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Dorsey adult education center rekindles the legacy

D.A. Dorsey Adult Education Center

Dorsey adult education center rekindles the legacy

By Derek Joy

     D.A. Dorsey Adult Education Center concluded Black History Month with a program under the theme: Rekindling the Legacy of Dana Albert Dorsey.

    The program, orchestrated under the administrative eye of Dr. Angela E. Thomas-DuPree, principal of D. A. Dorsey Adult Education Center, included musical, poetic and theatrical performances by students that enhanced some passionate speeches.

    “An education is the order of the day,” said David Dukes, an African American Historian/Activist, who was the guest speaker.  Get an education.  Not all this foolishness, all this violence. Please make education your number one priority.”

    Dukes recalled his youth when “Russia was our biggest enemy. Yet they could come here, with their white skin, and go in restaurants.  But I couldn’t take my Black skin in the same restaurants.”

    He also told of the terrorist reign of the Ku Klux Klan, how they burned crosses and lynched Black Americans.

  “Black History should be taught 365 days a year. It should be included in American History so people can learn,’ said Dukes, who asked, “How can I stand-liberty and justice for all when I can’t go in a restaurant?

    Dukes made that point to note what went through his mind and minds of many Black American students while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the segregation era.

    Historically, D.A. Dorsey Adult Education Center began as a high school in Liberty City in 1937.  It was built on land donated by Dana Albert Dorsey, Miami Dade County’s first Black American millionaire, despite having only a fourth grade education.

    The school opened in 1937, graduated its first class in 1938 and had one principal during its 18-year life as a Black American high school.  The school graduated 1,500 students during those 18 years before it became a junior high school and was replaced by Northwestern High School, which graduated its first class in 1955, just more than a year after the May 4, 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in the Brown vs. Board (Kan.) Education that struck down segregation in public schools.

    Dorsey, a native of Quitman, Ga., moved to Miami in 1896 and gained employment as a carpenter for Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad.

    On hand, helping to rekindle his legacy, was an impressive group of alumni, former educators and administrators, as well as members of Dorsey’s family.

    “I remember asking my grandmother why are here we (at Dorsey),” said Horatio Major, Jr., Dorsey’s great grandson.  “She told me, “one day when I’m not here it will be your turn.”  Today is my turn.

    “It’s important that we know the South Beach we all go to was once owned by a Black man.  I challenge you to know your history.”

    Teachers from the early days at Dorsey High School, which became an Adult Education Center in 1970, were hailed as honored guests.  Among them were:  Lawrence Adams, Theodore Blue, Dorothy Edwards, William L. Gilbert, Charles Gray and Eloise C. Jennings.

  Also on hand from past faculties were:  Agnes Lowery, Lona B. Mathis, Juanita F. Andrews, Ruby T. Rayford, Alberta Sparks and Dr. Earl Wells.

    “When I started here in 1936 there were only eight portables for grades six, seven and eight,” recalled Earnest Smith, a 1945 graduate and oldest living graduate.  “The next year, the other grades came from Lincoln High School.

    “I didn’t play football.  I was in the band, Booker T.  (Booker T. Washington — the first Black American high school in Miami Dade County).  We went to the first band clinic for Black schools.  We went to Tallahassee to FAMU (Florida A&M University).”

    Smith concluded by telling the audience, “You know, I did get a higher education.  I did get a Ph.D., which means Plow Hard, Daddy,” which drew thunderous applauds.

    Baljean Smith, the Dorsey Alumni Association president and a member of the last class to graduate from Dorsey High School, enhanced the knowledge and wisdom imparted by those who spoke before him.

    “I, and the rest of my classmates, stand on their shoulders,” said Baljean Smith, acknowledging the group of Dorsey faculty members from the school’s early years.  We had a triangle back then, and our teachers made sure we learned the value of each.

    “First, there was home.  Second, there was church.  And third, there was school.  Our teachers made sure we left with two footlockers full of knowledge and common sense. Young people, you won’t go anywhere without common sense.  These instructors, along with the church and home, got me to where I am today.”


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