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White Sand Black Beach

Civil Rights, Public Space, and Miami's Virginia Key

White Sand Black Beach by Gregory W Bush
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In May 1945, a small group of activists staged a "wade-in" at a whites-only beach in Miami, protesting the Jim Crow-era laws that denied blacks access to recreational areas. Pressured by the demonstrators and the media, the Dade County Commission ultimately designated the difficult-to-access Virginia Key as a beach for African Americans.

The first legally recognized beach for African Americans in South Florida, Virginia Key Beach became vitally important to the community, offering a place to congregate with family and friends and to enjoy the natural wonders of the area. It would also help to foster further civil rights activism. By providing an important and tangible victory in the struggle for equal access to the coast, it became central to the struggle for civil rights in public space.

Later, as Florida beaches were desegregated, many viewed Virginia Key as symbolic of an oppressive past and ceased to patronize it. At the same time, white leaders responded to desegregation by decreasing attention to and funding for public spaces in general. The beach was largely ignored and eventually shut down. However, in recent decades environmentalists, community leaders, and civil rights activists have come together to revitalize this historic landmark.

In White Sand Black Beach, historian and longtime Miami activist Gregory Bush recounts this unique story and the current state of public space in South Florida, which are intimately interwoven with the history of segregation. With special emphasis on oral history, he uses Historic Virginia Key Beach Park and waterfront development as a lens for examining the intersection of public space, race, public involvement, and capitalism.

University Press of Florida; July 2016
353 pages; ISBN 9780813055831
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Title: White Sand Black Beach
Author: Gregory W Bush