Grand Reopening Of A.L. Lewis Museum In Historic American Beach Community

The museum unveils a new celebratory exhibit entitled, “Recreation and Relaxation Without Humiliation: The American Beach Story.”

American Beach Museum Reopens on Amelia Island as Newly Named A. L. Lewis Museum — October 15, 2022 Grand Opening Celebration

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (Oct. 6, 2022) – After a two-year hiatus, the A.L. Lewis Museum (formerly known as the American Beach Museum), will host a Grand Opening on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 from 12-5 p.m. The community is invited to attend the event. Enjoy this special day featuring live music, theatrical performances, food vendors, and more.

To mark the occasion, the museum will unveil a new celebratory exhibit entitled, “Recreation and Relaxation Without Humiliation: The American Beach Story.” There will also be descendants of A. L. Lewis in attendance to honor the momentous event.

“The past two years, we’ve been engulfed in research and digitization uncovering new facts and unearthing rich stories of struggles and triumphs,” said Carol J. Alexander, Executive Director and Curator of the museum. “We’re so excited to have everyone join us for the reopening of the newly renamed A. L. Lewis Museum at American Beach and share our new exhibit.”

Visionary A. L. Lewis, president of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, and its Pension Bureau created the African American resort of American Beach in 1935 when Florida’s beaches were segregated. The vision and purpose of acquiring the beach was to provide African Americans with, in Lewis’ words, “recreation and relaxation without humiliation.” Thus, the new exhibition focuses on his journey founding American Beach. Visitors will experience unique stories through photographs, artifacts, videography, narration and documents from the archival collections of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company; visionary leader, A. L. Lewis; preservationist MaVynee Oshun Betsch, “The Beach Lady;” and Historic American Beach and intergenerational American Beach residents.

Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole is an A.L. Lewis Museum at American Beach Board Member, a recent resident of American Beach, and a descendant of A. L. Lewis, and is excited for the Grand Opening.

“October 15 will be a celebratory day for all of us who live in the Historic American Beach Community,” she said. “As a great-granddaughter of A. L. Lewis, the sister of the Beach Lady, and a board member of the A. L. Lewis Museum, I am proud to present the new exhibit as we reopen our museum. These exhibits tell the story of A. L. Lewis’ vision to establish this community and the work of his great-granddaughter, the Beach Lady, to protect and preserve this very special place.”

About The A. L. Lewis Museum at American Beach

In the 1900s, African Americans sought to escape the stress of segregation by retreating to Black beach communities such as Manhattan Beach and Butler Beach. A. L. Lewis, President of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company (the Afro) and a self-made millionaire, wanted to create an oceanfront resort where African Americans could enjoy “recreation and relaxation without humiliation” during the Jim Crow era.

On January 31, 1935, the Afro’s Pension Bureau purchased 33 acres of land north of Franklintown on North Florida’s Amelia Island. Two subsequent purchases brought the size of the new community to 216 acres. A. L. Lewis called the community “American Beach.” As land was cleared, oceanfront homes began to appear above the dunes. The first home constructed was built for A. L. Lewis.

When Is The A. L. Lewis Museum Open For Visitors?

The museum’s hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday-Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Museum admission fees: Range from $5-$10 (museum members can visit for free).

Where Is The A.L. Lewis Museum Located?

For those unfamiliar with Amelia Island, the American Beach community and the A. L. Lewis Museum are located toward the south end of Amelia Island. The museum’s address is 1600 Julia Street, American Beach, Florida 32034 (see Google map below). This historic African American resort community borders the Summer Beach resort community on its northside, and the Amelia Island Plantation resort community on its southside.

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