Saving American Beach Shares the Story of Activist MaVynee "The Beach Lady" Betsch
Title: Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch by Heidi Tyline King, Illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Publisher: Penguin Kids
Recommended Grades: Preschool-3rd
Where to order: Here
This heartfelt picture book biography illustrated by the Caldecott Honoree Ekua Holmes, tells the story of MaVynee Betsch, an African American opera singer turned environmentalist and the legacy she preserved.
MaVynee loved going to the beach. But in the days of Jim Crow, she couldn't just go to any beach--most of the beaches in Jacksonville were for whites only. Knowing something must be done, her grandfather bought a beach that African American families could enjoy without being reminded they were second class citizen; he called it American Beach. Artists like Zora Neale Hurston and Ray Charles vacationed on its sunny shores. It's here that MaVynee was first inspired to sing, propelling her to later become a widely acclaimed opera singer who routinely performed on an international stage. But her first love would always be American Beach.
After the Civil Rights Act desegregated public places, there was no longer a need for a place like American Beach and it slowly fell into disrepair. MaVynee remembered the importance of American Beach to her family and so many others, so determined to preserve this integral piece of American history, she began her second act as an activist and conservationist, ultimately saving the place that had always felt most like home
American Beach was one of the few places Black people could go to swim or just to have a good time without being mistreated or looked down on during Jim Crow times. Sad, but true.
After integration, people forgot about the importance of places like American Beach and it fell into disrepair. MaVynee "The Beach Lady" Betsch, remembered how important the beach had been to her family and many others. She made it her mission to save it. She's a legend.
The Beach Lady was an international opera singer, historian, activist, and environmentalist. Queen Quet of the Gullah Geechee Nation told me that The Beach Lady was also a part of the Gullah Geechee Wisdom Council Circle of Elders.
This book publishes April 13, 2021. I'm excited to share this picture book and The Beach Lady's story with kids.
Visit the American Beach Museum website to learn more about the history of American Beach.