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The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South Hardcover – March 12, 2012

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The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South + Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters: The Struggle over Segregated Recreation in America (Politics and Culture in Modern America)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (March 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674050479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674050471
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A decidedly fresh and nuanced perspective on Jim Crow. By deftly weaving together fascinating and largely unknown stories of African American life and leisure, Kahrl explores how beaches and waterfronts became sites of racial contest. His book shows that the coastlines of the South served as powerful microcosms of the larger forces shaping Southern race relations in the twentieth century. Highly persuasive and original, The Land Was Ours reminds us that serious and innovative academic work can be engaging and enjoyable. (Mark M. Smith, author of How Race Is Made)

Those men and women whom Richard Wright once called the "landless upon the land" now have a history and a historian. Kahrl's rich archival portrait of black-owned beaches and coastal resorts redraws the map of community and capitalism in the Jim Crow South. The Land Was Ours demonstrates that African Americans never abandoned the land as a vital site of struggle in the larger Black Freedom movement. A landmark study of race, leisure, and real estate on America's shorelines. (Davarian L. Baldwin, author of Chicago's New Negroes)

Kahrl's exhaustively researched and compelling book chronicles African Americans' search for seaside sanctuaries beyond the gaze of white America. He uncovers sobering and significant stories that not only extend our understanding of civil rights but also uncover the many faces of coastal communities in the South. We encounter the triumphs and setbacks of African American entrepreneurs and the joys and affirmations of shared recreation, as well as real-estate fraud, environmental degradation, arson, and diabolical schemes to undermine black seaside resorts from the Chesapeake to Mississippi. (Pete Daniel, author of Lost Revolutions )

The Land Was Ours is a careful, rich, and provocative book that contributes significantly to our understanding of race in twentieth-century America. In addition to offering an original narrative of the ways in which race is an inescapable factor in Americans' conception and construction of class, Kahrl also shines a light on the mechanics of segregation, desegregation, and integration: Jim Crow required intricate planning and execution, but so did efforts to resist and, ultimately, dismantle it. (Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of Life upon These Shores)

A powerful reminder of the pernicious constraints that racism has imposed on African American leisure. In this beautifully crafted and revelatory study, Kahrl recounts the mixture of bootstrap black capitalism and white racism that fueled the creation of segregated pleasure grounds and eventually led to their disappearance. Perhaps only David Mamet could create a more colorful cast of characters than the developers and entrepreneurs who populate Kahrl's bittersweet history of the shifting fortunes of black coastal resorts. (W. Fitzhugh Brundage, author of The Southern Past)

This account of African-American beaches will keep you turning the pages until it is done. (Janice Hayes-Williams Capital Gazette 2012-07-31)

This is an excellent book; well written and researched, it effectively and impressively combines political economy, ecology, and social history into a tightly told story. (J. Borchert Choice 2012-11-01)

Andrew W. Kahrl brilliantly reinterprets the economic and cultural meanings of racial segregation, and the apparently race-neutral political system that superseded it, through a highly original angle--the history of black ownership of seaside land. The topic may sound dry. In Kahrl's hands, it is anything but...It is a must read for anyone concerned with racism, private property, economic development, the history of leisure and popular culture, or environmental justice...[A] heartbreaking and hugely important study. (Beryl Satter North Carolina Historical Review 2012-10-01)

About the Author

Andrew W. Kahrl is Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Virginia.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J.B. on January 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an accurate historical treatise on the role beachfront property played in the black community's quest for summer leisure pleasures in America's era of public segregation. The book shows how the land originally came into the possession of black families and the circumstances under which the land came into the possession of white sectors of society and were ultimately transformed into real estate that were beyond the reach of the black community. The circumstances in question included unethical, unfair though often legal, and sometimes vigilante methods. The role of ignorance and misplaced trust in unscrupulous officials in effecting this transformation is also described. I am particularly impressed with the thoroughness of the author's research. I can attest to this through personal experience as it pertains to Washington, D.C., the city of Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland, and northeastern Virginia where I enjoyed Carr's and Sparrow's beaches, the Potomac River, and Highland Beach in my youth. A sibling can also attest to the factual aspects of this same transformation as it pertains to some parts of Florida.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the true nature of black middle class and poor life in segregated America during the period from 1936 through 1956, which is the span of time in which my personal experiences coincide with many of the names and places in the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jamie A Gump on August 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book, by historian Andrew W. Kahrl, brings the story of coastal African-American resorts and recreation grounds to life. Well-written and informative, I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in African-American history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By a on October 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has opened my eyes to a part of African American history that many are not aware of. My vacation experiences will never be the same. The book is a little hard to read for the average reader, but well worth the effort.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Frustratingly informative. Nothing that's a major shock but great research provided throughout on beachfront areas throughout the east and gulf coast areas. Great rea
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