After that, we had the beach. Twenty-eight municipal beaches everywhere but one beach for blacks, Virginia Key Beach. We decided we’d go after them in 1957. We called and arranged a meeting with the County Commission.
We got a good solid group together. We made sure that all of us were registered voters and all of us were freeholders. We had read the rules and believe it or not there was nothing in the county charter that said black people were restricted to one beach. But we had been told so many times and refused entrance to a white beach.
We had a meeting at 10 o’clock at Crandon Park. We went in and all the county commissioners were there. We made our appeal. They sat there and didn’t say a word. Nobody. We went on saying that it was wrong and that we wanna know what they’re planning on doing about it. They didn’t say anything. I guess they thought we’d just go away.
We then said, “It’s 10:20 now but what we plan on doing is coming back over here at 2 o’clock, and we’re going in the water. It’s up to you to do whatever you please. You can beat us up like most of you police always do when we go to the white beaches.”
Two o’clock came and our 12 had dwindled down to maybe about six of us. Oscar Range, whose wife went on to become our county commissioner, and myself, put on our trunks under our shirts and pants and just had on some sneakers. There were police out there just standing around us as a preliminary thing. We walked straight down to the beach, we kicked off our shoes, took off our shirts and we jumped in the water; just two of us. We were waiting for 20 minutes on something to happen, and nothing did.
We came back, put on our shoes, shirts and left. The next day, I called the NAACP and told them, “We’d like you to go to the beach tomorrow, any beach other than Virginia Beach.” We showed up and nobody said anything. The County Commission got the word out what we were doing and they knew they couldn’t defend it. From that day on, black people have been using all 28 beaches in Dade County.
Those are two things I’m most proud of. It taught me a lesson that you just gotta push and do your homework. First, you gotta be right. You’ve gotta have the right cause and you’ve gotta involve the right people. You just need some warm bodies to take a stand and get to the course and you’ve got a good chance.
This story was compiled by HistoryMiami intern Lisann Ramos as recounted by Garth Reeves.