February is Black History Month and an opportunity to take a look back and experience the depth of the African-American past as well as heritage on our storied coast. Here's a look at the history, upcoming events, and ongoing experiences held on and around Amelia Island as a way we can honor black history. Or, pick up the African American Heritage brochure from the Amelia Island Welcome Center
for a self-guided tour all around Nassau County.
AMERICAN BEACH and A.L. LEWIS MUSEUM
Keeping, preserving, and sharing black history on Amelia Island is what the fine folks at the A.L. Lewis Museum do on a daily basis. Located at American Beach on the southern end of Amelia Island, the museum features exibits and photographs of what life was like at this famed beach resort during the Jim Crow era when Abraham Lincoln Lewis purchased three parcels of land to build a glorious oceanfront haven for African Americans to live and play without fear. Read all about the museum and American beach here
and then go visit for yourself. 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. It is rumored 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. Learn more about the history of the AMELIA ISLAND WILLIAMS HOUSE
or book a stay!
The MIDDLE PASSAGE CEREMONIES AND PORT MARKERS PROJECT
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 events held throughout the year including Ranger talks, bird hikes and more.
PECK HIGH SCHOOL (now the Peck Center)
Photograph Courtesy of the Amelia Island Museum of History
Originally opened in 1885 as Colored School No. 1, this African American public school was renamed Peck High School in 1916 in honor of its longstanding principal, William H. Peck. It was originally a wooden structure on Atlantic and 11th Street, but relocated to the current brick building in 1928 through funding from the historic Rosenwald Foundation. Due to desegregation in Nassau County, its final class graduated in 1969. Today Peck Center is recognized as a significant component of African American heritage in Fernandina Beach. A permanent exhibit celebrating the legacy of Peck High School and its importance to the community was opened in 2022.
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.
THE 33rd NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN READ-IN
February 2, 6-8pm - Fernandina Beach Library.
The nation’s first and oldest event dedicated to diversity in literature is the National African American Read-In
. The public is invited to attend and participate by bringing a one- to two-minute reading from any material written by an African American.
SHADY LADIES ART STUDIO STORYTELLING EVENT
February 11, 6pm - The Shady Ladies Art Studio
will host a storytelling event to honor Black History Month. The stories told will be completely up to the storyteller and can be read from a written script, told from memory, or set to music. The only "rule" is that they need to be between five to eight minutes long. If interested, please email Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE FIGHTING BAILEY'S: FLORIDA'S BLACK MILITARY EXPERIENCE
February 16, 6pm - Fernandina Beach Library.
"During World War II and Korean War, seven brothers from a black Punta Gorda family served overseas. Yet, the family received no acclaim for over fifty years for their exploits. From a high-flying Tuskegee airman to a grunt in the Red Ball Express, the Bailey brothers’ struggles in a Jim Crow south speak to the hidden and ongoing struggle to accord black Americans in their place in the military." Presenter, James Abraham is a former journalist who now edits and publishes books in a variety of genres and will be leading this discussion.