Woman behind Miami’s first Bahamian restaurant in 1929 gets street renamed after her. This is her story

Mildred Europa Taylor January 13, 2023
Seafood Cafe was owned and operated by Margaret Jane Thompson Mackey. Photo credit: CBS News

Decades ago, when boxing legend Muhammad Ali visited Overtown, Miami, he ate meals at a popular Bahamian restaurant, Seafood Cafe, that was owned and operated by Margaret Jane Thompson Mackey.

Mackey opened Miami’s first Bahamian restaurant in 1929 offering tasty Bahamian food such as fried fish and stewed conch, according to CBS News. Miami’s first Black Bahamian restaurant owner is not only remembered for her family-run business but also for her kindness, opening her doors to people from out of town who lacked a place to live. She also inspired her fellow Blacks to fight for equity and equality for everyone.  

“When people came from out of town and didn’t have anywhere to go no place to give, she would give them a job in her restaurant and then she would get them a place to sleep until they go on their feet,” Antoinette Miller, a relative of Mackey, recounted to CBS News.

After years of operation, Mackey had to close down the restaurant in 1969 to pave the way for highway construction and urban renewal. Overtown was “Black Miami’s showcase, centerpiece and mecca” during the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, according to history. Black businesses thrived at the time but things changed during the 1960s when much of Overtown had to be destroyed as part of the Urban Renewal Program, and the I-95 extension, a ten-lane expressway which today is Miami’s primary north-south artery. Black businesses including Mackey’s were affected.

Nearly six decades after closing down Seafood Cafe, Mackey has had a street in Miami renamed after her. The street sign is near where the Seafood Cafe once stood. Authorities believe that the sign will not only give instructions or provide information to people but will also help them reconnect with the past.

“I feel so blessed,” Mackey’s granddaughter Andrea Pratt told CBS News. She campaigned for two years for the City of Miami to rename a street after her grandmother. She is glad that it has finally happened.

Mackey passed away in 1968. Naming a street after her is another way of honoring her and making sure that her story is never forgotten in Overtown and beyond, officials said. 

“Our youth, they need to hear these stories, if she could do it during a time where the world is going through a downfall the Great Depression if she was able to open up a thriving restaurant that can give us hope,” said Gail Seay, City of Miami Constituent Affairs.

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