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Segregated Sands Delaware's Segregated Beaches
During the Jim Crow Era

Bethany Beach

Approximate area of Bethany Beach, Delaware. Delaware Official Road Map, 1940, paper, 1985.035. Image courtesy of Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
Image: Map marker locating Bethany Beach placed on the Delaware Official Road Map, 1940, paper, 1985.035. Image courtesy of Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.
Image: Post card from Delaware Public Archives Caley Postcard Collection. The Disciple's of Christ Conference Grounds, Bethany Beach, Delaware 1948.
The Disciples of Christ Conference Grounds, Bethany Beach, Del. – stamp: 1c George Washington, 1948, Delaware Public Archives, 9015-028-000 Caley Postcard Collection. View the original source at Delaware Public Archives.

Bethany Beach is on the ancestral land of the Nanticoke people. It is located along the Atlantic coast of Delaware between Indian River Bay and Miller Creek in Sussex County. Bethany Beach was established as a church campsite for the white European members of the Disciples of Christ, located in the Washington, DC area and in Pennsylvania. The first building was a tabernacle on the land of the Christian Missionary Society, dedicated in July 1901.

Image: Post card from the Delaware Public Archives Caley Postcard Collection. Boardwalk at Bethany Beach, Delaware 1954.
Boardwalk at Bethany Beach Postcard front side- stamp: 2c John Adams, 1954, Delaware Public Archives, 9015-028-000 Caley Postcard Collection. View the original source at Delaware Public Archives.
Image: Back of Post card from the Delaware Public Archives Caley Postcard Collection. Boardwalk at Bethany Beach, Delaware 1954.
Boardwalk at Bethany Beach postcard address side- stamp: 2c John Adams, 1954, Delaware Public Archives, 9015-028-000 Caley Postcard Collection. View the original source at Delaware Public Archives.

We have yet to learn about the Black experience at this beach. Nonetheless, Black people may have visited due to it being featured in Grayson’s Guide: The Go Guide to Pleasant Motoring in 1952, 1957-58, and 1959.

Interior page of a 1950s guide book. There is an image of a family smiling next to their car near a park.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. “Go, guide to pleasant motoring” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed August 25, 2021. View the original source at The New York Public Library Digital Collection.

Additional Resources

  1. Native-Land.ca, accessed July 15, 2021.
  2. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. “The Go Guide to Pleasant Motoring” New York Public Library Digital Collections.
  3. “The Ancient Ones,” Nanticoke and Lenape Confederation: Learning Center and Museum, accessed August 12, 2021.
  4. Town History,” Town of Bethany Beach, accessed August 18, 2021.


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