The Historic DA Dorsey is now a museum and symbol of the success of Miami’s first Black millionaire.
“School children and others can come and see that a Black man built this home,” said Dr. Dorothy Jenkins Fields, founder of Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater.
Dana Albert Dorsey was born in 1872. A son of former slaves, he moved from South Georgia to Miami.
“He had a fourth grade education,” Fields said.
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But that didn’t stop him. He worked as a carpenter and started off buying one parcel of land at a time, then designing and building one rental property per plot.
Fields says Dorsey built the historic home in 1915 when Black residents were essentially locked out of the housing market.
“When the house was built in 1915, it was deep in segregation in the Jim Crow era when Blacks were limited in every phase of life,” Fields said.
In a matter of years, he amassed a real estate empire, first buying Fisher Island then selling it about two years later.
He also helped organize Miami’s first Black bank and Black-owned hotel.
“He was interested in building wealth,” Fields said.
Dorsey’s legacy can still be seen to this day throughout parts of Overtown from Dorsey Park to Dorsey Memorial Library.
“They were inspired by this man who had a bank and a hotel who had real estate who actually built his own home,” Fields said.
Along with building homes to help provide housing for Black workers, Dorsey was also a huge advocate for education.
He donated land to build Miami’s first Black high school, which now sits as DA Dorsey Technical College.
“He was in fact a magnet for business and culture and education,” Fields said.
The real estate pioneer died in 1940, but Fields and others are preserving his legacy.
His home has been restored throughout the years and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Mr. Dorsey’s legacy lives,” Fields said.