The Highland Beach resort town is the first black owned beach resort town in the United States. It was started and founded by the son of activist Frederick Douglas; Charles Douglas and Charles’ wife Laura. The resort was founded on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in 1893. Charles Douglas and his wife founded the resort, after they encountered racial discrimination and were not allowed into a restaurant. The restaurant was in the Chesapeake Bay area, and they were denied entry because they were black. After this incident occurred, Charles decided to go into the real estate business. As a result, he went on to purchase beach front property that was to the south of Chesapeake Bay.
After Charles acquired a little more than forty acres, he began to develop the area. He began to sell shares of the land he owned to his family and friends. Affluent blacks that were senators, judges, governors and others began to buy some of the land as well. Soon after, Charles began to build a large family summer house. The house was constructed with the ideal of having his father Frederick Douglas retiring there. It was also a place for those who were in the Washington DC, area to visit Frederick Douglas as well. The Highland Beach resort town was also noted for having famous and influential residents such as Alex Haley, Paul Robeson, Booker T. Washington, Langston Hughes, and W.E.B. Dubois.
When Charles Douglas passed away in 1920, his son Haley Douglas took over as leader over the town. Haley retained this position for three decades, trying to keep the community close knit. However, over time more developers came into the area, and built resorts as well. Some of these resorts attracted the residents of Highland Beach and they relocated. However Highland Beach still has approximately 1,000 current residents.
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