Rediscovering Paradise: The Resurgence of Bay Shore Beachbayshorebeach,paradise,resurgence,rediscovering
Rediscovering Paradise: The Resurgence of Bay Shore Beach

Rediscovering Paradise: The Resurgence of Bay Shore Beach

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Reviving a Forgotten Beach: Bay Shore


Bay Shore Beach, a forgotten paradise once beloved by thousands of Black beachgoers in Hampton, Virginia, is currently experiencing a resurgence of interest and recognition. From the late 1800s to the 1960s, Virginia, like other southern states, enforced Jim Crow segregation laws that prohibited Black people from accessing public spaces, including parks, pools, and beaches. In response, a visionary bookkeeper at Hampton Institute, now known as Hampton University, named Mr. Franks D. Banks, decided to create a beachfront escape exclusively for Black people, resulting in the birth of Bay Shore Beach in 1898.

Memories of Bay Shore

Reginald Robinson, a former Bay Shore customer, has become the custodian of the memories and memorabilia associated with this cherished beach. In a recent interview with Angie Miles, he fondly recalls the vibrant atmosphere and amenities that made Bay Shore a popular holiday destination. Despite the prevailing stereotype that Black people couldn’t swim, Bay Shore had lifeguards, ensuring the safety of its visitors. Robinson describes the crystal-clear waters, comparable to those found at Virginia Beach, and a magnificent hotel that exuded a sense of grandeur. The beach also boasted various entertainment options, including a bar, nightclub, restaurant, and amusement park attractions such as a merry-go-round and rollercoaster. Over the years, Bay Shore attracted renowned entertainers who not only performed but also stayed and dined at the beach, sidelining the discriminatory practice of “playing but not staying” that was prevalent at the time.

Challenges Faced by Bay Shore

Bay Shore’s journey was not without obstacles. In 1933, the Great King Storm wreaked havoc on the beach, destroying nearly 75% of the hotel. While Buckroe Beach, Bay Shore’s neighbor, received a substantial amount of federal funds for reconstruction, Bay Shore was granted a mere $15,000. This limited funding forced the beach to focus on rebuilding its pavilion rather than fully restoring the hotel and amusement park. Nevertheless, the pavilion became renowned as a venue on the Chitlin circuit, hosting performances by iconic artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and James Brown. These artists not only entertained but also enjoyed the accommodations and meals without encountering racial restrictions.

Other Black Beaches

Bay Shore was just one of several Black beaches that emerged during this era. Seaview Beach in Norfolk, Sunset Lake Park in Chesapeake, Chow Wind Beach, Bire Shores, and Hargraves Beach in North Carolina, and Log Cabin Beach in Williamsburg were among the many other destinations where Black individuals could enjoy the sun and sand. Although Reginald Robinson initially discovered some of these beaches while researching Bay Shore, many people, including himself, were unaware of their existence. In an effort to ensure the recognition of these Black beaches, the Bay Shore Beach Hall of Fame plans to induct every known Black beach in the United States.

Rediscovering Bay Shore

While Bay Shore Beach may have faded from collective memory, recent efforts to rediscover and preserve its history are gaining momentum. Reginald Robinson’s dedication to preserving the memories and artifacts of Bay Shore has played an essential role in shedding light on this significant chapter of Black history. The recognition and celebration of these Black beaches are vital in challenging the discriminatory practices of segregation, reclaiming the spaces that were denied to Black individuals, and acknowledging their contributions to the fabric of American society.

Editorial: Remembering Bay Shore and the Fight Against Racism

Acknowledging the Injustices of the Past

The existence of Bay Shore Beach sheds light on the systemic racism and discrimination endured by Black individuals during the Jim Crow era. The segregation of public spaces severely limited the opportunities for leisure and relaxation for Black communities. The story of Bay Shore serves as a stark reminder of the deep-rooted inequalities that persisted, with Black taxpayers being barred from accessing the facilities and services their own money helped support. Remembering Bay Shore allows us to confront this painful past and recognize the resilience and creativity that emerged in the face of adversity.

A Celebration of Black History and Culture

Bay Shore Beach’s vibrant and inclusive atmosphere, which attracted renowned artists, signifies the richness of Black history and culture. The beach became a hub for exceptional talent, fostering an environment where Black performers could thrive and Black audiences could enjoy their artistry without racial barriers. By commemorating and elevating these Black beaches, we honor the contributions of Black individuals to the arts, entertainment, and society at large.

Lessons for the Present and Future

The legacy of Bay Shore Beach should not be confined to the annals of history. It serves as a call to action for ongoing efforts towards justice, equality, and inclusivity. Bay Shore’s resurgence should inspire us to reflect on the progress made in dismantling racist structures and the work yet to be done. As we champion the revitalization of forgotten spaces like Bay Shore, we must continue striving for a society where all individuals can experience the fullness of life, unfettered by discrimination.

Advice: Preserving and Celebrating Black History

Preserving Historical Sites

Preserving and restoring historical sites like Bay Shore Beach is crucial for future generations to understand and appreciate the struggles and triumphs of Black communities. Government and community organizations should allocate resources for the maintenance and restoration of these sites, ensuring their historical significance is safeguarded.

Education and Awareness

Integrating the stories of Black beaches and other historically marginalized spaces into educational curricula will help raise awareness among students and foster a greater understanding of the Black experience. Through education, we can challenge prevailing narratives and promote inclusive and accurate historical accounts.

Supporting Black-led Initiatives

Supporting Black-led initiatives, such as the Bay Shore Beach Hall of Fame, is essential for preserving and promoting Black history. These organizations play a critical role in the research, documentation, and celebration of overlooked historical sites, ensuring that their contributions are acknowledged and celebrated.

In conclusion, the resurgence of interest in Bay Shore Beach unveils a forgotten chapter of Black history, where individuals defied segregation and discrimination to create a place of joy and community. By recalling and preserving this history, we can continue the fight against racism and build a more inclusive future.


Rediscovering Paradise: The Resurgence of Bay Shore Beach
<< photo by Laura Stanley >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.

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G'day, mates! I'm Greg Buckley, and I've been reporting here in the land Down Under for the last 15 years. I'm all about sports and culture, so if there's a footy match or an art exhibit, you'll likely see me there. Let's give it a burl together, Australia!

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