Learn the history of African Americans in the Coast Guard or tour the oldest African American church in the city this February
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Feb. 12, 2014) – This February, Virginia Beach celebrates Black History Month and pays tribute to its history while inviting visitors to learn more about how African Americans shaped the resort city’s culture by visiting several longstanding landmarks and participating in themed events. Virginia Beach is rich with history. In fact, the city is home to Seatack, one of the oldest African-American communities in the United States.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, African-Americans settled the area known as Seatack, establishing farms, building homes and either hunting, growing or fishing for their own food. Bolstered by the food sources found along the neighboring waterways and fields, Seatack’s economy was based almost entirely on agriculture, and by the late 1800s, more than 800 residents called this area home and helped bring to life several significant accomplishments whose impact on Virginia Beach remains.
Seatack Lifesaving Station
In 1878, the Seatack Life-Saving Station was built by the oceanfront. Decommissioned in 1969, today, it’s the Old Coast Guard Station, a Virginia Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum houses a collection of more than 1,800 images, as well as research library cataloguing books, papers and oral histories of the United States Life-Saving and Coast Guard Services. Located adjacent to the Virginia Beach boardwalk, it overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is open seven days a week (seasonal hours vary).
Star Baptist Church
The current location of Morning Star Baptist Church was first used in 1887 for Sunday school classes until adults began to assemble there for church services in 1889, when a building was erected, making it the oldest, surviving African-American church in Virginia Beach. In 1892, a simple, white frame church was constructed, and in 1972, the original structure was encased by brickwork. Today, parishioners are documenting a collection of artifacts and memorabilia that depict the lives of African Americans in Princess Anne County from 1892 to the late 1950s. Historic tours are available by appointment only.
Mt. Olive Baptist Church
Once known as the First Black Church in the Seatack Community, Mt. Olive Baptist Church also became the area’s first African-American elementary school, established in 1908. Today, it’s celebrating its 119th anniversary and continues to be a beloved place of worship and education in Virginia Beach.
Seatack Volunteer Fire Department
Upon returning from World War II in 1948, several Seatack residents chartered and organized the Seatack Volunteer Fire Department, on the present-day location of the Seatack Community Recreation Center. It was the first uniquely African-American fire department to exist in the United States; no other group like it has existed since its disbandment in 1963. Today, the fire department is known as Fire Station 12 and is active from its location on Birdneck Road in Virginia Beach. Exhibit: "African Americans in the Coast Guard" Jan. 29 – March 16 The Old Coast Guard Station is honoring the service of African Americans in the United States Coast Guard and its predecessors with this pictorial exhibit, accessible during the museum’s regular hours (Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.). Join the museum each Saturday in February at 2 p.m. for screenings of the award-winning documentary “Rescue Men: the Story Of the Pea Island Life-Savers,” a 60-minute film that chronicles the Pea Island Surfman, who overcame post-Reconstruction racism to become the nation’s only all-black Life-Saving crew and ranked among its most courageous. Once the 1903 Seatack Life-Saving Station, the Old Coast Guard Station museum is located on 24th Street, adjacent to the boardwalk.
The Black Image and Jim Crow Exhibit at Princess Anne County Training School and Union Kempsville High School Museum
Feb. 15; 2-3:30 p.m.
During the Jim Crow era, a vast assortment of advertisements, promotional materials, household objects and other useful items featured stereotypical likenesses of African Americans. Therbia Parker, whose objects are featured in this exhibit, will discuss how and why African Americans were misrepresented in this way. Admission to the event is free and open to the public. www.museumsvb.org Virginia Beach blends its diverse culture with a variety of year-round offerings – from delectable cuisine and a vibrant downtown scene to abundant parks and waterways. To learn more about the resort city or request a complimentary vacation guide, contact the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau by calling 1-800-VA-BEACH.