Race and Hurricanes: The history of Atlantic Beach

Cities, towns, and oceanfront communities all went into action to avoid standing in harm’s way.
People in the small city have faced major storms before, and not just the kind spun up in a hurricane.
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 10:28 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Hurricane Ian’s second landfall target was the South Carolina Coast.

Cities, towns, and oceanfront communities all went into action to avoid standing in harm’s way.

Surviving the storm allowed government decision-makers to breathe easier.

“I think we’re truly grateful that we had minimal damage and our prayers are out to the people to the north and south of us,” Georgetown, S.C. mayor Carol Jayroe said.

Less than 60 miles to the North of Georgetown is Atlantic Beach, S.C.

Visible scars from the clash with Mother Nature are easy to spot. And in a locale with access to the ocean,  America’s past is often hard to escape.

Also Read: North Carolina reports four storm-related deaths due to Hurricane Ian

“We knew it was Jim Crow. They knew why it was the Jim Crow.”

Well-published signs designating race from days gone by defined an individual’s place in society, and at age 87 John Skeeter remembers when the stretch of Horry County coastline sandwiched between North Myrtle Beach was open to blacks only.

“You cannot back up. But one of the most intellectual thing that I would suggest for people to think about is we saw what happened back then,” Skeeter told WBTV.

Back then, his family endured the wrath of Hurricane Hazel in 1954 which is billed as one of America’s deadliest hurricanes.

Skeeter said, “all that lines was down and, and couldn’t get any communication out. So that was Hurricane Hazel.”

Cleaning up from Ian remains an ongoing exercise. Work in this coastal town hasneighbor helping out neighbor, and help in Atlantic Beach is also coming from far away places. The task of restoring electricity was carried out by work crews we found from Tennessee.

For decades, Atlantic Beach has been referred to as the Black Pearl of the Grand Strand.

However, when a hurricane hits, the challenge that lies ahead is making sure that the pearl shines again.

In its heyday going back to the 1930′s, Atlantic Beach, South Carolina was a cultural gathering place.

Once a stop on the so-called chitlin circuit, James Brown even performed there.

And with the arrival and departure of Ian, John Skeeter flashes back to a time when beach life was separate and unequal.

“Let’s be smart enough not to let it happen again.” He said,