Neither Southern nor Northern: Miami, Florida and the Black freedom struggle in America's tourist paradise, 1896--1968

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


History (Arts and Sciences)

First Committee Member

Donald Spivey - Committee Chair


Over the past few decades, the Civil Rights Movement has undergone a profound re-examination that has helped to reconceptualize its origins, development, regional boundaries, leadership, protest strategies, and effects. The study of the black freedom struggle in Miami will contribute to this intellectual movement by exploring how immigration, ethnic difference, tourism, and the construction of race shaped the fight for the liberation of African Americans during the early twentieth century and fashioned its distinctive character following World War II. While an ever-increasing body of scholarship on civil rights activism in Florida has helped to debunk popular notions of Florida as an ostensibly atypical southern state, exposing its deeply racist character, the struggle for racial justice in South Florida still requires more attention. Although recent studies have enhanced our understanding of the virulent racism confronted by African Americans in a state that has traditionally enjoyed a reputation as being more moderate with regard to race than the rest of the South, only very few studies have focused on the less publicized, yet significant, battles that occurred in heterogeneous cities like Miami, which never comfortably fit within the paradigm of the Deep South experience as it is broadly understood. The city provides an important case study that sheds new light on unresolved questions regarding the "southernness" of Florida by looking at the impact of the convergence of cultural practices from the American South, the Caribbean, and Latin America on the nature and development of race relations during the first half of the twentieth century. While the development of the struggle for freedom illuminates many of Florida's Deep South traits, my research will also demonstrate that the city of Miami offers a counterpoint to the rest of the state because post-WWII meteoric tourist growth and rapid demographic change fostered a peculiar racial climate that was neither southern nor northern before Cuban migration gathered momentum. White civic elites were determined to secure the city's paradise image and burgeoning reputation as the "Gateway to the Americas," which ultimately mitigated the modern Civil Rights Movement.


History, Black; History, United States

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