History shows that many Black-operated beaches in America have unfortunately disappeared due to race-related ousting. Thankfully, things are currently being done to honor the long-ignored legacy of those original Black entrepreneurs of the sea.
Much like the returning of Bruce Beach after a full century to its rightful Black descendants last year, the legendary Elktonia Beach in Maryland will soon be given proper treatment after the five-acre property was recently confirmed to be getting turned into a history-themed waterfront park.
As reported by WTOP, an agreement was struck between the City of Annapolis, Blacks of the Chesapeake, Chesapeake Conservancy and the state of Maryland to work alongside the Conservation Fund, using federal, state and city Program Open Space dollars, to acquire the space for a cool $7 million.
More on the origins of Elktonia Beach below, via WTOP:
“In 1902, Frederick Carr and his wife purchased 180 acres along the Bay, where he farmed and built a cabin. The couple had a grocery store in Annapolis.
From there, Carr’s and Sparrows beaches were privately owned and operated by Frederick Carr’s daughter Elizabeth Carr Smith and Florence Carr Sparrows.
From the 1930s through the 1970s, the ‘beaches’ served as a spot for Black entertainment throughout the mid-Atlantic region during a time of segregation.”
The late ’40s would see renowned Black Baltimore businessman William “Little Willie” Adams purchase five acres of land adjacent to the beaches, where music legends like James Brown, Little Richard and Billie Holiday performed live. That era is said to have ushered the area into its peak during the ’50s and ’60s.
Blacks of the Chesapeake president Vince Leggett described the OG Elktonia Beach by stating, “It was really a haven for African Americans to go someplace for leisure, recreation and entertainment, where they felt safe and didn’t have to look at the humiliating signs saying ‘whites only’ or ‘colored only’ and they could have some personal pride.”
Leggett calls the new development “a dream come true,” with CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy, Joel Dunn, echoing his optimism by adding, “This parcel of land is symbolic of a significant part of Black history in the United States, as well as an important part of the City of Annapolis’ history. We are so grateful to the many partners and elected officials who helped create what will one day be a city waterfront park open for everyone to enjoy the Chesapeake while honoring our history.”
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