression in the Bahamas and opportunity in Florida led to shifts in the islands’ demographics. Between 1911 and 1921, Bahamians decamped for other shores to such an extent that the population diminished by over five percent.[9] As a result, the Bahamas and Miami intertwined economically and culturally. Miami provided a sense of modernity as the city had erected a twentieth century metropolis out of the South Florida wilderness and increased travel to its Caribbean neighbor. For its part, the Bahamas sent labor, tourists, and drink to Miami. During Prohibition, both the Bahamas and Cuba provided a key source of Miami’s transgressive identity: liquor.[10]   

Prior to immigration restrictions passed by Congress in 1924 and an economic downturn in the city after 1925, Bahamian women labored in the “city’s growing number of hotels and service industries,” notes historian Melanie Shell-Weiss, while their male counterparts worked in construction, particularly as “carpenters and common laborers” building Miami’s homes and hotels, and clearing its roads.[11]  

What they encountered upon arrival frequently failed to impress. Magic City, a designation that attempted to capture what historian Nathan D.B. Connolly calls “the almost supernatural speed with which early developers built a city out of what seemed like thin air,” did not exist for everyone. “Having passed the immigration and custom examiners,” noted one recent Bahamian arrival, “I took a carriage for what the driver called ‘****** Town.’ It was the first time I had hear that opprobrious epithet employed, and then, by a colored man himself. I was vividly irked no little.”[12]

Arriving in Colored Town—an invention of Flagler—the same newcomer realized that Miami, for its Black citizens, equated to “the filthy backyard of Magic City.” Colored Town had initially housed both white and Black workers, but soon evolved into a segregated, overcrowded community. An oil tycoon and burgeoning railroad magnate, Flagler was one of the first to recognize the bounty that Miami represented, and he benefited mightily from the city’s development boom. One of its early powerbrokers, he worked to extend region’s transportation infrastructure. Anemic in 1900 — the city was only accessible by stagecoach and ship — Miamians enjoyed the development on new roads and railway connections during the early twentieth century.[13]

Ralph M. Munroe House, 3485 Main Highway, Coconut Grove, Miami, Miami-Dade County, Florida, after 1933, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Miami, 1920-1930

Known as Overtown today, Colored Town was not the only neighborhood in which Miami’s Black population settled. Black settlers, particularly Bahamians dating as far back as 1880, also found purchase in Coconut Grove; fewer but still-significant numbers established footholds in Lemon City. Bahmanians, widely respected for their skills in building for tropical climates, left an indelible imprint all across the city, but especially in Coconut Grove’s housing, where “distinctive single- and double-story structures made from Florida pine, with horizontal siding and elevated on stilts,” predominated.[14] 

Due in part to this immigration flow and the internal migration of both northern whites and southern Blacks, Miami’s population soared from just a few thousand in 1900 to nearly 30,000 in 1920 and over 110,000 ten years later.  As the construction industry exploded between 1915 and 1925, union membership climbed. By 1919 3,600 union members labored in the city, making up 35 percent of the workforce. Many white workers carried with them “a union organizing culture,” observers historian Thomas Castillo. [15]

If many whites had packed their pro-union sensibilities for their journey down to Magic City, they also carried with them their racism. “Organized labor must maintain the barrier between white and black in Miami,” noted the Central Labor Union in 1914. Miami unionists consistently worked to exclude their Black counterparts.[16] Despite such open prejudice, Miami’s rapid growth and eventual success rested on the labor of its Black residents, who built much of Greater Miami.

Regrettably, much as the enchantment of Magic City failed to convey to large swaths of the city’s non-white population, the metaphorical pixie dust of Fairyland was unevenly distributed.  “[A]llowances for exploration of gender and sexuality,” notes Capo, were “in large part because they were undergirded by ideologies of white supremacy and the subjugation of the city’s black and ethnic communities.” Under this rubric, Bahamians and other workers of color served as props in the fantastical productions of white residents and tourists, who in many cases were able to transgress the dominant gender and sexual strictures of the day.[17]

Klan Member Threatens Black Voters, during a parade through an African American neighborhood of Miami on the night before a primary election, May 3, 1939, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Bahamians, but especially men, endured fetishization from the leisured class, hostility from nativist Miamians, and harassment from law enforcement. Middle- and upper-middle-class white men centered their attention on the figure of the Bahamian laborer developing a “queer erotic” which “served as a building block for diverse expressions and subjectivities – and perhaps in years to come identities – of gender and sexuality.” Native-born whites and Blacks stereotyped them as immoral and lazy. Efforts by the local United Negro Improvement Association chapter helped to bridge this divide to some extent but did not resolve it. And police targeted Bahamians disproportionately. In 1920, Bahamians made up one-fifth of Miami’s population yet they represented 36 percent of those arrested for sodomy and crimes against nature prior to 1924.[18] 

One can extend this last point to law enforcement’s general relationship with Black residents. The Klu Klux Klan worked in a civic capacity alongside the Miami Police Department, as it did in several other American cities during this period. Police Chief H. Leslie Quigg openly admitted his membership. Torture and sexualized violence by the police toward Black Miamians were not uncommon. “Miami’s history during the 1910s and 1920s abounds with all the transgressions against black personhood one might expect,” notes Connolly.[19]

White Miami wielded violence and it governed much as colonial elites did in European colonies and American territories.  “As a city founded with northern money, in a southern state, off the Caribbean Sea, Greater Miami belonged to a nation and region where white elites often governed with and through their colored counterparts, cultivating a kind of indirect rule,” notes Connolly.[20]

White developers such as Luther Brooks and Edward Graham scooped up properties in Colored Town and elsewhere, exploiting Black renters in one moment while advocating for them in others. “Part segregationist, part integrationist, and all capitalist,” Brooks manipulated the “discourse of property rights, racial identity, and free enterprise” in his ascension to city power broker. One Dade County worker summarized Brooks’s legacy and others like him: “Luther Brooks is the greatest salesman who ever lived … But he’s directly responsible for many of the bad housing conditions [in Miami], and don’t let him tell you otherwise.”[21]  

For their part, Black homeowners and civic leaders leveraged homeownership as means to attain and distribute political and economic power. But in order to do so, they adopted an “entrepreneurial politics” that equated homeownership with citizenship. While it helped lay the groundwork for the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, and resulted in the hiring of Black patrolman in 1944 and the creation of Virginia Key Beach in 1945 which established a space on Miami’s shores for Black residents, it also required the payment of tribute to white supremacy. Middle- and upper-middle-class Black homeowners endorsed state violence that primarily affected poor people of color. The growth and political gains of a Black middle class did not reflect universal advancement or the improvement of the status quo but rather “the flexibility and strength of apartheid in America,” argues Connolly. Some Black leaders were even guilty of exploiting Black Miamians with poor upkeep of their own tenements.[22]

Miami 1930-1950

Meanwhile, other developments enhanced Magic City’s penchant for the questionably fantastical. During the 1930s, Miami’s famed art deco architecture arose, giving the city an additional sheen of modernity. While the city endured hard times during the Depression, residents also witnessed the construction of over one hundred smaller, modest, art deco-styled hotels. City ordinances banned live entertainment in those hotels, so a network of nightclubs emerged during the 1940s and 50s; many deployed “faux exoticism and plaster mimicry” that included “Italian ambience,” “the sauciness of Paris,” and the “thatched huts and bamboos” of the South Seas. Mother Kelly’s, a club in which the nightly entertainment mocked “rigid gender and sexual norms” modeled itself after Havana’s infamous Sans Couci nightclub and offered a specialty rum cocktail “made ‘West Indies style.'” Between the late 1930s and the mid-1950s, Miami Beach emerged as a star in the constellation of “big league nighttime entertainment alongside” New York, Hollywood, and Las Vegas, before Sin City eclipsed it in the late 1950s.[23]

Biltmore Terrace, Collins Ave. and 87th St. Nightclub, to bar, Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., January 26, 1953, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The architecture and the proliferation of nightclubs (with performances by Frank Sinatra and others) created a “geography of glamour” that drew tourists in search of “sex, sport, and sin.” During the same period, Colored Town emerged as a “black cultural and entertainment center” welcoming Black and white tourists alike who settled in for performances from the likes of Josephine Baker, Sammy Davis Jr., Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holiday. Unlike in New York, where authorities cracked down on queer culture, in Miami, though still subject to occasional harassment and violence, it flourished. In the glow of post-World War II exuberance, Miami Beach and Miami were Florida’s top tourist destination stops until Disney World opened in Orlando in 1971. Much as during the 1920s, Miami Beach “built its reputation not as a destination for families but as the nation’s premier winter resort for adults, and nightclubs were central to that reputation,” observes historian Keith D. Revell.[24]

While Colored Town’s nightclubs prospered and African Americans could perform in Miami Beach, segregation prevented Black performers from sleeping in the city’s newly developed white entertainment corridor. Even as they worked to build New Deal-era improvements to the city’s harbors, schools, hospitals, and bridges, the built environment still reflected Jim Crow society. When Coral Gables constructed a $54,000 “whites only” library in 1937, Colored Town received its own a year later, financed by the donations of local black property owners. Built in 1937, the Public Works Administration provided nearly a third of the Orange Bowl’s $320,000 price tag—yet it took three years of protest and activism by Black Miamians before they were allowed admittance into the stadium, and even then Black attendees were assigned to a section behind the end zone designated “colored only.”[25]

Even the construction of Liberty City in 1937, a public housing complex that provided superior apartments to those available in Colored Town, still failed to measure up to those built for whites. However, “fleeting victories” such as Liberty City did create a sense of a changing world for Black Miamians, such that the city’s first NAACP branch was established the same year. Yet as in most American cities, FHA redlining policies crippled Black communities and limited homeownership. Urban renewal slum clearance initiatives that followed only furthered such developments. Regrettably, argues Connolly, many Black leaders promoted urban renewal as a solution to Black Miami’s ills. “[O]lder moderates like Theodore Gibson, continued to argue that ‘Urban renewal is the best tool yet devised to eliminate slums.” [26]

The post-World War II period brought more than nightclub entertainment. The proliferation of military installations stimulated tourism, as expansion of the armed forces brought new populations and development. New arrivals from the north, notably large numbers of Jewish Americans, began settling in the region. During the first decades after the war, nearly seventy percent of Jews moving south settled in Miami and Miami Beach. They too encountered discrimination, but not on the level of the Black community.

Miami, 1950-2010

By 1950, nearly 300,000 people lived in the city, and almost half a million in the metropolitan area (not counting soldiers stationed in South Florida or tourists). Ten years later, metropolitan Miami reported 935,000 residents.[27]

During this period, non-Hispanic whites made up the vast majority of this migration. Soon, Spanish-speaking tourists (approximately 150,000 annually by 1950) and eventually residents also began to exert an influence—ushering in what historian Chanelle Rose refers to as the “Hispanicization of race” in Miami.

While white Miami leaders embraced a Jim Crow approach to governance, the intersection of peoples from the North, South, Caribbean, and Latin America resulted in a “border culture in a city that never comfortably fit within the paradigm of the Deep South experience as it is broadly understood,” as Rose notes. The combination of “meteoric tourist growth,” particularly from Spanish-speaking nations, and “vigorous promotion” of Miami as a “Pan American” metropolis by business leaders and municipal officials made absolute segregation increasingly difficult. For some residents and tourists, Spanish served as a form of currency that, when deployed, could skirt lines of segregation.[28]

The idea of Miami as the “Gateway to the Americas” was not new, but it gained increased momentum after World War II. The city’s business elites hardly believed in equality or integration, but the influence of “regional, national, and international forces shaped the business practices” of its “modernizing elites.” They aggressively courted wealthy Cuban tourists.[29]

Men enjoy a game at Domino Park in the historic Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Florida, Carol M. Highsmith, 2020, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Not that this was actually very progressive. Much like the “Spanish fantasy” of 1920s California, where boosters promoted the European aspects of Mexican culture, so too did Miami elites project a pan-Americanism that “embraced the shared European origins of their Latin American neighbors while disregarding any semblance of African Ancestry,” as Rose points out. When roughly 6,000 Cuban exiles fled the island after its president-dictator, Gerardo Machado was ousted, their arrival fueled an already active nativism. That said, it did enable Spanish-speaking Blacks to sometimes slip between the fissures of the city’s Jim Crow strictures. By the 1950s, significant numbers of Puerto Ricans and Cubans resided in the city—so many that some whites described them as a “third race,” further complicating efforts at segregation.

Such complexities only increased after 1959. The city’s population continued to expand as much greater numbers of Cubans fled the 1959 communist revolution on the island and settled in Miami. Black Miamians empathized with the new arrivals but chafed at their preferential treatment and worried that they might displace African American workers. Cubans also felt the sting of discrimination, but it was softened by municipal and federal policies influenced, in part, by Cold War anti-communism. The same strain of conservative Cold War conservatism, cracked down on the queer culture that had at one time defined Miami. A diversifying economy, an increasingly conservative population, and the “Lavender Scare” of the 1950s worked to limit the gains of the city’s queer population.

In the decades that followed, Miami’s growth continued. Cubans and Spanish-speakers from Latin America – Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, Columbians, and Guatemalans, among others – arrived in increasing numbers, reshaping the city in numerous ways. Haitians too decamped for Miami, claiming it as their own. By 2010, the county’s population reached almost 2.5 million; Spanish-speakers making up 65 percent of that figure.[30]

While housing segregation did not end, it did abate somewhat. In 1960, 78 percent of African Americans living in Dade County resided in segregated communities; by 1990 that number had fallen to 44 percent.[31]  Today, due to the confluence of foreign investment and expanding demographics, gentrification represents one of the most immediate threats to Black Miamians and working-class residents of all colors. As historian Sharony Green observes, Coconut Grove, for nearly a century home to the city’s black middle class, now “has one of the area’s highest gaps between rising home prices and the number of people who can afford them.”[32]

Miami’s multiculturalism and gentrification mirror those of many U.S. cities; likewise, its Latin American influence and history of anti-blackness align with much of metropolitan America. The reality is that life in Miami reflects less Miami Vice and more Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins and set in and around Liberty City. In one of the more affecting scenes, the main character, Chiron, meets with his formerly abusive and drug-addicted mother, who back on her feet and free of addiction, seeks to make amends. Acknowledging her shortcomings but hoping to signal her recommitment she tells her son: “You ain’t got to love me, but you gonna know I love you.” Perhaps it’s a fitting coda for the city’s history with and relationship to Black Miami.

As always, we’ve tried to compile a list of works that address Miami history from numerous angles. We know it’s not comprehensive, but we hope it provides a starting point for interested parties. We welcome suggestions for more books and articles in the comments.

A view of downtown Miami, Florida, skyscrapers from the Overtown District, Carol M. Highsmith, 2020, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. ”

Bibliography

Abreu, Christina D. Rhythms of Race: Cuban Musicians and the Making of Latino New York City and Miami, 1940-1960. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.

Armbruster, Ann. Life and Times of Miami Beach. New York: Knopf, 1995.

Bramson, Seth. Speedway to Sunshine: The Story of the Florida East Coast Railroad. Richmond Hills, Ontario: Boston Mills Press, 2003.

Bush, Gregory W. “Playground of the USA: Miami and the Promotion of Spectacle.” Pacific Historical Review 68, no. 2 (May 1999): 153-72.

Capo, Julio. Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami Before 1940. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

Campbell, John. “The Seminoles, the ‘Bloodhound War,’ and Abolitionism, 1796-1865.” Journal of Southern History (2006): 259-302.

Castillo, Thomas A. “Miami’s Hidden Labor History.” Florida Historical Quarterly 82, no. 4 (Spring 2004): 438-467.

Connolly, Nathan D.B. A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Making of Jim Crow South Florida. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Covington, James W. The Seminoles of Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1993.

Dunn, Marvin. Black Miami in the Twentieth Century. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997.

Frank, Andrew. Before the Pioneers: Indians, Settlers, Slaves, and the Founding of Miami. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2017.

George, Paul S. “Policing Miami’s Black Community: 1896-1930.” Florida Historical Quarterly 65 (April 1979): 434-450.

—–.  “Colored Town: Miami’s Black Community, 1896-1930.” Florida Historical Quarterly 56 (April 1978): 432-47.

—–.“Passage ot the New Eden: Tourism in Miami from Flagler though Everett G. Sewell.” Florida Historical Quarterly 59 (April 1981): 440-463.

Giller, Norman M. and Sarah Giller Nelson. Designing the Good Life: Norman M. Giller and the Development of Miami Modernism. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007.

Green, Sharony. “Tracing Black Racial and Spatial Politics in South Florida via Memory.” Journal of Urban History 44, no. 6 (2018): 1176-1196.

Kleinberg, Howard. Miami Beach: A History. Milwaukee: Centennial Press, 1994.

Temple Emanu-El in Miami Beach, one of the nation’s few beaches open to Jews when the synagogue was built in 1947, Carol M. Highsmith between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Miller, Susan A. “Seminoles and Africans under Seminole Law: Sources and Discourses of Tribal Sovereignty and ‘Black Indian’ Entitlement.” Wicazo Sa Review 20, no. 1 (2005): 23-47.

Mohl, Raymond. “Black Immigrants: Bahamians in Early Twentieth Century Miami.” Florida Historical Quarterly 65 (January 1987): 271-297.

—–. “On the Edge: Blacks and Hispanics in Metropolitan Miami since 1959.” Florida Historical Quarterly 69, no. 1 (July 1990): 37-56.

—–. South of South: Jewish Activists and the Civil Rights Movement in Miami, 1945-1960. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003.

Moore, Deborah Dash. To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L.A. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Mormino, Gary R. Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005.

—–. “Miami Returns: Miami Goes to War, 1941-1945.” Tequesta 57 (1997): 31-34.

Murphree, Daniel S. Constructing Floridians: Natives and Europeans in the Colonial Floridas, 1513-1783. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006.

Parks, Avra Moore. Miami: The Magic City. Miami: Centennial Press, 1991.

Perez, Louis, Jr. On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality, and Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Portes, Alejandro. “The Social Origins of the Cuban Enclave Economy in Miami.” Sociological Perspectives 3, no. 4 (October 1987): 340-372.

Portes, Alejandro and Ariel C. Armony. The Global Edge: Miami in the Twenty-First Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018.

Pozzetta, George. “Foreigners in Florida: A Study of Immigration Promotion, 1865-1910.” Florida Historical Quarterly 53, no. 2 (October 1974): 165-181.

Revell, Keith. “The Rise and Fall of Copa City, 1944-1957: Nightclubs and the Evolution of Miami Beach.” Florida Historical Quarterly 95, no. 4 (Spring 2017): 538-576.

Rose, Chanelle N. “The ‘Jewel’ of the South? Miami, Florida, and the NAACP’s Struggles for Civil Rights in America’s Vacation Paradise.” Florida Historical Quarterly 86, no. 1 (Summer 2007): 39-69.

—–.  The Struggle for Freedom in Black Miami: Civil Rights and America’s Tourist Paradise, 1896-1968. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2015.

“Tourism and the Hispanicization of Race in Jim Crow Miami, 1945-65,” Journal of Social History 45, no. 3 (Spring 2012): 735-756.

Rowe, Anne E. The Idea of Florida in the American Literary Imagination. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986.

Sassen, Saskia and Alejandro Portes. “Miami: A New Global City?” Contemporary Sociology 22 (July 1993): 471-477.

Shell-Weiss, Melanie. Coming to Miami: A Social History. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009.

Royal palms at Coconut Grove, Miami, Fla., Detroit Publishing, 1909, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

—–. “Coming North to the South: Migration, Labor, and City Building in Twentieth Century Miami,” Florida Historical Quarterly 84, no. 1 (Summer 2005): 79-99.

Strang, Cameron B. “Violence, Ethnicity, and Human Remains during the Second Seminole War.” Journal of American History 100, no. 4 (2014): 973-994.

Tscheschlok, Eric. “’So Goes the Negro’: Race and Labor in Miami, 1940-1963.” Florida Historical Quarterly 76, no. 1 (Summer 1997): 42-67.

Weitz, Seth. “Defending the Old South: The Myth of the Lost Cause and Political Immorality in Florida, 1865-1968.” The Historian 71, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 79-92.

Edited Volumes

City on the Edge: The Transformation of Miami. Eds. Alejandro Portes and Alex Stepick. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Florida’s Working Class Past: Current Perspectives on Labor, Race, and Gender from Spanish Florida to the New Immigration. Eds. Robert Cassanello and Mealnie Shell-Weiss. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2011.

Latino Immigrants and the Transformation of the U.S. South. Eds. Mary E. Odom and Elaine Cantrell Lacy. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009.

Miami Now! Immigration, Ethnicity, and Social Change. Eds. Guillermo J. Grenier and Alex Stepick. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1992.

Paradise Lost?: The Environmental History of Florida. Eds. Jack Emerson Davis and Raymond Arsenault. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1998.

Shades of the Sunbelt South: Essays on Ethnicity Race and the Urban South. Eds. Randall M. Miller and George E. Pozzetta. Miami: Florida Atlantic University, 1989.

This Land is Our Land: Immigrants and Power in Miami. Eds. Guillermo J. Grenier, Alex Stepick, Max Castro, and Marvin Dunn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.


Featured image (at top): Aerial view from Biscayne Bay, separating Miami Beach and Miami, Florida, of part of the Miami skyline, Carol M. Highsmith, 2020, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

[1] RIP Chris Cornell; Soundgarden on the other hand, was a great band, at least on record, not live.

[2] Julio Capo, Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami Before 1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017), 32-33.

[3] Julio Capo, Welcome to Fairyland, 64.

[4] Capo, Welcome to Fairyland, 219-221.

[5] Capo, Welcome to Fairyland, 64, 220, 216.

[6] Capo, Welcome to Fairyland, 129.

[7] Capo, Welcome to Fairyland, 242-243; Philip Dur and Christopher Gilcrease, U.S. Diplomacy and the Downfall of a Cuban Dictator: Machado in 1933,” Journal of Latin American Studies 34, no. 2 (May 2002): 255-282..

[8]Chanelle N. Rose, “Tourism and the Hispanicization of Race in Jim Crow Miami, 1945-65,” Journal of Social History 45, no. 3 (Spring 2012), 741.

[9] Nathan D.B. Connolly, A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Making of Jim Crow South Florida (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 26.

[10] Capo, Welcome to Fairyland, 64, 26, 236.

[11] Melanie Shell-Weiss, “Coming North to the South: Migration, Labor, and City Building in Twentieth Century Miami,” Florida Historical Quarterly 84, no. 1 (Summer 2005), 80.

[12] Connolly, A World More Concrete, 20, 26.

[13] Connolly, A World More Concrete, 26.

[14] Shell-Weiss, “Coming North to the South, 88; Rose, “Tourism and the Hispanicization of Race in Jim Crow Miami, 1945-65,” 86-87.

[15] Thomas Castillo, “Miami’s Hidden Labor History,” Florida Historical Quarterly 82, no. 4 (Spring 2004), 442, 445,

[16] Castillo, “Miami’s Hidden Labor History,” 446,

[17] Capo, Welcome to Fairyland, 123-125.

[18] Capo, Welcome to Fairyland, 84-5.

[19] Connolly, A World More Concrete, 53.

[20] Connolly, A World More Concrete, 7.

[21] Connolly, A World More Concrete, 289.

[22] Connolly, A World More Concrete, 104, 12.

[23] Keith Revell, “The Rise and Fall of Copa City, 1944-1957: Nightclubs and the Evolution of Miami Beach,” Florida Historical Quarterly 95, no. 4 (Spring 2017), 538, 556, 543; Capo, Welcome to Fairyland, 257.

[24] Revell, “The Rise and Fall of Copa City”, 540; Capo, Welcome to Fairyland, 273, 276.

[25] Rose, “Tourism and the Hispanicization of Race,” 735 ; Connolly, A World More Concrete, 92

[26] Connolly, A World More Concrete, 89, 96, 284-286, 231.

[27] Rose, “Tourism and the Hispanicization of Race,” 738.

[28] Rose, “Tourism and the Hispanicization of Race,” 736.

[29] Rose, “Tourism and the Hispanicization of Race,” 740, 745.

[30] Sharony Green, “Tracing Black Racial and Spatial Politics in South Florida via Memory,” Journal of Urban History 44, no. 6 (2018), 1188.

[31] Green, “Tracing Black Racial and Spatial Politics,” 1188.

[32] Green, “Tracing Black Racial and Spatial Politics,” 1185.

2 thoughts on “Magic City and Fairyland: Miami’s 20th Century, an Overview and Bibliography

  1. My book High Life: Condo Living in the Suburban Century (Yale 20212) foregrounds Miami’s role in the emergence of the now ubiquitous condominium housing arrangement in the USA, and explores the transformation of metropolitan Miami’s built environment between the 1940s and 1970s.

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  2. Alice Friedman’s American Glamour and the Evolution of Modern Architecture (Yale 2010) should also be on any bibliography about Miami. And Allan T Shulman’s edited collection Miami Modern Metropolis: Paradise and Paradox in Midcentury Architecture and Planning (Princeton Architectural Press, 2010).

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