Black Millionaires, Entrepreneurs & the Middle Class: American Beach, Florida Heritage Books to Explore

American Beach is one of the most important places in African American history. This historic Florida coastal retreat was home to black millionaires, entrepreneurs, and a thriving middle class. Now a part of the St. Augustine and Jacksonville Florida metropolitan, the rich heritage of this area is one we should preserve and protect. If you want to learn more about American Beach, Florida check out these books below.

Historically Black Beach Heritage Books: American Beach, Florida

American Beach: A Saga of Race, Wealth, and Memory

An accomplished journalist illuminates the state of race relations today through three stories about northeast Florida, including the battle of the great-granddaughter of Florida’s first black millionaire to save the town of American Beach.

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An American Beach for African Americans

Black Beach Heritage Books: American Beach, Florida - A group of people wearing costumes - Russ Rymer

In the only complete history of Florida’s American Beach to date, Marsha Dean Phelts draws together personal interviews, photos, newspaper articles, memoirs, maps, and official documents to reconstruct the character and traditions of Amelia Island’s 200-acre African American community. In its heyday, when other beaches grudgingly provided only limited access, black vacationers traveled as many as 1,000 miles down the east coast of the United States and hundreds of miles along the Gulf coast to a beachfront that welcomed their business.

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The American Beach Cookbook

From its founding in 1935 to the present, trips to American Beach have meant good times, good friends, and great food. Located on Amelia Island in northeast Florida and established by the PensionBureau of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, American Beach today is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It remains a beloved vacation destination as well as a year-round home for many African Americans. For The American Beach Cookbook, Marsha Dean Phelts has collected nearly 300 recipes passed down through generations. Over the years, many influences have found their way into the dishes and are represented here by everything from pig’s feet to sweet potato pone and from smothered shrimp to bourbon slushes. Mouths will water at such treats as fried cheese grits, she-crab soup, seafood casserole, crab coated shrimp chops, cornbread dumplings, chicken curry, corn relish, pickled peaches, Big Mama’s fruitcake, and much more. In addition to the recipes, readers will enjoy compelling vignettes that illustrate the heritage of people and potables, vintage photographs, and area maps that together tell one of the great stories of a unique community. 

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American Beach: How “Progress” Robbed a Black Town–and Nation–of History, Wealth, and Power

Focusing on the lives of three black Americans from northeastern Florida–an unarmed motorist killed by a white cop, the granddaughter of the state’s first black millionaire, and novelist Zora Neale Hurston–the author plumbs the soul of American race relations and shows how these stories convey important lessons about the American experiment. Reprint.

Michiel Perry

Michiel is a Black Southern Belle living a lowcountry life. I love all things fashion, home decor and southern! When I am not running around doing fun stuff for Black Southern Belle, I live in antique stores and have a minor obsession with historic homes 🙂

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