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Sundial: From marching with Martin Luther King Jr. to preserving Miami's Black History

Sammy Mack
Dorothy Jenkins Fields of the Black Archives at The Historic Lyric Theater in Miami.

Dorothy Jenkins Fields had no idea how her life would change the day she went looking for books written by Black people about Black people.

She was the first and the only Black faculty member at the all-white Myrtle Grove Middle School in 1974.

She marched with Martin Luther King Jr. when she was a student at Spelman College in Atlanta. Now she was a school librarian at the Miami Gardens middle school and she thought it was important to teach Miami’s Black history.

So she called the Dade County Public library and asked for every book they had available on the subject. The clerk told her they didn’t have any. They had 10,000 books on their shelves. And not a single one was written by Black people about Miami’s Black history.

Fields changed all that.

She went on to found the Black Archives. A non-profit that collects and organizes the African-American experience in Miami-Dade County. It’s a cathedral for Black history — photos, books, documents. And it’s become a national resource for scholars and regular folks in the community looking to learn about Miami’s Black history.

On the Jan. 16 episode of Sundial, we’re joined by Fields. She’s led the restoration of The Historic Lyric Theater, where the Black Archives are housed — just blocks from where she grew up.

Fields is featured in the oral history project "Stories of Resistance from Black Miami” at the HistoryMiami Museum.

On Sundial's previous episode, we were joined by Photographer Carl Juste and historian Rebecca Friedman for a conversation about racism, climate change a series of conversations they're hosting this weekend at IPC ArtSpace in Little Haiti to preview an upcoming exhibition about Miami's memorial rituals.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.