By 1888 in America, at least 200 Black towns and communities had been established nationwide. According to an article in The Washington Post, some of these towns were modeled on Black towns that had been formed after the American Revolution and during the antebellum era – from the late 1700s to 1860.
As time went by, some communities got lost completely. While some were destroyed by lakes or natural parks, others were taken to build schools — for whites only. One such Black community was Railroad Shop Colored Addition, established around 1917 in the Allapattah neighborhood of Miami. Railroad Shop was made up of Black workers who built and serviced the local railroads and trains, according to WLRN.
Miami had only been a city for about 21 years when the Black community of Railroad Shop was created. Spanning from Northwest 46 Street north to 50th Street from Northwest 12th Avenue to 14th Avenue, the all-Black community was surrounded by an all-White neighborhood.
In many communities in the U.S., White neighborhoods were almost close to Black people who worked as their domestics. Their Black neighbors could come to their homes to take care of their children or cook for them. But as the country started modernizing and technology began taking over the jobs humans used to do, these White neighbors felt they no longer needed their Black neighbors.
Such was the case in Railroad Shop that the White community used the connections they had to get rid of their Black neighbors who they felt were too close to them. According to WLRN, “White residents lodged complaints with the City of Miami and lobbied the Miami-Dade County School Board until both bodies intervened to take the black-owned land through eminent domain.”
On August 1, 1947, White police officers ordered 35 Black families to leave Railroad Shop. It was raining, and the officers, some of whom wielded shotguns, put the Black families out into the rain, with many of them not having anywhere to go. They were evicted with little notice after being told that the Dade School Board wanted the land for a school — a Whites-only school. The city of Miami also wanted to build a park for the White neighborhoods surrounding the community.
Before the eviction, historians said Miami government officials worked so hard to try to drive down the neighborhood’s value to enable it to take it over eventually. The Miami Herald reported that some residents fought back against the government by hiring a Black attorney to take on the School Board and the City Hall. But In July 1947, a judge gave the nod for “immediate possession of the property”. This enabled the remaining homes to be taken by the city to build a park and a fire station.
Government officials offered families about $150 per lot but some negotiated for more. Families who were bent on keeping their homes had to pay the county for moving the houses to another lot. A few also paid to move their houses to other parts of Miami or to the Carver Ranches section of Broward County, The Miami Herald said.
It is not really known what happened to the Black families who lived in Railroad Shop Colored Addition, however, there are some markers that pay tribute to the community. According to WLRN, two schools in Allapattah have been renamed for former residents of Railroad Shop — Lenora Braynon Smith Elementary and Georgia Ayers Middle School.
Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, whose family was kicked out from their home by Miami-Dade County School Board, also now sits on the school board that took her family’s land. She ran for a seat on the school board and won. She has been sitting on the school board for 10 years now.