Memories of African American Life at Virginia Key Beach
Virginia Key Beach Park opened as a segregated beach in August 1945. In the next several decades it became a major gathering place for African Americans from Miami’s Dade County as well as countless tourists, hosting numerous famous entertainers as well as religious services, weddings, concerts, and picnics which were all held in the park. Over time, the park gained a carousel, a miniature train for kids, a concession stand, and cabanas. It provided an important place to experience nature and became the largest—though segregated—space for African-American social life in Florida. The primary documents in this chapter are oral history testimonies completed in the past ten years that show how the park provided local identity for Miami area blacks while they continued to battle for civil rights. The power of these memories sustained a strong sense of pride in the black community and became an important element in reviving the park after 1999, the subject of chapter 7.
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