Nestled into Myrtle Beach is the town of Atlantic Beach, whose history you will find briefly summarized on this historical marker. But while you should stop to look at the marker, you shouldn’t stop there—there’s a lot of history and culture to explore in Atlantic Beach.
This town’s history dates back to 1934, when George Tyson, a local Black entrepreneur, bought 47 beachfront acres for $12,000, and formed the Atlantic Beach Company with 10 others, which became the town’s first governing body. Tyson soon opened the Black Hawk Night Club, and the area became a popular destination for Black tourists who were not able to visit other nearby beach towns thanks to segregation. Alongside the night club opened motels, shops, and restaurants. Since its founding, the area has had close ties to the Gullah Geechee community, descendants of Africans who were enslaved on the lower Atlantic coast on rice, indigo and Sea Island cotton plantations. The Town of Atlantic Beach hosted the first Annual Gullah Geechee Festival in 2023, which celebrated the history, traditions and culture of the Gullah Geechee community throughout the Grand Strand.
Atlantic Beach became an official municipality in 1966, and development boomed. The town acquired the nickname “The Black Pearl,” for its black-owned nightclubs, hotels, and restaurants. The late ‘60s saw its heyday before desegregation in the 1970s made a wider range of destinations possible for Black tourists. While the ‘70s and ‘80s saw Atlantic Beach decline while Myrtle Beach boomed around it, it remains a beloved area today, comprising four blocks. The Atlantic Beach Historical society is currently making efforts to preserve and promote the town’s history. And every Memorial Day weekend, over 250,000 people descend on the area for the Atlantic Beach Bike Weekend, a destination event for Black bikers from all across the country. Like the town of Atlantic Beach itself, this event has its roots in segregation: after being turned away from Myrtle Beach’s Harley Week, Black motorcyclists began converging in Atlantic Beach.
Whether you’re looking to learn more about the history of the South, or explore a famous Black destination, or catch one of the country’s coolest bike events, or simply spend a day at the beach, you’ll want to make Atlantic Beach a part of your next itinerary.
Know Before You Go
The historical marker itself is free to visit all day, next to Atlantic Beach Town Hall. It is wheelchair accessible.