The Plight of Black Coastal Landowners in the Sunbelt South and Its Lessons for Post–Housing Bubble America

April 26, 2011

At the turn of the 20th century, African Americans owned vast swaths of property along America's shores. By the post–World War II era, African American beaches and resorts served as important places for working families to escape from the daily indignities of Jim Crow and for a separate, seasonal black leisure economy to take shape. The death of Jim Crow coincided with the emergence of a pro-growth, corporate-friendly Sunbelt economy, which led to massive resort and residential development in coastal areas, and the targeting of black coastal landowners as the path of least resistance.

From the 1960s to the present, African American property owners in areas targeted for leisure-based economic and real estate development have struggled to fend off various schemes deployed by developers and their allies in municipal, county, and state governments to expropriate and put to "best use" valuable property.

In this program, Andrew Kahrl from Marquette University examined the legal instruments of real estate development, black land loss, and the privatization of public space in coastal areas in modern America, its relation to broader changes in the coastal and global economies, and its social and environmental implications.

PowerPoint presentation (ppt)

PDF of PowerPoint presentation (pdf)

Andrew Kahrl

Andrew Kahrl

Andrew Kahrl is an assistant professor of African American and environmental history at Marquette University and a nonresident fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He specializes in the history of race, real estate, and coastal development in the twentieth-century United States. He is currently completing a book on the history of African American beaches and coastal land ownership from the age of Jim Crow to the rise of the Sunbelt titled Losing the Land: African American Beaches and the Making of Coastal Capitalism, to be published by Harvard University Press. Andrew is a member of the board of directors of the Urban History Association and is the past recipient of fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies. Articles based on his research have appeared in the Journal of American History and the Journal of Social History.