On May 9th, 1945, a group of seven Black beachgoers went swimming at Baker’s Haulover Beach in Miami. This was unusual because Miami’s beaches were off-limits to Black bathers. This historic swim was known as a “wade-in” and was an act of civil disobedience by those who took part. The goal was to draw attention to the fact that, despite the laws of Jim Crow touting “separate but equal” public facilities, there was no public beach available, at all, for African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans. This public act of law-breaking led to no arrests and little press was given to the event. Some think this is because of the city’s wish to maintain its reputation as a vacationer’s paradise.
The wade-in at Baker’s Haulover Beach was closely followed by the opening of Virginia Beach, Miami’s first Black-only beach on August 1st, 1945. Virginia Key Beach was just one municipal park out of 28 in Miami-Dade County at the time and the only park open to Black residents. It was only accessible by ferry or private boat until the opening of the Rickenbacker Causeway in 1947.