Wednesday, October 14, 2015

American Beach

American Beach is located on Amelia Island off the Atlantic coast of Florida and Georgia. It's a lovely, idyllic place where horses and camping are still allowed on the beach, the surf drowns out conversation, and the only other sounds are the gulls screeching from the air.


In years gone by, this beach was a bustling and busy holiday place, one of the few beaches on the East Coast open for African Americans to enjoy the sun and the sea.

Unwelcome on segregated white beaches, Black families flocked to the welcoming resorts of American Beach beginning in 1935.

When desegregation finally took place in the 1960s and modern development threatened American Beach, a champion arose in an unlikely person: MaVynnee Betsch.



Ms. Betsch was an internationally known Black opera singer who came to be called "the beach lady" when she gave up her career and returned home to save the community and her beloved beach.

She was so dedicated to the water, the flora and the fauna that she lived the rest of her life mostly outside, on the beach she loved.


The Beach Lady wore her hair in a 6-foot long dread lock, and kept her fingernails on one hand up to 16 inches long! She protected them by wearing a plastic bag over her hand.




She named the highest dune in Florida NaNa and eventually a 10-acre area was preserved as a national park.

Today some of the old resorts and beach homes on American Beach are still owned by the same Black families but, of course, people of all races are welcome there now.





I've never seen so many rules posted on a beach before as the giant board in the parking lot for American Beach.

Our favorite rule:

"Horses shall not be allowed in public showers or cabana areas."

Okay then!



  1. With all those rules and regulations it's a wonder you are allowed to walk on the beach. Thanks for sharing the history.

  2. Cynthia it is really important place for Afro Americans. Is it accesible for white people now?

  3. I am sure there was much debate about all the rules, do you suppose anyone reads them all? Those nails and hair are kinda scary...and talk about germy:(

  4. Now I'm curious about her singing career. What an interesting lady!

  5. Ms Betsch was certainly eccentric. Love a good eccentric. Wish they'd put on the bottom of that sign - "Now, go have fun".

  6. We've been to Fernandina Beach at Amelia, but not this one. What a weird sounding lady, maybe you have to be a bit eccentric to get things done.

  7. The history of this beach reminds us of a very different time. It's different now but we still have a long way to go.

  8. Wonderful to know her story-



  9. My goodness, what a lady..those long nails plus that heavy hair..
    Nice boards to walk on, I presume they are sturdy.
    I read the sign, mostly about horses....I did laugh at the one you put there :)

  10. How could I have lived in NC and SC all my life and never heard about any of this. Proof that I should have read more. At first I thought she was holding some sort of stuffed animal, but that's her hair! This is so interesting.

  11. Fascinating story. We'll be visiting Cape Canaveral in March. It must be fairly nearby. Maybe.....:)

  12. I had to take a closer look to see the hair and those nails. but eccentric or not she choose a lovely place to save.

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  14. An interesting post of a beautiful area I've never heard of before. The Opera Singer, MaVynnee Betsch sounds and looks eccentric. Anyone who grows such long hair and long nails (which can be painful and inconvenient) has to be eccentric. I admire her commitment and dedication to saving the natural habitat she loved. We need more like her. I have heard of a few other such women over the years who grow their hair or their nails very long but it is usually one or the other, not both.