GRAY FRIDAY: Miami’s first black Millionaire: Dana A. Dorsey (Miami Nostalgia)


Dana Albert Dorsey

Dorsey came to the Miami area of south Florida around 1896. He worked as a carpenter for Henry M. Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad. During that time he recognized the need to provide housing for black workers. He purchased one parcel of land at a time, and he designed and constructed one rental house per parcel, reinvesting the rental income to build more and rent more, eventually expanding as far north as Ft. Lauderdale.

In 1917, he and his wife Rebecca sold land to the City of Miami for a park for African-Americans (during an era of segregation). Dorsey Park is located on northwest 17th street and First avenue.

In 1919, Dorsey sold a small barrier island east of Miami accessible only by water to automotive pioneer Carl G. Fisher who was developing Miami Beach, and named it Fisher Island. In 1925, Fisher traded the island to William Kissam Vanderbilt II in return for a 200 foot yacht. Vanderbilt’s improvements created what is today one of the wealthiest and most exclusive residential enclaves in the area.

The first black-owned hotel in Miami was his Dorsey Hotel, and he was the owner of the Negro Savings Bank. Dorsey was a firm believer in education and he donated a large quantity of land for black schools. He gained great respect and admiration from the white community. When Dorsey died in 1940, flags were lowered to half-staff all over Miami. On his deathbed he donated the land for the Dorsey Memorial Library, which was dedicated in 1941.

Also, visit one of Miami’s most historic landmarks:

D.A. Dorsey House
250 NW 9th Street
Year Built: circa 1913


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