Photo credits: The History & Research Foundation of S. Florida
Dana Albert Dorsey (pictured) secured a fortune for himself by building houses and reinvesting his money when he earned it.
He was successful in building a real estate enterprise and went on to become the first Black millionaire in Miami. Dorsey constructed a historic house in 1915; at a period in Miami’s history when black inhabitants were prohibited from participating in the housing market.
Dorsey was successful in amassing a significant portfolio of real estate holdings. During the height of Miami’s segregation policies, he sold land to the city of Miami for the purpose of creating a park for the city’s African American citizens.
In Miami, Dorsey established a library for the city’s African-American community and gave the property to be used for the construction of schools for black pupils. It was on property granted by Dorsey that the first Black Miami high was constructed, which is called D.A. Dorsey Technical College today.
In addition to that, he was the first Black person to buy a hotel in Miami, which was the Dorsey Hotel. He was the proprietor of the Negro Savings Bank. Dorsey purchased Fisher Island, which is now recognized as having one of the most affluent postal codes in the world. The island can only be reached by ferry, boat, or helicopter.
The Miami Daily Metropolis reported in 1918 that Dorsey had purchased Fisher Island in order to build a company for the development of the tract as a high-class colored resort. The subdivision would have a hotel, cottages for well-to-do men of Dorsey’s own race, and boats to convey them back and forth between Florida’s mainland, as well as the island. Therefore, there will be no conflict of the races in the project.
However, after almost two short years of ownership, Dorsey sold the island to Carl Fisher, who at the time was in the process of constructing Miami Beach. Timothy Barber, executive director of the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, provided Miami-Dade’s WLRN-TV with an explanation of the reasons for Dorsey’s decision to sell the island.
Due to geographic obstacles, he was unable to erect new landmarks or enlarge existing ones on Fisher Island.
“One, I know notably was that it was on the east side of a railroad tracks, and we know that [Henry] Flagler designated the east side of the railroad tracks for white people and that he designated the west side of the railroad tracks for Black people,” Barber told WLRN.
Wynne, K. (2022, February 8). Mogul, Pioneer, Miami’s first black millionaire: Dana A. Dorsey’s legacy lives on. NBC 6 South Florida. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.nbcmiami.com/celebrating-black-history/mogul-pioneer-miamis-first-black-millionaire-dana-a-dorseys-legacy-lives-on/2683869/