Butler Beach and Jim Crow

Millions of visitors and locals alike enjoy Florida’s beaches every year, along with the public facilities built to enhance them. That privilege was restricted for many years, however, by Jim Crow laws that prohibited African-Americans from sharing those beaches with their fellow citizens who were white. In some areas, public authorities provided separate beaches designated for use by African-Americans, such as Miami’s Virginia Beach, shown below.

A woman stands by the sign for Virginia Beach in Miami, which was designated for African-American use only. The sign had been blown down in a recent storm (1950).

A woman stands by the sign for Virginia Beach in Miami, which was designated for African-American use only. The sign had been blown down in a recent storm (1950).

Elsewhere, private individuals took the initiative. African-American businessman Frank B. Butler responded to beach segregation in northeast Florida by purchasing and opening his own beach on Anastasia Island.

An interior view of the Palace Market in the predominantly African-American Lincolnville district of St. Augustine.  Owner Frank B. Butler stands at right (circa 1930s).

An interior view of the Palace Market in the predominantly African-American Lincolnville district of St. Augustine. Owner Frank B. Butler stands at right (circa 1930s).

Butler, who owned the Palace Market in the Lincolnville district of St. Augustine, began buying land on Anastasia Island in 1927.  Over time, he developed a residential subdivision, casino, motel, and beach resort for African-Americans.  By 1948, at least eleven African-American-owned businesses operated in the area, and “Butler Beach” was a thriving tourist attraction.  This was reputedly the only beach between Jacksonville and Daytona that African-Americans were allowed to use.  These photos depict Butler Beach at the height of its popularity in the 1950s.

Cars pack the parking area at Butler Beach, as visitors enjoy a sunny day on Florida's Atlantic coast (circa 1950s).

Cars pack the parking area at Butler Beach, as visitors enjoy a sunny day on Florida’s Atlantic coast (circa 1950s).

Visitors pose in front of the bath house at Butler Beach on Anastasia Island (circa 1950s).

Visitors pose in front of the bath house at Butler Beach on Anastasia Island (circa 1950s).

The lifeguard station at Butler Beach (circa 1950s).

The lifeguard station at Butler Beach (circa 1950s).

Later, Butler Beach was operated by the Florida Park Service.  Eventually, St. Johns County took over the park, which it still operates today for the enjoyment of all citizens (circa 1960s).

Later, Butler Beach was operated by the Florida Park Service. Eventually, St. Johns County took over the park, which it still operates today for the enjoyment of all citizens (circa 1960s).

 

Teachers, you may find our Black History Month resource guide to be helpful when planning for lessons about civil rights, Jim Crow segregation, or other aspects of the African-American experience in the United States.

 

Greetings from Florida!

Happy National Tourism Day! Whether you just want to lay out on the beach, see Mickey and Minnie, or take a walk through the past, Florida is the perfect vacation destination.

When you’re here, make sure to tell your loved ones how much fun you’re having, and show off a little by sending a postcard! We’ve chosen some of our favorites from the Postcard Collection! Do you have a favorite?

Florida - the sunshine state

Florida – the Sunshine State

 

When the Yankees come to Florida

When the Yankees come to Florida

 

Bathing beauties on the beach in Florida

Bathing beauties on the beach in Florida

 

Greetings from Florida

The Box of Oranges I Promised you from the Sunshine State, Florida

 

 

Enjoying "The Pause that Refreshes" underwater at Silver Springs.

Enjoying “The Pause that Refreshes” underwater at Silver Springs

 

Tropical beauty in McKee Jungle Gardens

Tropical beauty in McKee Jungle Gardens

 

Where humans are caged and monkeys run wild

Where humans are caged and monkeys run wild

 

 

 

 

Fall into Fall in Florida

The first day of fall is this weekend (September 22)! We’d like to take a moment to remind you why Florida is so wonderful this time of year…

Up North, the leaves are turning brown, but in Florida…

Sanibel Island, ca. 1980

Sanibel Island, ca. 1980

Coconut palm on Hutchinson Island, 1992

Coconut palm on Hutchinson Island, 1992

Up North, the skies are turning gray, but in Florida…

Everglades City, ca. 1990

Everglades City, ca. 1990

Key West, 1979

Key West, 1979

Up North, people are airing out their sweaters and scarves, but in Florida…

Young women at the beach, ca. 1950

Young women at the beach, ca. 1950

Young women running on the beach, Pensacola, 1969

Young women running on the beach, Pensacola, 1969

Cocoa Beach, ca. 1990

Cocoa Beach, ca. 1990

Because in Florida there’s always… Year ‘Round Bathing!

Florida-themed postcard, postmarked 1945

Florida-themed postcard, postmarked 1945

Up North, folks are eagerly awaiting the start of ski season. In Florida, our ski season lasts all year…

Skiing down a sand hill, Fort Meade, 1951

Skiing down a sand hill, Fort Meade, 1951

Water skiers perform at Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven, 1955

Water skiers perform at Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven, 1955

And while our friends up North are warming their bones next to the fireplace, we like to have bonfires… on the beach.

Bonfire at the beach, ca. 1960

Bonfire at the beach, ca. 1960

So, this fall, just remember: when you need it bad, we’ve got it good!

See the full-length film.