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Amelia Islander

A brief history of american beach

Feb 21, 2018 02:00AM
American Beach was founded in 1935 by Florida's first black millionaire, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, and his Afro-American Life Insurance Company. The plan was for his employees to have a place to vacation and own homes for their families by the shore. Throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, summers at American Beach were busy with families, churches and children. It was a place where African Americans could enjoy "Recreation and Relaxation without Humiliation". The beach included hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs as well as homes and other businesses.

A.L. Lewis' great-granddaughter MaVynee Betsch, known to locals as the Beach Lady, returned to American Beach in 1977 to fight for its preservation. For years, she planted trees along Lewis street, offered historical tours of the beach, and fought to raise public awareness of the beach and its struggle until her death September 2005. She wanted to make American Beach a monument to black Americans' determination to overcome the obstacles of the Jim Crow era. As of January 2001, American Beach is listed as a historic site by the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information visit www.americanbeachmueum.org.