Jacksonville's American Beach Historical Marker
Established as an oasis for African American travelers in 1935, this hotel and resort space became a haven for black families during the era of Jim Crow. The resort was founded by Abraham Lincoln Lewis, an African American businessman born in 1865- the same year that slavery and the Civil War ended. He would later become Florida's first African American millionaire and the president of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company. Jacksonville's American Beach became the largest beach resort created for and by African Americans in the era of Jim Crow. At that time, most beaches established a strict color line and this was the case even in Northern cities like Chicago. American Beach became a symbol as well as a place to live and retire for many African Americans, including the company's executives and their families. American Beach saw fewer visitors following desegregation in the 1960s. In recent decades the community has witnessed a revival and an effort to preserve its heritage. A portion of the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 as a historic district.
Backstory and Context
Segregation was the impetus behind the creation of American Beach, but the community survived well after segregation officially ended owing to the continued existence of racial discrimination and the desire of many African American families to patronize places where they were made to feel welcome. African Americans from all walks of life have vacationed and invested in the area, including black celebrities and leaders.