One of the greatest architects of South Florida’s buildings in the early 1900s was a black man. He was an African American who didn’t wait for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He was not afraid of Jim Crow segregation or the murderous lynchings of the Deep South.
Instead, at his passing in 1940, Dana Albert Dorsey was a millionaire and, by today’s standards, would be a billionaire.
Yet because of a different form of racism, you won’t hear his name mentioned with Mary Brickell, to whom he sold land, or Carl Fisher, to whom he sold an island, or Florida Power & Light, to whom he sold access.
No, he is not mentioned with the Flaglers, Rockefellers, Stanleys or Kodaks, either. Yet his achievements were just as great, if not greater.
Records of his entrepreneurial spirit and success are readily accessible through the University of Florida System, Miami Public Library and the Florida Historical Society. At these places, you can find his actual deeds of buys and sells. You can also see
financial statements concerning Dorsey’s hotel, bank, mortgage company and store. You will see his patent in the automobile industry.
D.A. Dorsey, along with Henry Flagler, Carl Fisher and John Collins, literally built South Florida. Yet, you will not hear a beep about him on the Miami Beach Channel or Plum TV.
These 24-hour TV stations pay tribute to the pioneers of Miami, Miami Beach and South Florida. Oddly, there is no mention of D.A. Dorsey, who owned and sold much of the land that was developed into the multi-million dollar properties of today.
Why? The answer is obvious. The writers of history refuse to acknowledge contributions by African Americans or any other non-white ethnic groups. The state of Arizona recently enacted a law forbidding the study of ethnic groups. Therefore, the Arizona contributions made by Mexican Americans in building the United States cannot be studied.
In a tragic irony, Arizona was land once owned by Mexico. As the new law allows the unconstitutional questioning about an individual’s immigration status, it should be noted that Mexicans, along with Native Americans, have always lived in Arizona, before Europeans settled out west.
This brings into full circle the question of Dana Albert Dorsey. Even though today there is a Dorsey Avenue, a Dorsey High School and a Dorsey Library in Miami, D.A. Dorsey is not recognized as one of the most successful real estate barons of the 1900s, either on a local level or a national level.
Regardless of race, we must recognize all Americans who have contributed and continue to contribute to the building of this great nation.
We cannot have bans on ethnic studies like they do in Arizona. Nor can we allow newspapers, radio and TV to completely ignore the contributions made by all citizens.
Where is Dana Albert Dorsey? He is still here, because we can still see the real estate he once owned being developed every day.
John Dudley is a freelance writer who lives in Miami Beach.