This exciting episode will test your knowledge of some of the early movers and shakers of Miami, Fla. who opened doors, integrated beaches, wrote legal opinions and impacted the Miami/ Florida political system.  

Doctor William B. Sawyer was among the first black doctors to practice in Miami, he was one of the key leaders in raising money to build Miami’s first black hospital, Christian Hospital where he served as Chairman of the Board for almost 3 decades.  He built Miami’s premier black hotel of the time, The Mary Elizabeth Hotel. Doctor Sawyer’s daughter, Gwen Sawyer Cherry became the first black woman elected to the Fla. House of Representatives.

Other leaders including Charles Hadley, a political activist known for his organization “Project Big Vote” was a force to be reckoned with in early Miami politics.  Doctor John O. Brown successfully filed suit against Dade County Schools and integrated the segregated System. The Reverend Canon Theodore Gibson of Christ Episcopal Church was a community activist who among many accomplishments served on the Miami City Commission, filed lawsuits that desegregated downtown lunch counters, the county beach and the school system.

Dr. Johnny L. Jones was the first present day Black Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.  He greatly reduced the number of school suspensions that put students out in the streets unsupervised and instead promoted the use of In-Door suspensions.  He opened opportunities for Blacks to be elevated into the upper levels of the school system’s administration. Dr. Jones distinguished career was tarnished by an endeavor known as “The Gold Plumbing Fiasco” that accused him of using school funds for personal use.

Judge Wilkie D. Ferguson was appointed to the Third District in 1980, the first African American to serve on the Court.  As a trial judge, he made a landmark ruling precluding the systematic exclusion of blacks from juries. The federal courthouse in downtown Miami is named in his honor.

Join us to learn more about these and other people who helped shape Miami.

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