The Land Was Ours

How Black Beaches Became White Wealth in the Coastal South

By Andrew W. Kahrl

374 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 25 halftones, 14 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2872-1
    Published: August 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2873-8
    Published: June 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5188-8
    Published: June 2016

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Awards & distinctions

2013 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award, Organization of American Historians

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.

About the Author

Andrew W. Kahrl is assistant professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Virginia.
For more information about Andrew W. Kahrl, visit the Author Page.


"Artfully captures the complexities of black community formation as African Americans sought to tame and commercialize the natural coastal environment and negotiated complex and changing structures of racial discrimination, segregation, and exclusion in the Jim Crow and Sun Belt souths."—Southern Spaces

"The Land Was Ours shows the importance of coastal capitalism to the development of the Sunbelt South. It also provides a valuable new prism for viewing and understanding the region’s growth and the politics of its people. Scholars in many modern U.S. specialties, including African American history, southern history, environmental history, and business history, will find this book engaging and stimulating."—Journal of American History

"A fine reminder and exploration of the idea that place matters when tracing the contours of racial changes in American society and landscapes."—Journal of Social History

"The Land Was Ours reminds us that in the Sunbelt South, the rise and fall of Jim Crow, the struggle for civil rights, and the exploitation of ecosystems were fundamentally related processes that shouldn't be treated in isolation. That reminder, combined with fascinating, evocative evidence and Kahrl's ability to deftly tell a complicated story, make this a significant book that should be widely read."—American Historical Review

Multimedia & Links

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