Did South Florida have another segregated beach?

admin | 11/21/2011, 11:14 p.m.

Uncovering the mystery of a Jim Crow-era beach

When most people think about Black beaches that were created during the days of segregation in South Florida, Virginia Key Beach is the name most often cited. But the Biscayne National Park in Homestead believes that there was also a Blacks-only beach that was once located where the park now resides. Unfortunately, they dont have much evidence of its existence. Everything from when exactly the beach was created, to how long it existed and even its basic parameters remain unclear at this point, explained Charles Lawson, the cultural resource manager of Biscayne National Park. Due to limited physical evidence, the park is turning to older Miami residents to share any artifacts or photographs of the beach. But mostly, they are hoping that people will decide to participate in their oral history project and tell their stories and experiences of what they remember of the Homestead Blacks-only beach. The point of the project is to get some detailed information on the site because nobody seems to know anything about it, Lawson said. Iyshia Lowman, a graduate student of anthropology at the University of South Florida, was recently selected to conduct the interviews. Were looking for Blacks and whites whove had experience with the beach, said Lowman, who will continue to conduct interviews until April 2012. Beyond the logistics of the beach, the park hopes the project will shed light on people and their families living during the civil rights movement in South Florida. So far the project has scheduled one interview with someone who has said they attended the park during their childhood. According to the Biscayne National Park, Miami-Dade County constructed a Blacks-only beach that was separate from the white beach at Homestead Bayfront park in the late 1950s and was likely located where their Visitor Center at Convoy Point was later built after the property was purchased by the County in the 1960s. For more information or to volunteer for the oral history project, call Charles Lawson at the Biscayne National Park at 786-335-3676. By Kaila Heardkheard@miamitimesonline.com