Mary “Florence” Carr Sparrow (1890 – 1989) was the owner of Sparrow’s Beach, a private beach that Florence ran as a successful business for over 40 years. She had a vision of making this place an enjoyable and family-oriented establishment that every African-American could enjoy during the time when African-Americans were treated unfairly and as second-class citizens. My grandmother was a successful farmer, real estate investor, and a highly respected black woman in her community.

My grandmother respected and looked up to her father, Frederick Carr, who was a prominent figure in the community. I did read a story that my great-grandfather Frederick was a runaway slave. I am not sure if that is accurate because my grandmother always spoke proudly about her father being a Free Slave, businessman, and great father. Mr. Carr had friends such as Booker T. Washington who would stop by to see him during their travels to discuss the painful issues of Blacks during that time.

Interestingly enough, my grandmother was a very private person. She did not approve of other people talking about her beach, which she worked so hard to run as a black woman during very difficult times. With only a high school education, she was the Oprah of her time. She had motel rooms, picnic tables, boat rides, entertainment, and food stands for everyone to enjoy. She operated her beach efficiently and kept it very clean. I would like to think the three loves of her life were her husband William Sparrow, her son Albert Sparrow and me.

Carr’s Beach was operated by Elizabeth Smith, who was one of Mrs. Sparrow’s older sisters. The misconception is that Carr’s Beach was the happening place, but the truth of the matter is that everything my grandmother did at her beach, her sister also tried to emulate.

Mrs. and Mr. Albert and Jean Sparrow

The log cabin Mrs. Sparrow's son and
daughter-in-law lived in.

Because of eminent domain in Anne Arundel County, the government took many acres away from Florence Sparrow to establish a sewage plant. She fought for over 5 years to try to keep her property. Mrs. Sparrow’s saying was “All I want to do is grow my corn and tobacco.” She did not sell Sparrow’s Beach to make way for the sewage plant. There were many other factors involved in her decision to sell, like the opening of Sandy Point and that many blacks now wanted to be accepted in white establishments, so they stopped coming to Sparrow’s and Carr’s beaches, and her beloved son passed away at a very young age.

To honor my grandmother and everything she has accomplished, I have provided personal pictures of Sparrow’s Beach, my grandmother, and many more. Mrs. Sparrow and Elizabeth Smith are a part of African-American history.

Warmest regards,
Jeanne Sparrow