U/MIAMI NEWS SERVICE
John U. Lloyd Beach State Park may only be five miles long, but its shore holds more than 50 years of history. At a time when Broward County beaches were segregated, the park’s “colored” beach became the only place where African Americans could swim.
The privilege did not come easily.
In 1946, 19 years after African Americans had been denied use of Broward County beaches, a delegation of black residents addressed the Board of County Commissioners to petition for a public beach designated for their use.
It took almost 10 years before the county bought the land for “the colored beach.” Even so, the $1.6 million purchase was bittersweet as the beach – now known as John U. Lloyd Beach State Park – was across from Port Everglades, accessible only by ferry or a long trip over land.
“To think that people couldn’t go to the beach of their choice or do whatever they wanted because they weren't white seems unfathomable to us now in this day and age,” said Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger, who earmarked up to $2,500 in discretionary funds to have the commemorative plaque placed at the beach.
The unveiling takes place 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 13 during a special ceremony at the park’s Manatee Pavilion.
“The historic heritage marker will forever showcase the significant history of this beach and educate all residents and visitors who pass through here,” said Gunzburger, who represents District 6. “It’s important that this era of America’s history be remembered. Segregation was a sad and regretful period of time in our modern day history.”
The project, which has been in the works for over a year, needed approval from eight state regulatory agencies. Last year, the Broward County Historical Commission, as well as members of county staff, worked to have the beach declared as a place of historical significance under the State Historic Marker Program.
Germaine Smith-Baugh, president and CEO of the Urban League of Broward County, applauds Gunzburger for her dedication to the project.
“She put her money where her mouth is,” said Smith-Baugh, adding that she will attend the ceremony. “Clearly, the idea of being able to recognize that part of the Fort Lauderdale history is important.”
Though the marker recognizes the historic park, black people later challenged the entire premise of segregated facilities.
Prompted by civil rights activist Dr. Von D. Mizell and Eula Mae Johnson, leaders of the local chapter of the NAACP, black people led a series of “wade-ins” at the white beaches in Fort Lauderdale in 1961. A year later, a judge refused a city request to halt the wade-ins, which ultimately led to desegregated beaches in the county.
“Thankfully, it’s an era that we leave behind,” Gunzburger said. “In the 21st century, we have much to celebrate — America's first African-American president and a state of mind that is not focused on the color of one’s skin. We’ve come a long way, but as they say – history forgotten is history repeated."
In conjunction with the unveiling of the historic marker, the Fort Lauderdale History Center and the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society Inc. features a new photography exhibit, “Snapshots: Fort Lauderdale’s Black History” throughout February in honor of Black History Month. A portion of the exhibit traces the efforts of local black people to acquire John U. Lloyd Beach State Park.
IF YOU GO
What: Unveiling of historic heritage marker at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park
When: 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 13.
Where: Manatee Pavilion in John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, 6503 N. Ocean Dr., Dania Beach.
Cost: $3 per car for 1 person; $5 per car for two or more people.
Contact: For more information, please call 954-923-2833.
What: “Snapshots: Fort Lauderdale’s Black History” photography exhibit.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays throughout February.
Where: New River Inn building at the Fort Lauderdale History Center, 231 S.W. Second Ave.
Cost: Admission is $10 per person; students $5; children under 6 and historical society members are admitted for free. For more information, please call 954-463-4431, ext. 13.
Pictured above is Broward County Commissioner Sue Gunzburger.