Autumn does not start officially until September 22nd. Traditionally, families and friends gather for one last big barbeque, family reunion, or day on the beach over the Labor Day weekend, and this signifies the end of summer. It was not that long ago, that a day at the beach for African Americans was as fraught as the back of the bus, the lunch counter, the road trip that required so much planning because so few hospitality facilities were available.
Starting in the 1890's, one solution to the "beach problem" was the development of resorts for African American families and the creation of public beaches by successful black entrepreneurs. As always, the poor had to just make do in most places. But for those of means or who were able to plan and make the trip, these resorts and beaches were major holiday destinations. Many of these resorts began to fall on hard times as desegregation offered black families more choices in where vacations could be taken. But until then, they were very successful. Watch a video here called A Place of Our Own: Black Resorts and the African American.
There were at least thirteen beaches and resorts of note. These were Idlewild on the shores of Lake Michigan; Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts; Highland Beach, Maryland; American Beach, Florida; Pacific Beach Club, Los Angeles, California; Gulfside Assembly, Waveland, Mississippi; Freeman Beach, Wilmington, North Carolina; Sag Harbor, New York; Bruce's Beach, near Los Angeles, California; Buckroe Beach, Bay Shore, and Mark Haven, Virginia (click here for information on the previous six listings); and lastly, Lincoln Hills Country Club with the famous Winks Lodge in Colorado.
Each of these resorts has a unique history and starting point. Idlewild was started by two white couples from Chicago who saw a need and a business opportunity. Highland Beach was started by descendents of Frederick Douglass. American Beach was founded by Florida’s "first black millionaire, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, and his Afro-American Life Insurance Company". Famous entertainers, business people, intellectuals, and members of the working class all spent time at these resorts. The links throughout this post contain a wealth of information.
|Idlewild Resort, Michigan|
|American Beach, Florida|
|Highland Beach, Maryland|