Presented By Lu Vickers

In 1949, during the days of Jim Crow, when African Americans did not have access to many of the nation’s recreation areas, Silver Springs’ owners Carl Ray and Shorty Davidson did something no other Florida attraction did: they opened a parallel attraction for African Americans downriver from the headspring, calling it “Paradise Park for Colored People.”   They did so at the urging of their African American glass bottom boat captains who wanted their families and friends to have access to one of Florida’s most famous natural resources: Silver Springs.  Ray and Davidson put Eddie Vereen, a former Silver Springs’ boat captain, in complete control of Paradise Park and he made it into one of the most popular places for African Americans to visit from 1949 to 1969 when it closed. This presentation will use vintage photographs to cover the history of segregation in recreation areas across the country and then delve more deeply into the history of African Americans at Silver Springs from its earliest days to the heyday of Paradise Park, using vintage photographs, video and brochures.

Lu Vickers is the author of one novel and several books on Florida history, including Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids, and Cypress Gardens: America’s Tropical Wonderland.  She has also received three Individual Artists Grants from Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs for fiction.  In 2014, as she was in the final stages of editing her latest book, Remembering Paradise Park: Tourism and Segregation at Silver Springs, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for excerpts from a novel in progress.

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Lu Vickers