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New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
 

Bethune Beach

Swimming Freely

 
 
Bethune Beach-Swimming Freely Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tim Fillmon, March 22, 2019
1. Bethune Beach-Swimming Freely Marker
Inscription.  Welcome to Volusia County's Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park—once part of a nationally known African-American resort. Named for a noted educator and presidential advisor, this spot gave black people a place of their own when most Florida beaches were closed to them by segregation. Bethune had seen her own students turned away from local beaches, and in the 1940s she and other investors bought 2.5 miles of oceanfront plus lands along the Indian River. After all, she reportedly said, this was "God's water" for everyone to enjoy.

People did enjoy themselves here. By the 1950s, Bethune-Volusia Beach (its corporate name) was a popular destination for swimming, fishing, picnicking, and car racing. Crowds also came for live music, dancing, and—as more than one informant recalled—dressing to be seen. Central Floridans made up most of the day users, but others journeyed great distances to stay in a motel and private houses. From New Smyrna to Atlanta and Pittsburgh, black Americans knew about Bethune Beach.

Bethune herself envisioned a big, year-round resort controlled by African Americans but opened to "all people."
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yet the larger development never really took off, and by the 1970s the dream had faded. Most black landowners—by choice or economic necessity—gave up their property over time, and the coming of integration meant that beachgoers had other places to go. Even so, during its heyday Bethune Beach became a beloved site for people of color. It was that rare place on Florida's Atlantic coast where they could gather, relax, and swim freely.
 
Erected by Volusia County.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansCivil RightsParks & Recreational Areas. In addition, it is included in the Mary McLeod Bethune series list.
 
Location. 28° 57.025′ N, 80° 50.359′ W. Marker is in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, in Volusia County. Marker is on South Atlantic Avenue, 0.1 miles south of Kingfish Avenue, on the right when traveling south. Marker is located in Mary McLeod Bethune Beach Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 6656 South Atlantic Avenue, New Smyrna Beach FL 32169, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Bethune-Volusia Beach (within shouting distance of this marker); The Mound Builders (approx. 1.6 miles away); Turtle Mound (approx. 1.6 miles away);
Bethune Beach-Swimming Freely Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Tim Fillmon, March 22, 2019
2. Bethune Beach-Swimming Freely Marker
Located next to the bathroom facilities.
A Gateway to the Stars (approx. 1.8 miles away); Veterans Memorial (approx. 2.7 miles away); Veterans Field of Honor (approx. 2.7 miles away); Eldora House (approx. 3 miles away); Eldora Village (approx. 3.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New Smyrna Beach.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on April 5, 2019. It was originally submitted on April 4, 2019, by Tim Fillmon of Webster, Florida. This page has been viewed 686 times since then and 77 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 4, 2019, by Tim Fillmon of Webster, Florida. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Jul. 23, 2024