With the generous support of a community grant from Florida Humanities, the WPHL and FIU Libraries’ Digital Collections Center completed the digitization of select issues of Miami Life in Summer 2021. For decades, this alternative weekly newspaper had been thought entirely lost to researchers. While conducting his research on Miami’s LGBTQ past, Julio Capó, Jr. tracked down a descendant of the newspaper’s last known owner, Reubin Clein. That process, in part, helped Capó complete his first book, Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami before 1940 (2017). Select bound copies of the newspaper were in the descendant’s possession and have since been digitized by this initiative. They have been made text-searchable with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and the following issues are now freely available on FIU Libraries’ public-facing digital repository, dPanther: January–December 1927; January 1928–October 1929; September 1934–September 1935; and January–December 1949.
The digitized collection
"As time went on, I came to realize that the Miami Life was a hidden treasure trove with bountiful stories waiting to be told. While some may be quick to dismiss it as just another tabloid that operated on sensationalism and rumor, one must consider that even misinformation, exploitation, and embellishment of stories in newspapers still play a historical role given the proper context. Although riddled with inaccurate, racist, and homophobic sentiments, it still provides us with a glimpse of how some Miamians perceived themselves and their city over the years. After all, the newspaper ran for several decades and had a decent following up until its dissolution. Furthermore, Miami Life covered a wide variety of topics that will allow researchers to view Miami from a “bottom-up” perspective, or at least how the editors viewed it."
—Roberto Carrodeguas, graduate student intern who participated in the project
Learn more by viewing the digitized collection of Miami Life, such as this page from the December 8, 1928 edition.
The digitization of select issues of Miami Life has led to important community discussions about the city’s past and present. As an alternative press that highlighted its editor’s perspective and tabloid that often experimented with stylistic devices such as jokes, poems, and rumors, these available issues of Miami Life often convey a greater sense of the city’s pulse during the first few decades of its existence. These issues, often inadvertently, touch on a wide range of topics, including economic downturn and recovery, immigration, anti-Semitism, anti-Blackness, and gender and sexual politics. According to Clein family lore, Jewish pugilist Reubin Clein won the weekly Miami Life during a game of cards in 1931 (and, while that is most questionable, it too has become part of the source’s mythic lure). Clein used Miami Life to challenge or reaffirm existing power structures in Florida. While stylized as a beacon of honesty, Clein also regularly adhered to some of the era’s long-held beliefs of anti-Blackness (especially racial segregation), xenophobia, and homophobia. Among many things, the newspaper is a snapshot of life in the Jim Crow U.S. South.
In March of 2022, the WPHL hosted its inaugural Miami Studies Symposium. These were among the central topics and themes of the day’s panels, which included one on the recovery and retelling of difficult and often violent stories from the city’s past, as well as the long history of community-based efforts to preserve the city’s Black history and sites of memory and significance.
We hope that the public availability of these issues of Miami Life will help unearth important—albeit, often difficult—stories from our past, hopeful that bringing them to light can help communities heal. We also hope that other available issues of Miami Life, as well as countless of other such newspapers and materials once thought lost to us forever, reemerge.
This is all, indeed, Miami Life.
Digitizing Miami Life
Historian Julio Capó, Jr. with Riley Ford and Roberto Carrodeguas, the graduate student interns who worked with Capó and the FIU Libraries’ Digital Collections Center to scan and digitize select issues of Miami Life.
Learn more about this project, and read more on the significance of newspapers for recovering untold, forgotten, and often difficult histories of our past in “A Forgotten Newspaper,” an article written by Janet Scherberger for Florida Humanities’s FORUM Magazine (Fall 2021)