Historic St. Andrews Beach
From the late-1800s until the mid-1960s, Jim Crow laws enforced racial segregation in the South. These laws prevented African Americans from enjoying equal access to the same public spaces as white people, including restaurants, buses, schools, drinking fountains, restrooms - and beaches.
In 1948, when Jekyll Island first opened as a state park, a reporter wrote: "Along all the hundred miles of Georgia's coast line with its scores of beautiful island and shore beaches, there's not a single foot where a Negro can stick a toe in salt water."
Then, in 1950, a group of local black business leaders petitioned for a portion of Jekyll Island to be set aside for African American use. Four years later, the Jekyll Island Authority agreed to provide land on the South End of Jekyll Island for recreational use by the black community.
With the official opening of the Beach Pavilion in 1955, African Americans at last gained their own public beach on Jekyll Island. At the time, it was the only public beach available to African Americans in Georgia, known as St. Andrews Beach.
St. Andrews Beach grew into a popular destination for blacks barred from white-only beaches. Thrilled to finally be able to visit the ocean, many local black families turned Sunday trips to St. Andrews Beach into a weekly
community ritual. Then, in 1964, the island integrated and all of Jekyll Island's beautiful beaches became available for everyone to explore.
Testing the Waters
In the mid-1940s, three young women from Brunswick decided to take a dip in the ocean.
At the time, it was a Jim Crow ocean and sea bathing was not allowed if you were black. Nevertheless, Rena Atkins, Winsor Roberts, and Inez Walke donned their bathing suits and bravely took a cab to the seashore.
They never got their feet wet. Instead, they were arrested and locked in jail all day until friends got them out on bail. The next morning they were each fined $50 plus costs for trespassing, because there was no public beach access for African Americans in Georgia.
Although the young women never reached the ocean that day, their demonstration did draw attention to the lack of recreational options for African Americans. Through their peaceful protest, the young women took steps to gain greater public access for all. The creation of St. Andrews Beach was a victory in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.