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Butler Beach and Jim Crow
Millions of visitors and locals alike enjoy Florida’s beaches every year, along with the public facilities built to enhance them. That privilege was restricted for many years, however, by Jim Crow laws that prohibited African-Americans from sharing those beaches with their fellow citizens who were white. In some areas, public authorities provided separate beaches designated for use by African-Americans, such as Miami’s Virginia Beach, shown below.
Elsewhere, private individuals took the initiative. African-American businessman Frank B. Butler responded to beach segregation in northeast Florida by purchasing and opening his own beach on Anastasia Island.
Butler, who owned the Palace Market in the Lincolnville district of St. Augustine, began buying land on Anastasia Island in 1927. Over time, he developed a residential subdivision, casino, motel, and beach resort for African-Americans. By 1948, at least eleven African-American-owned businesses operated in the area, and “Butler Beach” was a thriving tourist attraction. This was reputedly the only beach between Jacksonville and Daytona that African-Americans were allowed to use. These photos depict Butler Beach at the height of its popularity in the 1950s.
Teachers, you may find our Black History Month resource guide to be helpful when planning for lessons about civil rights, Jim Crow segregation, or other aspects of the African-American experience in the United States.