Chowan Beach, A Popular Playground for African-American Families in the Early 1900s

1 Posted by - June 13, 2018 - BLACK FAMILY, ENTERTAINMENT
was known as the African-American playground in the early 1900s. The area was founded by Eli of Winton, in Hertford County, North Carolina. Reid converted an abandoned fishing beach along the Chowan River into a family-oriented resort for people. The area had been settled in the Colonial area but the area had long been cleaned up by the time Reid acquired the land.

Chowan Beach became a quiet dignity area where middle class Black people could take their families for a vacation for a day or week. Reid attracted visitors with his connections through his church and veterans who knew and still kept in contact with from World War I. Many of those visitors would continue to return to Chowan Beach for the next four decades.  In the 1920s and 1930s the area’s sandy beaches were the main attraction.  By the 1940s, Reid built guest cottages, bathhouses, and a dance hall to accommodate a growing number of regular visitors. The area had taken on the appearance of a beautiful small community with restaurants, picnic areas and a photo studio.

People of all backgrounds visited the area, teachers, bankers, medical doctors, surgeons, dentists, attorneys, college professors and many more. During the late 1940s and 1950s, Chowan Beach became a major stop on the Chitlin Circuit, attracting leading black musicians including big headliners such Little Willie John, B.B. King, James Brown, Ruth Brown, and so many more. After President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act many of the vacationers and entertainers stopped frequenting the area.

In 1967, Reid sold Chowan Beach to Sam Pullman, a respected businessman from Ahoskie, North Carolina, who made a number of improvements to the resort.  Pullman managed to keep the resort alive during the 1970s and 1980s although it never saw the number of visitors so common in the 1950s and early 1960s. By the time the 1990’s arrived there were many other vacationing spots and amusement areas for African-Americans to visit.




  • Charlyn Paige June 18, 2016 - 5:59 am Reply

    does the beach still exist ..I tried looking it up..would love to go there#peaceofhistory

  • Frank Stephenson June 26, 2018 - 2:12 pm Reply

    Chowan Beach does not exists today as it was sold and the buildings were destroyed and the property was gated.

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