Interview with Dewey Knight
QUESTION 1
JAMES A. DeVINNEY:

Tell me about Overtown in its heyday.

DEWEY KNIGHT:

Overtown in its heyday was a, a real positive thing to see. It was a community, it was a place where people came together around common factors, there were viable businesses of all sorts, furniture stores--

JAMES A. DeVINNEY:

We have to cut, I'm sorry.


JAMES A. DeVINNEY:

Overtown.

DEWEY KNIGHT:

Overtown was a viable community in which people had common causes and related to each other. There was economic development, businesses, furniture stores, clothing stores, a soda water bottling company. The professionals, doctors, lawyers, other professionals were there. It was a place, a focal point for Black people. Segregation of course contributed to that, but segregation caused it to be a community where people had a real sense of community[1][1] Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 - 1985; Episode 208-03. The youngsters were considered youngsters of the community so that, ah, everyone felt some responsibility for youngsters**. It was said once by juvenile court judge that there's no such thing as a dependent Black child in Dade County because the community will take care of him. And it's literally true that nobody--very few people suffered. We saw however some significant, ah, changes that came about number one, because of the aspirations of Black people, but more importantly, negative changes that came about because of what was supposed to be something good, something called urban renewal, which ended up being urban removal. And I-95 which was basically developed to get people from suburbia downtown and in the process destroyed Overtown and that sense of community. I say that because what did it do? It meant that people had to move. They were given very little for their property, there was no planned movement and people had to do the best they could. And as a result of that the--some landlords exploited that. Liberty City which had basically become a Brownsville, an area for upward mobility where you could buy a lot and work weekends and build a house. All of a sudden you saw concrete apartment houses coming up, what we call concrete monsters, simply because the, the demand because of the push-out for Overtown, was for space**. There were small ah, places that did not, ah, accommodate people, it was overcrowding areas, there was no zoning controls to assure--these are single family residences and next to it you had all kind of houses. And it really literally destroyed what was the major Black community in this area. And you never saw the redevelopment of that sense of community, in my estimation, that I was informed of and saw the end of Overtown.

JAMES A. DeVINNEY:

Cut.