Atlantic Beach, South Carolina in the Gullah/Geechee Nation is affectionately known as “The Black Pearl.” A Black entrepreneur George Tyson, envisioned the four-block, oceanfront haven as a vacation refuge for Blacks during the 1930’s. His vision and dream became reality when Mr. Tyson purchased 47 acres of beachfront property in Horry County from Mr. R.V. Ward, one of his few white business connections. The parcels of land extending from 29th – 32nd Avenues South, east of U.S. Highway 17, served as an oasis where African Americans broke ground, built homes and business, and established an active entertainment district and Atlantic Beach, South Carolina was born.
Currently Atlantic Beach stands as one, if not the only, publicly accessible “Black-beach town” in the state and in the country. It comprises a predominance of African American home and property ownership and has all African American representation on the town council along with the mayor. As an independent town, until now, Atlantic Beach has successfully managed and avoided the threat and plight almost every other Black beach community has faced – annihilation due to the proliferation of high-density development, gentrification and a massive influx of cars and other motor vehicles.
For almost 100 years Mr. Tyson’s dream has drawn millions of visitors, notable entertainers and elected officials, seasonal homeowners and year-round residents. Whether seeking a forever home or visiting for a short, leisurely stay, all seek the beauty and enjoyment of the “Black Pearl”, as the town is affectionately known. Likened to Martha Vineyard’s Inkwell where Blacks from all backgrounds assemble to socialize, vacation, live, play, worship, dine, dance, network, and enjoy the sun-kissed, unobstructed shoreline and coast, some people have referenced Atlantic Beach as the Martha’s Vineyard “Inkwell” of the South.
Since its inception, Atlantic Beach has preserved its rich, historic legacy, preserved its cultural significance, and preserved its small-town community feel and preserved its self-governance – granting property owners a place of serenity, identity and peacefulness. Many residents feel with a looming hotel/condo development on the horizon, all could be lost. Therefore, we are calling on you to stop the destructionment that would damage the Black Pearl!
A multi-level hotel/condo development with a multilevel parking structure is being proposed. Residents who relish in the town’s values, esthetics and sense of community, view the proposal as over-reaching, obstructionist and a clear threat to the culture and historical governance of the town. Plainly and clearly, residents state they don’t want it, viewing the hotel/condo as the key impetus to dissolve the town’s charter, alter the small-town esthetics, over burden-the town’s infrastructure, destroy the quality of the environment and ecosystems, and bring a host of other issues impacting the current quality of life.
A group of concerned citizens and stake holders are speaking up and out against changing town ordinances or “go arounds” as this type of ordinance may be referred to that allows for flexible zoning and unwanted high-rise development on the ocean front. The Planning Commission opposed the approval of an Ordinance to Amend the Land Management Ordinance to Modify the Eligibility for Designation Requirements for the Planned Development and the Flexible Design Zoning Districts; however, most of the town council along with the mayor has forged ahead, despite many of the citizens and stakeholders’ outcry against it. We are asking that you join in expressing your opinion to the city manager, town council, and the mayor how such a move will change the governance, future and dynamics of this historic Black town forever; losing one of the state and country’s last beach owned and governed by African Americans. Join in with the masses who believe that culture is worth saving and the history of Atlantic Beach is worth preserving.
Send your letters and or emails to voice your support of saving Atlantic Beach and opposing Ordinance No. 4-2023 to: