DATE: February 13, 2009
MEDIA CONTACT: Kimberly Maroe, Public Information Manager,
Broward County Commission
Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger and a large gathering of people from thoughout Broward County came together to celebrate the unveiling of a Historical Heritage Marker commemorating the so-called "colored beach" during the era of segregation.
"To think that at one time all of us here today were not allowed to enjoy public beaches together," said Commissioner Gunzburger. "Fortunately history can be corrected, but it must not be forgotten and that's why this historical heritage marker is so very important to Broward County."
Commissioner Gunzburger earmarked up to $2,500 in discretionary funds to have the commemorative plaque placed at the beach. The Broward County Historical Commission and members of county staff worked throughout the year to have the State's Division of Historical Resources declare the beach a place of historical significance under the State Historic Marker Program. The historical heritage marker is located at what is now John U. Lloyd Beach State Park.
"I know this beach, this was my beach. I swam here as a child. We waited for the ferry to pick us up to bring us here and then bring us back," said Hazel Armbrister.
"As a lifelong resident of Broward County, I was honored and thrilled to be a part of this long past-due recognition of this important part of our county's history," said historian Bill Crawford, who published an article on the desegregation of Broward's beaches.
As early as 1927, black residents were denied the equal use and enjoyment of Broward County's beaches. In 1946, a delegation of black residents addressed the Board of County Commissioners to petition for "a public beach for colored people in Broward County." In 1954, Broward County purchased at a cost of $1.6 million beach property south of the Port Everglades Inlet for use by people of color. At that time the only way to get to the beach was by ferry or a long trip over land.
"We petitioned the County for this beach and eventually we won. Before that we would have to travel up to West Palm Beach, and later Galt Ocean Mile, to swim," said James Bradley, who participated in the "wade-ins" in Fort Lauderdale. "The problem was there was no road to drive here. We'd take the ferry and feared we might miss it on the way back. We'd have no way to get home."
Community activists Dr. Von D. Mizell and Eula Mae Johnson, leader of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People organized a series of "wade-ins" at beaches in Fort Lauderdale in 1961. One year later, a judge refused a request by the city to stop the wade-ins and that decision led to the desegregated beaches. In 1970, that part of the beach became part of John U. Lloyd Beach State Park.
Timed to coincide with this event, the Fort Lauderdale History Center/Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, Inc. debuted its new photography exhibit, Snapshots: Fort Lauderdale's Black History in February, in honor of Black History month.
A special segment of the exhibit will recount the efforts of local blacks to acquire their own beach in the days of segregation when the Fort Lauderdale beach was off-limits to non-whites. The exhibit can be viewed during the month of February from Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m - 5 p.m. and Sunday noon - 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is $10 per person and is free to Historical Society members.
Photo Caption: Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger unveils the historical heritage marker commemorating the so-called "colored beach" during the era of segregation. The beach is now part of John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach. (l to r) William Crawford, historian/author; Commissioner Gunzburger; Hazel Armbrister; Civil Rights Activist James Bradley. Mr. Bradley, Mr. Crawford and Ms. Armbrister are also members of the Broward County Historical Commission.