American Beach, A Place Like No Other
In Northeast Florida on Amelia Island lies a stretch of pristine beach and ocean that meets the sky. North of crumbling slave cabins and founded in defiance of segregation, American Beach is a place of rich African-American history and extraordinary vision.
American Beach Museum opened its doors on September 6, 2014, bringing the lifelong dream of American Beach’s MaVynee Oshun Betsch, “The Beach Lady,” to fruition. Step inside to experience the culture, stories and heritage of American Beach
A SAFE HAVEN FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS
Abraham Lincoln (A. L.) Lewis and the Afro-American Life Insurance Company founded American Beach in 1935 during the Jim Crow era. Offering “recreation and relaxation without humiliation,” American Beach was an escape from segregation and racism.
THE LEGACY OF A. L. LEWIS
A visionary entrepreneur, humanitarian and philanthropist, A.L. Lewis created a fortune with enterprises including a shoe store, the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, the Fifty-Fifty bottling company and the Lincoln Golf and Country Club. With only a sixth-grade education, A. L. Lewis became Florida’s first black millionaire.
A PLAYGROUND FOR VISITORS & VACATIONERS
From the 1930s to the early 1970s, buses full of vacationers traveled to American Beach. Known as “The Negro Ocean Playground,” American Beach was a vibrant oasis that welcomed visitors including Cab Calloway, Joe Louis, Hank Aaron, Zora Neale Hurston, Ray Charles and James Brown.
THE BEACH LADY
Known as “The Beach Lady,” A. L. Lewis’s great-granddaughter MaVynee Oshun Betsch inspired wonder with her opera voice, seven-foot-long lock of hair and fingernails curling a foot long. Her life’s work brought American Beach Museum into existence and inspired widespread efforts to preserve American Beach.
AMERICAN BEACH, THEN & NOW
Originally spanning 216 acres, American Beach today is roughly half the size. Following the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Hurricane Dora, many left the beach. Today, modern-day development threatens further decline. But famous landmarks including the A. L. Lewis Motel, the Ducks Ocean-Vu-Inn and Evans Rendezvous still exist.
HISTORY WORTH PRESERVING
Named as the first site of the Florida Black Heritage Trail, American Beach is a vital piece of African-American history. For more than 80 years, generations have traveled to American Beach to gather without worry, create memories and enjoy this vibrant coastal community. Support the museum and help preserve the history and legacy of American Beach.
Donate to the museum https://www.paypal.com/paypalme2/AmericanBeachMuseum