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 and history on and around Amelia Island.
American Beach and A.L. Lewis 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 A.L. Lewis 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!
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.
, 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.
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 Ron and his wife Avis of Coast One Tours
today and schedule your tour - 904-635-9081.
Walk Through History
With a historic district of 50-plus blocks, you'll find yourself transported back in time. Downtown Fernandina Beach features 400-plus historic structures on the National Register of Historic Places. Walk by Victorian homes, commercial buildings and churches like NEW ZION MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH
, the second oldest and largest Black Missionary Baptist Church on Amelia Island and the lovely MACEDONIA AME CHURCH
, founded in 1872 by Samuel Irving.