A hearty breakfast at Jackson Soul Food
Aran S. Graham

Midcentury Miami

If you want to get a sense of what Miami was like during the heyday of the Orange Blossom Classic, check out Overtown and Liberty City, two of the city’s historically black neighborhoods.


Ward Rooming House

249 N.W. 9th St.
(305) 636-2217

Jackson Soul Food
950 N.W. 3rd Ave.
(305) 374-7661

Black Police Precinct & Courthouse Museum
480 N.W. 11th St.
(305) 329-2513

7501 N.W. 7th Ave.
(305) 751-1127

Just west of downtown, Overtown was once Miami’s version of Harlem, packed with hotels, clubs and restaurants. Today, the neighborhood is being impressively restored. What was once the Ward Rooming House, a safe haven for black and Native American workers, is now home to an art gallery as well as a visitor welcome center with cultural and historical exhibits, and it is part of the Historic Overtown Folklife Village, a two-block retail, cultural and entertainment district, which is a revitalization program of The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida. The reigning restaurant in the area is Jackson Soul Food, which has been owned and operated by the same family since 1946. In addition to soul staples like mac and cheese, collard greens and oxtails, the eatery serves a can’t-miss Sunday brunch.

The most unique attraction in Overtown is the Black Police Precinct & Courthouse Museum. For about 20 years beginning during World War II — until which point Miami had an all-white police department — the city allowed a special group of black officers and judges to deal with law enforcement in their neighborhood. They became a source of racial pride, and their efforts ultimately led to integration of the citywide police force. That history is on display in the museum.

Liberty City, about a 10-minute drive north of Overtown, became the primary African-American residential and cultural hub after interstate highways and a dubious sort of “urban renewal” gutted much of Overtown in the early 1960s. (There was also a Caribbean immigrant enclave in Coconut Grove.)

To this day, the place to go in Liberty City is Jumbo’s. The restaurant’s longtime owner, Bobby Flam, says that Orange Blossom Classic game day was always his busiest of the entire year. Jumbo’s remains a cherished place for several reasons. Not only was it one of the first restaurants in Miami to integrate its dining room, it has won local and national dining awards for its huge, tasty portions of fried shrimp and fried chicken, as well as breakfast combos like eggs with salmon patties and grits. Many of the platters are named for Miami’s ever-powerful high school football teams.