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The Struggle to Preserve America's Most Important African-American Beach

The tenth anniversary of Katrina has unearthed numerous stories about the history and current state of the Gulf Coast, but a recent Buzzfeed piece on Gulfside Assembly, a historically African-American beach in Waveland, Mississippi, has shed light on a little-know piece of regional history. A retreat that for many decades was the only spot on the Gulf Coast where black Americans could enjoy access to a beach has an intriguing and important backstory. Methodist Bishop Robert Elijah Jones, a light-skinned black man whom wasn't questioned by local landowners when he purchased the former plantation of President Andrew Jackson in 1921, operated the sprawling estate as a retreat in the shadows of Jim Crow; visitors had to walk a mile-and-a-half through the woods and obey strict rules while there so as not to fall to far outside the racial realities of the day. Despite those difficulties, Jones's resort was a success, and made Gulfside a local legend and later a center for civil rights activity. But maintaining its legacy has proven difficult in the past few decades, especially after Katrina.

While the resort's popularity declined over time, plans were implemented right before Katrina to open a hotel and expand the site. According to Allison Anderson, a partner at Unabridged Architecture, her firm started working on a master plan for the site in 2000. An expanded site and hotel opened on August 13, 2005, weeks before the hurricane wiped out the entire retreat.

Efforts to rebuild and preserve Gulfside Assembly have since faced many of the common difficulties of other post-Katrina recovery efforts, including the recession and Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. While setbacks have continued, a core group of supporters continues to fight to preserve and restore the historically important site.

Read the entire story at Buzzfeed.

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