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Posted under: Culture News

How Maryland Black Beaches Are Becoming Staples Of American History

Carr's Beach was one of the few in the D.C. area where African-Americans could enjoy themselves without discrimination during 1920s-1960s.

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Between the 1920s and 1960s, there weren’t many beaches where African-Americans could freely enjoy themselves without encountering discrimination. So, Carr’s Beach and just a few other beaches in the D.C. area became a safe space. Legends such as James Brown and Jackie Wilson would perform at Carr’s.

Per NBC Washington, its history may be eliminated much to the chagrin of its black residents who want the beach to live on due to its significance. The beach itself is a victim of gentrification, having been replaced by a luxury condo community.

"We couldn't go anywhere else. We weren't allowed anywhere else. We weren't allowed at Sandy Point, Bay Ridge or any of the other local beaches," said Annapolis, Maryland, native Carroll “Mr. C.” Hynson. Hynson is saddened by the trajectory but knows that “money speaks loudly.”

Though most other black resort towns have struggled to stay alive in similar ways, there are still some actively making sure they become a true staple in history books. "It's American history, and for too long, our American history only included one side," noted Annapolis historian Janice Hayes-Williams. "American history is these beaches that provided an economic engine for the lives of the people who attended them."

As time went on, some of the historical records were lost, so today’s historians are doing their best to fill in the gaps. One particular community that is doing better in holding onto its history is Annapolis’ Highland Beach. Founded by the children of Frederick Douglass in 1893, Highland Beach became the first incorporated African-American municipality in Maryland in 1922. After Douglass’ children were turned away from another resort due to their race, Douglass encouraged them to find land that was adjacent to that very resort, per Annapolis historian Janice Hayes-Williams.

"It's a powerful story of a community built out of Jim Crow's disenfranchisement," Hayes-Williams said. "The purpose was to build it right next to the place that discriminated against them."

"Highland Beach has actually done a remarkable job of really holding on to their identity," said Andrew Kahrl, author of "The Land Was Ours: How Black Beaches Became White Wealth in the Coastal South," in regards to Highland Beach still maintaining physical property linked to Frederick Douglass. "Talking to some of the long-time residents of Highland Beach, one of the things that stood out to me was the fact that they were able to sort of gain their foothold."

Amazing! These beaches are as much of a part of American history as any other monument and property, so it’s good to see that its residents are making sure that its legacy isn’t lost.

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