Virginia Key, first ‘colored only’ beach in Miami during Jim Crow era, celebrates 70 Years

Posted in: Events, Park News


In a green wig, Guy Forchion, director of Virginia Key Beach Park, stands outside a karaoke tent with a friend on Saturday, where a festival commemorating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the park took place. Caitlin Granfield For the Miami Herald

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Saturday marked the 70th birthday of Virginia Key Beach Park, famous not only for its clear water, carousel, and uninhibited views, but for its historical significance as being the first “colored only” beach in Miami-Dade County.

In May 1945, seven black people orchestrated a “wade-in” at Haulover Beach in defiance of segregation-era Jim Crow laws that prohibited blacks from sharing beaches, among many other places, with whites. Police were called but were instructed by local government officials not to cite or arrest them. As a way to ease race restrictions in recreational places, the county chose the Atlantic-facing area of Virginia Key shortly after the wade-in, to become “Virginia Key Beach, a Dade County Park for the exclusive use of Negroes.”

The event Saturday celebrated the park’s beginning and its history. With the goal of highlighting all of the decades from when it came to be until now, the festival featured a car show ranging from 1950s Corvettes to new Vipers, free carousel rides, learn-to-drum activities, karaoke, food and drink vendors, time-line exhibits from the 1940s until present-day, and a “Memory Board” with black-and-white photos of some of the first black patrons.

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