On June 27, 1940, Marvin Dunn was born in an orange grove barn in the Blackberry community of DeLand, Florida. His mother, Corinne Elizabeth Williams of Dothan, Alabama, worked as a housekeeper and cook, and his father, James C. Dunn Sr. of Glenwood, Florida, picked fruits and vegetables. Dunn was the second of five siblings from a migrant family who harvested crops in DeLand and Hicksville on Long Island, New York.
Dunn went to Dana Albert Dorsey High School in Liberty City, Florida, where math teacher Tee Stewart Greer, Sr. influenced him greatly.
At DeLand’s Euclid High School, principal Freeman W. Hinson urged Dunn to take the Ford Foundation early admission exam, which allowed him to enter Morehouse College in 1957 and graduate with a Psychology B.A. four years later, in 1961.
Future Morehouse president Leroy Keith Jr., future Surgeon General David Satcher, politician Maynard H. Jackson, the first black mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, future activist-minister Alfred Daniel Williams King, future MacArthur Fellow Donald R. Hopkins, and future historian Alton P. Hornsby Jr. were among Dunn’s classmates. Dunn earned an M.A. while serving as an officer in the United States Navy from 1961 to 1967. In 1966, he received a B.S. in Education, Administration, and Supervision from Roosevelt University in Chicago, and in 1972, he received a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
From 1970 to 1971, Dunn worked as a psychologist for the Dade County Public School Board and the Florida Model Cities Community Classroom Program. In 1972, he began a thirty-four-year professorship at Florida International University (FIU), where he founded the Cultural & Human Interaction Center, served as Associate Vice-President for University Outreach & Services, and acted as the acting director of the African New World Studies Program. Following the 1980 Miami Rebellion, he founded and served as principal of the Dr. Marvin Dunn Academy for Community Education. In 1996, he assisted in the establishment of Roots in the City, an urban gardening program in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.
Dunn co-produced the video documentaries “Black Seminoles in the Bahamas: The Red Bays Story” (2007), “Murder on the Suwanee: The Willie James Howard Story” (2009), “Rosewood Uncovered” (2010), and “The Black Miami” (2011) after being appointed chair of the FIU psychology department in 2000. (2012). His FIU archival collection contains over 4,000 photographs and images depicting the Black experience in Florida.
The Miami Riot of 1980: Crossing the Boundaries (1984); Black Miami in the Twentieth Century (1997); This Land is Our Land (2003); The Beast in Florida: A History of Anti-Black Violence (2013); and A History of Florida: Through Black Eyes (2014) are among Dunn’s books (2016). His views have been broadcast on BET, NPR, and PBS, and his written commentary has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, and Miami Times.
Marvin Dunn, who lives in Palmetto Bay with his wife, Andrea L. Loring, is still a sought-after commentator on Florida race relations.