American Beach is located on Amelia Island, just north of Jacksonville, Florida located between two upscale sentinels -- the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island and Amelia Island Plantation.. Founded in 1935 by Abraham Lincoln Lewis, American Beach was created as a vacation haven for African-Americans, for whom access to other resorts was denied in the days before desegregation. In the early 1930s, A.L. Lewis, Florida's first black millionaire and president of Florida's first insurance company, the Afro-American Insurance Company in Jacksonville, bought 200 acres of prime Florida beachfront so his employees could enjoy the Florida shore.
In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, American Beach was the place to be for fun and entertainment. African-American families were given the opportunity each weekend to commute for a day at the beach on Amelia Island, or to own property there for full time residence or a weekend getaway. It was a place where the insurance company's workers could escape the pace of the work week and where their families and friends could enjoy the beach free from the stress associated with segregation. Evans' Rendezvous nightclub was an important anchor of the community, welcoming notable artists such as Ray Charles, Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong. Hurricane Dora in 1964 marked the beginning of the end of the beach's prime when many homes and businesses were destroyed. Shortly following the hurricane, America saw an end to segregation, which made it unnecessary for African-Americans to travel to Amelia Island.
American Beach is experiencing resurgence as more and more people are realizing the importance of preserving this historic community. It is now home to a variety of people, from federal judges and corporate executives to custodians, and is truly a representation of the American dream. Today, only 120 of the original 200 acres remains untouched by developers. In January 2002, American Beach was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.