Black History on Jekyll Island
The African American roots of Jekyll Island run deep and trace back hundreds of years. Explore the lives of those that shaped the course of history and the progress they made possible, as told by Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum.
The Wanderer Survivors were among the last known groups of enslaved Africans sold into captivity in America. Their footsteps still echo along the Georgia coast and throughout America today. Follow in their footprints along the Wanderer Memory Trail to discover the story of the Wanderer Survivors and explore their journey and their legacy.
FROM 31•81, THE MAGAZINE OF JEKYLL ISLAND: VOL. 3 NO. 1
The Water and the Blood
Clubhouse Under Construction
The Jekyll Island Club was founded in 1886 as a private winter retreat for wealthy northerners, but the majority of people living on the island were the hired workers. This workforce included significant numbers of African American employees. By the 1930s, over 77% of the Club employees were African American. For over half a century, Club employees helped to build the resort, run and maintain it, and preserve its stories.
Soon after the establishment of the Jekyll Island Club, African American housing known as “the Quarters” was constructed on the island. Black employees lived in the Quarters year-round.
FROM 31•81, THE MAGAZINE OF JEKYLL ISLAND: VOL. 4 NO. 1
In the Service of Others
Charlie Hill, Coachman and Caretaker for the Maurice family of Hollybourne Cottage, was the oldest of the original employees of the Jekyll Island Club. He brought the first group of millionaires to Jekyll, by way of a rowboat, to inspect the island for possible purchase. Then, as an island employee for 51 years, he stayed on to witness the entire span of the Jekyll Island Club.
Daughter of Charlie Hill, Anna Hill grew up on Jekyll Island in a special cottage built for them by the Maurice Family. When she was old enough to attend school, she moved to Brunswick to pursue her education and eventually went on to Atlanta for college. She returned to Jekyll Island in the 1930s to teach the island’s African American children. Hill earned about $50 per month as a teacher and worked at the Club Laundry to supplement her wages.
Union Chapel, originally built for members of the Jekyll Island Club, was outgrown almost immediately with the rapid growth of the Club. Once Faith Chapel was built in 1904, Union Chapel was moved to the African American employees’ quarters and used for services.
Red Row, a collection of ten houses with brightly colored red roofs, was built near Union Chapel. In response to a labor shortage caused by World War I, these houses incentivized employees to work for the Club and have their families live and attend school on Jekyll Island. Red Row residents often stayed on the island year-round, with free run of the island for nine months of the year.
FROM 31•81, THE MAGAZINE OF JEKYLL ISLAND: VOL. 2 NO. 2
Golf caddies were instrumental in providing a successful experience for players on Jekyll Island golf courses during the Club Era. In 1930, these seasonal employees were built a dormitory for $16,000. In addition to the living quarters, meals, and night school were available to the caddies.
Jekyll Island Club Closes
As a result of complications caused by World War II, the Jekyll Island Club closed early during its 1942 season, becoming its final operating season.
Opens as a State Park
Jekyll Island opened to the public as a state park. But, due to segregation, African Americans could not visit many areas of the island, including its beaches.
St. Andrews Beach Established
St. Andrews Beach became the only public beach in Georgia open to African Americans and one of only a few such beaches on the East Coast.
FROM 31•81, THE MAGAZINE OF JEKYLL ISLAND: VOL. 3 NO. 2
Historic St. Andrews Beach Pavilion
In 1955, a Beach House located on the South End of Jekyll Island became available to African Americans on a segregated basis. The Beach Pavilion opened on September 25, 1955, to great fanfare, as St. Andrews Beach became the first public beach in Georgia to welcome African Americans.
The Dolphin Club Lounge & Restaurant
The St. Andrews Beach Corporation developed the Dolphin Club into a notable black-owned beach resort. In 1959, the Dolphin Club and Motor Hotel opened for business. It was soon leased to Dave Jackson. Under his management, the Dolphin Club Lounge became a hot spot for music. Local dance bands regularly performed there, as well as many of the nation’s top entertainers, including Clarence Carter, Tyrone Davis, Mille Jackson, and Percy Sledge.
St. Andrews Auditorium
Dr. J. Clinton Wilkes challenged the idea of “separate but equal” facilities on Jekyll Island. When he hosted the Black Dental Association of Georgia on the island, the St. Andrews Auditorium was quickly built to accommodate the group.
FROM 31•81, THE MAGAZINE OF JEKYLL ISLAND: VOL. 3 NO. 2
Welcome to Camp
On July 27, 1964, Federal Judge Frank A. Hooper ordered the immediate integration of all state-operated facilities on Jekyll Island, helping set a precedent for the integration of Georgia and the rest of the South.
In 1964, An Otis Redding Concert was held at the St. Andrews Auditorium to raise funds for the Southeastern Golf Tournament, known as “The Classic.” The tournament was an annual event from 1964 to the early 1980s. This competition lured many black golf pros to Jekyll Island, including Nathaniel Starks, Chuck Thorpe, Lee Elder, George Johnson, Jim Dent, Jim Thorpe, Calvin Peete, and more.
FROM 31•81, THE MAGAZINE OF JEKYLL ISLAND: VOL. 4 NO. 2
When B. B. and Otis Played Jekyll
The Wanderer Memorial
The Wanderer Memorial was created to honor the survivors of one of the last known slave ships to land in the United States. The 150th anniversary of the landing was commemorated by the installation of a sculpture dedicated to the survivors of that voyage.
Step inside Jekyll's history.
Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum, brings to life the rich history of this barrier island through compelling audio-visual experiences and interactive exhibits.