King, Heidi Tyline

Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch

(2) K-3 Illustrated by Ekua Holmes. American Beach in northeast Florida is now a protected part of the National Park Service, but it began as a private beach bought by African American millionaire Abraham Lincoln Lewis in 1935 to allow Black people a respite from segregated beaches (where "there was even a rope in the ocean" to keep the races separate). It was a childhood haven for future opera singer (and Lewis's great-granddaughter) MaVynee Betsch, who found a second career in saving the beach, which fell into neglect after civil rights gains had made it redundant. Author and illustrator work in exceptional harmony here to bring MaVynee and the beach to life, with Holmes depicting in acrylic and collage the beauty of the "ocean paradise where [­Lewis's] family and other black people could swim, picnic, and build sandcastles." Even later, when MaVynee returns to the now-abandoned beach, nursing her own depression, Holmes finds beauty in the sadness, using the long horizontals of the spreads to glorious and poignant effect. Author and illustrator notes along with sources provide and point to further information about MaVynee Betsch.


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