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Amelia Island's African American History and Heritage; Celebrating Black History Month

Posted on February 01, 2020 |
Amelia Island
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Amelia Island's African American History and Heritage; Celebrating Black History Month
February is Black History Month and an opportunity to take a look back and experience the depth of African-American history and heritage on our storied coast. Here is a look at some of the experiences, history and upcoming events on and around Amelia Island.

 

February is Black History Month and an opportunity to take a look back and experience the depth of African-American history and heritage on our storied coast. Here is a look at some of the experiences, history and upcoming events on and around Amelia Island.

HISTORY

American Beach and American Beach Museum

In 1935, the Pension Bureau of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, led by Abraham Lincoln (A.L.) Lewis, bought three parcels of land to create a beach and resort in response to Florida's segregation laws. It became a glorious oceanfront haven that in its heyday, its restaurants and nightclubs attracted superstars such as Cab Calloway, Joe Louis, Hank Aaron, Ray Charles and James Brown. Today, American Beach is the first stop on Florida’s Black Heritage Trail and home to the continually expanding American Beach Museum, which features photographs and a filmed tour of the beach by the late MaVynee Betsch, known as "The Beach Lady." A spirited advocate for the area and a champion of environmental issues, she was the great-granddaughter of A.L. Lewis. You can hear The Beach Lady tell the story of American Beach in Augmented Reality with the Amelia Island Mobile App!
Museum hours are: Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. 

Amelia Island Williams House

Built in 1856, Marcellus A. Williams bought the gorgeous home on the corner of S. 9th Street in 1859. The mansion included a trap door in the dining room closet offering access to a secret room where slaves following the Underground Railroad could hide. Mr. Williams allowed his home to be used as a haven during their journey to freedom. Learn more about the history of the Amelia Island Williams House or book a stay!


Middle Passage

The Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP) is a non-profit tax-exempt organization established in 2011 to honor the two million captive Africans who perished during the transatlantic crossing known as the Middle Passage and the ten million who survived to build the Americas. Back on September 28, 2013, a Middle Passage Ceremony was held on the grounds of Fort San Carlos in Old Town where more than eighty persons joined hands to symbolically repair a broken circle.

Kingsley Plantation

Kingsley Plantation, about 20 minutes south of American Beach, is one of the few remaining examples of the plantation system of territorial Florida and the site of what might be the oldest plantation house in Florida. Visitors can explore the plantation house, remains of 25 tabby construction slave quarters, a barn, waterfront, kitchen house, and interpretive garden. Part of the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve, Kingsley Plantation hosts annual Heritage Celebrations, free events held on February 15th and 22nd this year. The celebrations include musical performances, a Kids' Corner, crafts, storytelling,and reinactors.
Kingsley Plantation is open 7 days per week from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

EVENTS & EXPERIENCES 

Coast One Tours

Journey through time with an interactive guided historical tour of American Beach. Each tour will provide a dynamic, enlightening, jaw-dropping experience of American Beach, Fernandina Beach, and Kingsley Plantation. Your tour guide, Ron Miller, lived his life experiencing the legacy of American Beach and his mission is to educate and share the history of how and why American Beach was founded. Call Coast One Tours today and schedule your tour - 904-635-9081.

Fernandina Beach Library - African American Read-In

Join hosts Neil Frink and Chuck Comeau for the 30th National African American Read-In established by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month. The public is invited to attend and may participate by bringing a 1-2 minute reading from any material written by an African American. 


Macedonia AME Church

Friday, February 7 at 6:00 p.m. - The Macedonia AME Church, 202 South 9th Street, presents A Bridging the Gap, a community celebration and cultural awareness event featuring The African Village; The Middle Passage, Ron Miller; and introducing The Kwanzaa Celebration. 

Story and Song Bookstore Bistro - History of American Beach

Friday, February 21 from 10:00 a.m. - noon - Join the Plantation Ladies to hear author and lifelong Amelia Island resident Marsha Dean Phelts talk about the History of American Beach – its significance to African-Americans – and her American Beach cookbook.



Amelia Musical Playhouse - Dinner with Booker T.

Friday, February 21 at 10:00 a.m. and Saturday, February 22 at 8:00 p.m. - Written and performed by Daryl Rueben Hall, "Dinner with Booker T. is an inside historical look into the life of one of America's greatest orators and leader of the Negro race, Mr. Booker T. Washington, and based on his rise from slavery, to student, to educator, to national and worldwide leader. This 70-minute work is comprised of original rhetoric, research, song, dance, speeches, historical dialogue, and visual presentations. Mr. Booker T. Washington was catapulted to national acclaim following his 1895 Atlanta Exposition Compromise Speech." *Warning - Due to its historical nature, some may find some of the language offensive as narrative follows southern newspaper headlines as well as comments made by senators and other politicians alike.


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About Amelia Island

Located just off the coast of northeast Florida, Amelia Island is easy to reach, but hard to forget. With 13 miles of beautiful beaches, abundant native wildlife, and pristine waters, this barrier island has long been a beloved destination for visitors and residents alike.