The black maritime experience

The link between African-Americans and the coastline has been enduring.   One of the legacies are formerly all-black resort communities stretching from Massachusetts to California.  Just heard from Laura Austin on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, an associate from my days with the Afro-American Newspapers in the 1980s, with the fascinating story of her family heritage.   Her mother and uncle were leaders of a seafood factory called W.A. Smith and Sons begun in the 1930s. It grew into Bellevue Seafood in the 1960s with more than 300 employees.

A common threat to these coastal communities has been development.  Places like Hilton Head and the Sea Islands of Georgia have witnessed the displacement of generations of black families in favor of high-rise condos.

During National Black Business Month, take the time to learn about places like Topsail Beach in North Carolina or the Eastern Shore of Maryland where black families continue to hang on to homes.   If those buildings are not being used for bed and breakfasts or to host events like weddings, and you have the time and expertise, look into organizing new ventures to save old traditions.


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