Much has been written recently about the famous but forgotten black beaches of Annapolis owned by the Carr family. In their heyday, they were entertainment hotspots attracting music legends like Chuck Berry, Ella Fitzgerald and Tina Turner.
This week, the last remaining parcel of land at Carr’s and Sparrows beaches was officially designated a city park, allowing everyone to access the beach and learn about the waterfront’s rich black history.
The five acres known as Elktonia Beach (off Bembe Beach Road in Annapolis) are the last remnant of the original 108-acre property that Fred Carr purchased in 1902. Most are now private condo developments. Carr’s and Sparrows beaches opened during segregation and were privately owned and operated from the 1930s through the 1970s. They attracted tens of thousands of visitors up and down the East Coast to sunbathe and swim, stroll and listen to music megastars. Some 70,000 people reportedly flocked to Carr’s Beach for a Chuck Berry performance.
The Blacks of Chesapeake Foundation (BOCF) and Chesapeake Conservancy, along with the City of Annapolis and the State of Maryland, have reached an agreement with the Conservation Fund to purchase the property from a private owner and develop an urban park. In addition to state and city Open Space Program funds granted for the project, $2 million from Congress is included.
“It’s a dream come true,” said BOCF Founder and Chairman Vince Leggett. “The Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation has worked for 15 years to preserve the significant and unique aspects of Black history and culture in the Chesapeake Bay at the site of Elktonia Beach, the last remnant contiguous to the beaches of Carr and Sparrows. This plot directly overlooking the bay is so much more than a pin or a dot on a map. It serves as a national case study for the preservation and conservation of African American sites.
Leggett points out that preserving Elktonia Beach allows all Annapolis residents and visitors direct access to the Chesapeake Bay – a point of complaint at times in Annapolis.
Leggett continued, “The perpetual preservation of Elktonia Beach as an urban park will provide all residents and visitors to our capital, Annapolis, direct access to the Chesapeake Bay. This property will serve as an authentic space to interpret and share the rich heritage of African Americans who sought recreation, recreation and entertainment in these safer places away from segregation.
Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO, Chesapeake Conservancy Partner Joel Dunn echoes Leggett’s sentiments: “Today is a great day for everyone who held a special place in their hearts for ‘The Beaches.’ . Now this story can truly be told to generations to come.
-Meg Walburn Viviano