The struggle of black visitors on the Gulf of Mexico: remembering the Biloxi wade-ins

Taking a walk down memory lane
As the weekend approaches, the Black Beach Spring Break 2017 will hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast featuring concerts, jam-packed clubs, after and beach parties, twerking and bikini contests, entertainment and more!! The Gulf Coast will have local and national celebrities. Thousands of tourists and festivities will be across the beach and the entire south Mississippi region bringing a boost to the economy and revenue for April.

Though the Gulf of Mexico is an easily-accessible coastal resource that African Americans frequent currently, beach owners in the 1950s and 60s, once considered, the land to be private property for whites only.

To be exact, before 1968, African Americans were “trespassers” to the beach. The only area that was specifically acceptable for African Americans was the Gulfside Methodist Assembly, the nation’s first non-commercial religious resort for blacks under the auspices of the Gulf side-Chautauqua Association in Waveland.

“When they traveled to Gulfside Methodist Assembly, which was somewhere they had to walk, they often were hurt.”
Dr. Gilbert Mason Jr.

The Struggle 
Through the years of 1959 and 1967, three wade-ins took place including the “Bloody Sunday” that occurred April 24, 1960, where Dr. Gilbert Mason Sr. and others gathered on the beach practicing peaceful demonstrations. Their visit to the beach displayed civil disobedience due to their presence being unlawful. As a response to black protesters, white teenagers were recruited by the Biloxi police to counter-protest and took little action to prevent the violence against the black protesters.

Shots were fired and rocks were thrown at the black protesters while practicing passive or non-violent resistance. A total of 68 were injured, attacked and then arrested. Years of sit-ins, wade-ins, lawsuits, protests and black unity resulted in a de-segregated beach.

In the year of 2017
There will also be official Springbreak beach parties at the Baja Beach and Pelican Wharf on Beach Boulevard in Biloxi on Friday and Saturday nights. The parties will be all- night with DJ’s, special guests, bikers, models, sororities and fraternities, celebrities, performances, food and more!

The weekend will bring life, culture, and entertainment to the Mississippi Gulf Coast as African Americans enjoy “every damn inch of it.”
Dr. Gilbert Mason Sr. 1959


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