Saving American Beach

This picturebook biography highlights the life and work of opera singer turned environmental justice activist, MaVynee Betsch.

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 citizens; 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.

Author(s): Heidi Tyline King & Ekua Holmes

Excerpt from the book. The text is illegible, but the illustrations feature many hands working to write and address letters which then are flying to the White House. There is a sign in the bottom left corner that reads: "Save American Beach."
Excerpt from the book.

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