Segregated Sand: Florida’s Beaches in the Civil Rights Movement

Lunch counters, schools, city buses, and movie theaters were battlegrounds in Florida’s struggle to racially integrate public spaces.

Lunch counters, schools, city buses, and movie theaters were battlegrounds in Florida’s struggle to racially integrate public spaces and institutions, just like in other states. With more than 1,300 miles of very popular coastline, however, Floridians also had to contend with the issue of segregation on public beaches.

In 1951, Newtown business owner Mrs. Mary Emma Jones requested a “colored” beach at a Sarasota Board of County Commission meeting.

After no action on beach access was taken in September 1955, Sarasota NAACP President Neil Humphrey Sr. led a “wade-in.” Debates over access to these sandy spaces produced all kinds of unusual episodes throughout the state. This lecture will feature historical records, photographs, and film from the State Archives’ collections. Descendants of Sarasota beach activists participate during an interactive Q&A.

Josh Goodman is the Archives Historian at the State Archives of Florida in Tallahassee. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Florida State University, and a doctorate in history from Tulane University in New Orleans.

2021-10-25T14:52:32-05:00