The coasts of today's American South feature luxury condominiums,
resorts, and gated communities, yet just a century ago, a
surprising amount of beachfront property in the Chesapeake, along
the Carolina shores, and around the Gulf of Mexico was owned and
populated by African Americans. Blending social and environmental
history, Andrew W. Kahrl tells the story of African
American–owned beaches in the twentieth century. By
reconstructing African American life along the coast, Kahrl
demonstrates just how important these properties were for African
American communities and leisure, as well as for economic
empowerment, especially during the era of the Jim Crow South.
However, in the wake of the civil rights movement and amid the
growing prosperity of the Sunbelt, many African Americans fell
victim to effective campaigns to dispossess black landowners of
their properties and beaches.
Kahrl makes a signal contribution to our understanding of African
American landowners and real-estate developers, as well as the
development of coastal capitalism along the southern seaboard,
tying the creation of overdeveloped, unsustainable coastlines to
the unmaking of black communities and cultures along the shore. The
result is a skillful appraisal of the ambiguous legacy of racial
progress in the Sunbelt.