These Summertime Beach Havens Were Paradise For Black People

highland beach tour
Briona Lamback
May 17, 2023

Many famous U.S. vacation destinations were once for “whites only;” Trying to enter could’ve been deadly. But we built these three summer safe havens when they pushed us out.

Martha’s Vineyard

The first wave of Black folk arrived in Oak Bluffs, an enclave of Martha’s Vineyard in the 1800s. They were indentured servants, whalers, and domestic workers who, along with other comers, purchased swaths of property and built beautiful homes. 

Maya Angelou once described it as “a safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned."

Highland Beach

One summer, when Charles Douglass and his wife tried to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, they were denied service. Douglass refused to be treated as such and wasted no time doing something about it. 

He studied real estate, bought a beachfront 40-acre property and soon after, it was a buzzing summer vacation hotspot for the likes of Harriett Tubman and W.E.B Du Bois.


Idlewild, known as Black Eden, was a place where our people could peacefully exist in summertime bliss away from the racist foolishness of the day. It was a sprawling 3,000 acres of beautiful homes, hotels, and endless scenic views.

From beaches to universities, we have always built our own. And today, despite the guise of integration, we should continue creating spaces only for us.

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