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City of Annapolis to develop beach along Chesapeake - a once star-studded center for Black culture

City of Annapolis to develop beach along Chesapeake - a once star-studded center for Black culture
City of Annapolis to develop beach along Chesapeake - a once star-studded center for Black culture 02:26

BALTIMORE -- During the oppressive era of Jim Crow Laws, Black people were often excluded from public beaches along the Chesapeake Bay.

However, a section of beach on the Annapolis Neck Peninsula, purchased by a formerly enslaved man, became a hub for Black culture, recreation and entertainment.

It hosted the likes of Ray Charles and James Brown.

The significance of Carr's Beach hasn't always been recognized, but that's about to change. 

The City of Annapolis plans to restore this important piece of African American history.

"These stories that occurred here have been left untold for too long," said Joel Dunn, from the Chesapeake Conservancy.

Carr's Beach was one of the only beachfront resorts that welcomed African Americans during segregation.

It was once a star-studded center for Black culture.

"The epicenter for Blacks wanting to swim and enjoy the sun or hear one of their favorite acts -- Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, the hardest working man in show business, James Brown," said Roslyn Johnson, the Rec & Parks director with the City of Annapolis.

Johnson said that African Americans were then barred from using any of the nearby whites-only beaches.

Now, nearly all of what was once the legendary Carr's Beach has been sold and developed, except for a 5-acre strip of land known as Elktonia Beach, which the City of Annapolis purchased in 2022.

The City of Annapolis finalized the purchase last week of this waterfront property, which belonged to educator and former Coppin State University President Dr. Parlett Moore.

"With this house becoming available, it gives us the opportunity to knock it down and build a beautiful center that celebrates that history," Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said.

Together, the two properties will become the Elktonia-Carr's Beach Heritage Park, managed by the City of Annapolis.

"This complex is more than just a push pin in a map or a dot on a map," said Vince Leggett, Executive Director of the Blacks of the Chesapeake.

The visitor's center will also serve as the headquarters for Blacks of the Chesapeake. 

"We've been able to preserve the sand, the beach and the water and the dirt and tell the story of Black life on the Chesapeake bay from an authentic space," Leggett said.

"That beach is going to be beautiful and enjoyable," Buckley said. "We're going to rehabilitate the piers here. There's going to be a 12 or 13 minute ferry to bring people from downtown."

The roughly $9 million project will take place over the next 18 months and will involve restoring the shoreline as well as building trails and educational signage about the history of the site.

"This Black history will not be a footnote," Dunn said. "It never should have been, but it won't be ever, moving forward."

"This will become a destination, I think, nationally," Buckley said.

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