Spotlighting and Sharing History

Spotlighting and Sharing History

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

MIAMI – Thomas Gore stood up straight, thrust his arms in the air and shouted.

“The champ is here!” he loudly proclaimed, in homage to boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

Around Gore, a dozen youngsters cheered and threw their hands in the air, too, soaking up a bit of Miami history with the Hurricanes defensive lineman on a sunny South Florida afternoon.

Gore, who is majoring in American Studies at Miami after transferring from Georgia State earlier this year, is spending part of his summer off-season working as an intern at the Historic Hampton House Museum & Cultural Center in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood just 12 miles from UM’s campus.

In between his football workouts and classes, Gore has learned enough about the Hampton House to now guide visitors through the old Green Book site motel that during the 1960s hosted a series of Black luminaries, including Ali, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson, Sammy Davis Jr., Sam Cooke, Joe Louis, Althea Gibson, and countless others.

On this particular June afternoon, Gore was helping guide a group of young summer campers from across Miami-Dade County through the same rooms, dining room and pool area where those history-makers once spent time, relaxing, working, writing and connecting with family and friends.

In Ali’s case, the Hampton House was where the boxer – then still known as underdog Cassius Clay – went to celebrate after winning his star-making, Miami Beach bout with Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964.

Learning that history – and now sharing it – is a responsibility Gore doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s been a big chance for me because I haven’t been around kids – especially like 60 kids – in a while,” Gore said. “Hearing the kids, seeing what previous information they have…I remember I was talking to a kid who happened to be named Thomas yesterday and he told me about the Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston fight. He knew about Sonny Liston because he had to do a project on him. So, it’s kind of cool to see what information is still around to this day and what’s been forgotten…It’s good to see them get to the Hampton House and get some real information about Miami.”

Along with helping guide visitors through the Hampton House, Gore’s responsibilities include collecting and compiling media clippings about the museum and helping staff with day-to-day tasks around the old two-story, 50-room motel which closed in 1976 and was in disrepair until it was renovated in 2015.

When campers visit, he also helps the youngsters put together an Aretha Franklin-Stevie Wonder singalong and helps them make their own cultural Green Books, a nod to the Hampton House’s inclusion in the segregation-era travel guide that helped Black motorists find safe accommodations during the segregationist Jim Crow era.

And staff say Gore’s efforts are making a difference, particularly with those younger visitors.

“When Thomas came, we were like ‘Whoa.’ He just fit in so well,” said Jacqui Colyer, the Historic Hampton House board chair. “He became part of the Historic Hampton House family immediately…Whenever people come on the tours and they go to the Ali room, he stands up, says ‘The champ is here,’ and the kids love it. We tell them he’s an intern here with the University of Miami and he plays football and when they see him, they get all excited. He talks about his major and shares with them that he loves history, so being here fits right into everything he loves…

“He’s shared with them that he’s read books about Jackie Robinson, who visited here during the Jim Crow era. He’s read about Althea Gibson. So, he tells the kids about all the athletes who came to the Historic Hampton House and were a part of this great iconic hotel that really was a leader in social justice and how we get things to change and make America a better place. We love Thomas and hope he comes back every year.”

Said Gore, “The little boys, a lot of them play around the area or play football. So, when they see a Miami football player, they throw up ‘The U’ and it always puts a smile on my face because they know Miami and they love the team.”

While he’s now well versed in the Hampton House’s history, Gore – who hails from Antioch, Tennessee – wasn’t familiar with the museum when he arrived in Miami.

But a visit to the Hampton House with some of his Hurricanes teammates piqued his curiosity and after a conversation with LaToya Farris, Miami’s assistant athletic director for student-athlete development, he decided to get more involved.

Thus, the idea for his internship was born.

Now, Gore wants to make sure as many people as possible learn about the museum and its mission to preserve some of Miami’s rich Black history, a history that was spotlighted in both the stage play and 2020 film One Night in Miami, which were set at the Hampton House.

“It’s been very different because me, personally, I’ve never been to a Green Book motel or anything like that,” Gore said. “For me to be able to come in and see the history literally on the walls or sit in the area where Muhammad Ali sat, going into the room and seeing the MLK picture [where he’s] swimming in the pool…getting to see those little details of history that you don’t normally see…I think that’s been a big thing.”

And after spending time in both Miami and at the Hampton House, Gore says he can truly understand why both were special to so many in the Black community, then and now.

“MLK actually did the draft for his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech here and that’s something I would have never known if I wasn’t here,” Gore said. “I’d say that’s probably the biggest piece of information [I’ve learned] …

“I can see why he had that speech because this weather, this beautiful area, being able to walk by the pool…just being able to just come to peace with your mind so you could have that speech. I feel like that definitely played a part of it.”

To learn more about the Historic Hampton House, visit