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African-American Culture In Miami Is Preserved In Black Archives

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Inside a room in the building that houses Miami's historic Lyric Theater, there are decades-old pictures and manuscripts documenting the life over the years in the black community in Miami.

Timothy Barber is the executive director of The Black Archives, History, and Research Foundation of South Florida.

During a look inside the archives room, there is a cross that was set on fire in Miami.

"When you think about Black History, about the struggle," Barber said. "Learn from it and keep moving forward."

The archives, with the oldest item that dates back to 1876, are not displayed like in a museum. Instead, they're preserved so there is always a reminder for future generations.

The collections were started by activist and historian Dr. Dorothy Jenkins Fields in 1977.

"The only thing they could find on black people in Miami is obituaries," Barber said.

Since then, the collections grew. Barber started as an intern in 2003.

"When I came in September, Dr. Fields showed me the back room. I was like in a heart attack because there were boxes on boxes of information that needed to be organized as an archivist," Barber said.

Before that, Barber said he was unaware there was so much history showing the black culture in Miami.

"I was unaware all my life in Miami that an archive in Miami existed," Barber said.

The collections include pictures of Clyde Killins who helped Overtown boom as a major promoter in the 1940s to the 60s.

The Booker T Washington collection includes pictures of the first high school for black students in Miami. There's also information about why the opening was delayed a year, following the school being damaged from a bombing, according to Barber.

"If I would've known about the past in Miami and what black life really meant, I think it would've probably pushed me to strive a little harder," Barber said.

The leader of the black archives believes there's still more to collect. But there are also ways people can learn about the history of the black culture in Miami. Many can learn about history by talking to older relatives.

"Working here made me ask my great aunts before they passed away made me ask 'hey, when did you come to Miami?'," Barber said.

There is a list of events happening in Overtown for the celebration of Black History Month.

A way for people to see some of the archives will be this Wednesday at noon during the Brown Bag Lunch Series.

For more information, head to BAHLT.ORG

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