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The Land Was Ours

The Land Was Ours

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 376
Stable URL:
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  • Book Info
    The Land Was Ours
    Book Description:

    A century ago a surprising amount of southern beachfront property was owned and populated by African Americans. In a path-breaking combination of social and environmental history, Kahrl shows how the rise and fall of Jim Crow and the growing prosperity of the Sunbelt have transformed both communities and ecosystems along the southern coastline.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06523-9
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps (pp. ix-xiv)

    On Sunday June 28, 2009, they came back for one last dance on the beach. Except now it was the parking lot of Sam’s on the Waterfront. Some might have looked in vain for the cavernous, open-air pavilion where James Brown, Lloyd Price, Dinah Washington, Etta James, and others performed before sweat-drenched crowds. Instead they found tennis courts, boat slips, and clusters of luxurious, air-conditioned, waterfront condominiums. For the persons who passed the security gate leading to the Villages of Chesapeake Harbour that afternoon for the First Annual Carr’s Beach Historic Music Festival, there was little visual evidence to remind...

  5. 1 CORPORATE VENTURES (pp. 20-51)

    He “made personal sacrifices to accommodate his people.” He stood “as a beacon light to his race,” a “man whose words [were] household aphorisms.” “His reputation is known by the entire community to be a man who gives the people of this city enjoyment when all others fail.” Following his incorporation, in 1902, of the Freedman’s Transportation, Land, and Improvement Company in Washington, D.C., and the opening of the city’s only “colored” riverside resort, the name Lewis Jefferson became, for some black Washingtonians, synonymous with “race enterprise,” a man whose sagacity and empathy saved fellow black Washingtonians from humiliation and...

  6. 2 A SANCTUARY BY THE SEA (pp. 52-85)

    His timing, they said, could not have been better. In the three years since Methodist bishop Robert E. Jones purchased a venerable seaside mansion once owned by the nephew of former president Andrew Jackson along with 300 acres of swampy, overgrown coastal property near Waveland, Mississippi, for $6,000, and secured a long-term lease on an adjoining 320 acres, in the spring of 1923, “This most attractive section of the Gulf Coast,” a church organ boasted, “has greatly enhanced in value,” to the tune of ten times its purchase price. There, Jones founded the Gulfside Chautauqua Association and began work on...


    Nostalgia courses through the veins of longtime owners of summer cottages in Highland Beach, Mary land. For Charlene Drew Jarvis, a former Washington, D.C., city councilwoman and the daughter of the renowned medical research pioneer Dr. Charles Drew, Highland Beach epitomized the ironic fruits of segregation for elite black Americans. In barring persons of color from popular white summer vacation destinations, Jim Crow, Jarvis remembers, gave rise to elite black summer enclaves noted for a “high density [of] very talented people all in the same spot.” Racial segregation, in other words, begat class congregation. Highland Beach, longtime summer resident Ray...

  8. 4 SURVIVING THE SUMMER (pp. 115-154)

    For Peter “Chuck” Badie, the sights and sounds of childhood summers in New Orleans in the 1930s and 1940s remain seared in his memory. The black son of a domestic worker and a numbers bookie, Badie lived in a shotgun house in a section of city’s Uptown district bordered by St. Charles Avenue and the Mississippi River, where he and his siblings slept on the porch during the summer months, waking to the sunrise and to a body covered in mosquito bites. To help support his family, Badie would caddy for white golfers at nearby Audubon Park, the crown jewel...

  9. [Illustrations] (pp. None)
  10. 5 FAMILY TIES (pp. 155-177)

    In the 1850s, as white southerners feverishly fought to extend the institution of slavery across the continent and into Central America, the free black couple Alexander and Charity Freeman accumulated 180 acres along the Myrtle Grove Sound in coastal North Carolina. In the decades following the Civil War, their son Robert Bruce Freeman continued to buy more—from failed whites seeking a new start elsewhere and from absentee owners looking to cash out. The going rate at the time for coastal property in New Hanover County was 15 cents an acre. By 1900, he had become one of county’s largest...

  11. 6 SPINNING SAND INTO GOLD (pp. 178-209)

    Of the estimated seventy thousand persons who journeyed onto Maryland’s Annapolis Neck Peninsula on July 21, 1956, to hear Chuck Berry perform at Carr’s Beach, only eight thousand made it past the gates before the grounds were deemed filled beyond capacity. More than a few got in by swimming around or crawling under the fence that lined the property at the risk of apprehension and severe punishment by the team of African American special deputies hired by the beach’s black owners to patrol the grounds and maintain order. Others turned away that night headed toward the Clover Inn or Do-Drop...

  12. 7 THE PRICE WE PAY FOR PROGRESS (pp. 210-249)

    Charles Williams began his letter to Vincent J. P. Connolly dated April 10, 1973, as one might expect a person in desperate need of a loan would: he referred to their long-standing personal ties and his own personal struggles. “As you well know, I have been involved with Bay Shore for more than thirty years, some of which were good and some not so good. We have had to contend with storms, hurricanes, tidal waves, fire, and finally, integration.” It was a sentiment that could have been expressed by any number of beach resort and amusement park proprietors in the...

  13. EPILOGUE (pp. 250-258)

    Adolph “A. D.” Brown came to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, in 2006 with big plans. An aspiring real estate developer born and raised in New York City by a mother who had journeyed north from Hilton Head as part of the Great Migration, Brown was the living embodiment of the fruits of the black freedom struggle in the twentieth century. Like many families of the southern diaspora, the Browns maintained ties with their relatives back down south and others scattered in cities across the nation, ties that were bound to and inseparable from a parcel of twenty acres that...

  14. NOTES (pp. 261-324)
  15. PRIMARY SOURCES (pp. 325-328)
  16. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. 329-332)
  17. INDEX (pp. 333-346)