South Florida man recounts Miami during the 1960s

MIAMI – A South Florida man shared his experience Tuesday with Local 10 News on what it was like to live in Miami during the 1960s.

If you ask Lonnie Lawrence, he will tell you that he knows Miami and how it was a lot different when he was growing up at that time.

“There are things you can do now in Miami that you couldn’t do back in the Jim Crow days,” said Lawrence.

As a teenager, Lawrence says he was illegally arrested by police after a white woman was assaulted.

“We are talking in the early 60′s and it was a white female who had been assaulted the night before, and I always say, if she turned around and hesitated, I said, ‘Maybe I might not be standing here today talking to you,’” he said.

Lawrence told Local 10 News reporter Joseph Ojo that he was made to feel as though people who looked like him weren’t truly accepted.

Reliving history isn’t easy, but Lawrence took Local 10 News for a tour of the Black Precinct in Miami.

“If anything happened to us or with us, we were brought to this building,” he said.

Lawrence says his friend Arthur McDuffie died at the hands of police officers in December 1979 following a traffic stop and chase.

The four officers who were said to have beat him to death, were acquitted in May 1980, which lead to multiple riots that Lawrence says left the city on fire.

“There was a sense of tenseness in the community at the time,” he said. “It was like someone went along and struck a match all over the place.”

Having lived through what he called an “interesting” Miami, Lawrence says it’s important to share his stories so that more can be done.

Even though Lawrence says he is happy with the changes, he feels like more can certainly be done.

“I think we have made a lot of progress, but we can’t hide where we came from,” he said.

To learn more about Lawrence’s story, visit the HistoryMiami Museum’s website, where his story is highlighted along with the stories of other Black leaders.

For more stories related to Black History Month, click here.

About the Author:

Joseph Ojo joined Local 10 in April 2021. Born and raised in New York City, he previously worked in Buffalo, North Dakota, Fort Myers and Baltimore.