The Local Take: Black History Month And American Beach Afrotopia

Feb 24, 2020

Historic American Beach - Relaxation and Recreation without Humiliation

Saturday morning at 8am on WCLK's The Local Take I talked with Peri Frances about Historic American Beach.  The beach is located between the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island and the Omni Amelia Island.  She shares the story of the beach's founding with the slogan "Relaxation and Recreation without Humiliation." She speaks about the entrepreneurial venture the beach provided for hotels, vacation rentals, night clubs, restaurants and more. 

The beach founded by her Great Great Grandfather Abraham Lincoln Lewis and seven other community leaders. The gentlemen launched the first insurance company founded in Florida, the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, and the beach was purchased in 1935.  A six hour drive from Atlanta, it was the place to be for HBCU students at spring break. Performers included everyone from jazz artists to James Brown.  Peri explains in today's vernacular,  American Beach "was lit!" 

Peri Frances shares the story of her aunts, Johnnetta Cole and  Mavynee Elisabeth Betsch also known as "the

The Beach Lady

Beach lady" who was an ecological warrior in the  1970's. She promoted veganism, ecological sustainabilty and received a national historical designation for American Beach.  She also preserved the largest sand dune in the state of Florida fondly named NaNa

I ask Peri Frances what she wants listeners to do to help preserve American Beach as an African American community. She mentions #BuyBacktheBeach and speaks to girlfriend trips and family reunions taking place in American Beach. She also mentions gentrification and local officials passing a regulation to prevent camping on the beach, which was once a regular activity.  Peri Frances wants us all to experience American Beach Afrotopia by bringing cultural programming to their community center. 

For more information on American Beach

For more information on the "Beach Lady" Mavynee Elisabeth Betsch

For more information on the sandune NaNa

To reach Peri Frances about her work to save American Beach

Peri Frances on American Beach - One of the last remaining historic African American Beaches on the East Coast.