American Beach is a historic beach with deep roots and an extensive African American history.
Abraham Lincoln Lewis, a visionary
The beach was founded by Abraham Lincoln Lewis, a business luminary who was Florida’s first black millionaire and served as president of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company. Lewis founded the beach to benefit his African American workers during the Jim Crow era, a time where blacks were not allowed to swim at most of the Jacksonville Beaches.
While Lewis originally wanted to provide a great vacation spot for working families at his company, American Beach quickly became a cultural icon for black families in Florida. The beach continued to attract a wide range of visitors throughout the 1950’s, and outstanding restaurants, hotels and nightclubs were soon built at American Beach.
The war and the aftermath
Unfortunately, while African-Americans were fighting for their civil rights across the country in the early 1960’s, American Beach suffered the loss of many homes and buildings as a result of Hurricane Dora. After the Civil Rights Act desegregated Florida’s beaches in the same year, American Beach lost its original popularity and many African American Floridians vacationed at beaches that were closer to their home.