Fort Lauderdale Wade-In Demonstrations

Civil rights activists in Fort Lauderdale challenged de facto segregation with a series of “wade-in” demonstrations in the summer of 1961.

Segregation impacted all aspects of daily life for African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. From movie theaters and lunch counters to swimming pools and beaches, state and local governments across the United States enforced laws predicated on the “separate but equal” clause established by the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).

Civil rights activists challenged legal and de facto segregation using non-violent strategies championed by organizations such as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). One particularly Floridian method used by demonstrators was the “wade-in.”

Wade-in demonstration at a Fort Lauderdale beach, July 24, 1961

The photograph above shows activists participating in a wade-in demonstration at a Fort Lauderdale beach on July 24, 1961. The wade-ins, which lasted six weeks, helped end de facto segregation at all Broward County’s beaches. A state court judge refused to enter an injunction against the NAACP stopping the wade-ins a year after they began.

To learn more, see William G. Crawford Jr., “The Long Hard Fight for Equal Rights: A History of Broward County’s Colored Beach and the Fort Lauderdale Beach ‘Wade-ins’ of the Summer of 1961,” Tequesta 67 (2007): 19-51.

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