By Douglas C. Lyons
Here’s some Florida Black History that is appropriate to Valentine’s Day. It’s a love connection of some historic significance: the marriage of Abraham Lincoln Lewis and Mary Sammis. It was a very big deal in our state’s history.
Lewis was born in 1865 and would grow up to become rich businessman in Jacksonville. He amassed a fortune in several enterprises, including the Afro-American Life Insurance Company. He purchased enough oceanfront property along a strand of Amelia Island, which become American Beach, a popular tourist destination for blacks during the days of racial segregation.
Lewis married well. At age 19, he married Mary Sammis, the great-granddaughter of the eccentric yet wealthy landowner, planter and slave trader and political activist Zephaniah Kingsley and his Senegalese wife, Anna Jai.
Lewis, according to the book, An American Beach for African Americans, brought ambition and reliability to the marriage. Mary Sammis brought a respected name and recognition, making the pair quite the power couple of their day.
Photo Credit: State Library & Archives of Florida