Coral Gables is one of Miami’s most affluent neighborhoods. And like many communities across the country at one time, people of color were not allowed to live there, much less be buried there. But a museum curator in the area is working to make sure the Black men and women who worked to build the trendy neighborhood are not forgotten. He wants people to know it’s the final resting place for about 10,000 to 15,000 people, including Miami’s first Black millionaire and the first African-American woman to serve in the State Legislature, reports NBC 6. But, time and financial hardship have taken a toll on one of Miami’s oldest Black cemeteries, Lincoln Memorial Park, located in the Brownsville neighborhood.
Recently, the Coral Gables Museum got involved, bringing attention to this sacred site. The exhibit is called “Sacred Ground: The Rise, Fall and Revival of Lincoln Memorial Park.” It’s filled with mementos and pictures, some dating back to the early 1900s. Even though, the cemetery is not located in Coral Gables, the museum decided to install the exhibit to recognize the many Black residents who helped build the city.
During segregation, African-Americans were not allowed to live or be buried in Coral Gables. Malcolm Lauredo, director of historic research at Coral Gables Museum, wants to ensure the contributions Blacks made to Coral Gables are not forgotten. “Miami’s history like a lot of other’s history in the United States has been white washed. And, that it’s a priority of ours to help people understand that there are a lot of important people that help founded this city,” Lauredo said. Many Black pioneers are buried at Lincoln Memorial Park. D.A. Dorsey was Miami’s first African-American millionaire. He died in 1940. A weathered, but still ornate mausoleum houses Dorsey’s remains.
Gwen Cherry also rests at the historic cemetery. She was the first African-American woman elected to the Florida State Legislature in 1970. She died in 1979. H.E.S. Reeves, the founder of Miami’s first Black newspaper, is also buried at the cemetery. So much of South Florida’s history is buried at Lincoln Memorial Park, but so few people know of its existence. The 20-acre cemetery is overgrown with weeds and is in desperate need of restoration. John Allen, executive director at the museum, said he was completely blown away when he learned about the cemetery.
I thought I knew about every cemetery in Dade County and I had never heard of this cemetery before,” Allen said. Allen was touched by the number of veterans that are buried at the cemetery with no tombstones. The veterans resting at the sacred site date back to World War 1. “One of our biggest goals is to locate these graves and locate these tomb stones on the graves of the men that they belong to,” Allen explained. Thanks to the museum as many as 100 people a month work together to help restore the cemetery. “It’s so ripe with history and there’s so much potential there. It’s just going to take the time and man power to do it,” Allen said. The exhibit will end its run Nov. 6, which ironically is Election Day.