Jefferson examines how African Americans pioneered America’s “frontier of leisure” by creating communities and business projects in Southern California.

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As Southern California was reimagining leisure and positioning it at the center of the American Dream, African American Californians were working to make that leisure an open, inclusive reality. By occupying recreational sites and public spaces, African Americans challenged racial hierarchies and marked a space of black identity on the regional landscape and social space.

In Living the California Dream Alison Rose Jefferson examines how African Americans pioneered America’s “frontier of leisure” by creating communities and business projects in conjunction with their growing population in Southern California during the nation’s Jim Crow era. By presenting stories of Southern California African American oceanfront and inland leisure destinations that flourished from 1910 to the 1960s, Jefferson illustrates how these places helped create leisure production, purposes, and societal encounters. 

Black communal practices and economic development around leisure helped define the practice and meaning of leisure for the region and the nation, confronted the emergent power politics of recreational space, and set the stage for the sites as places for remembrance of invention and public contest. Living the California Dream presents the overlooked local stories that are foundational to the national narrative of mass movement to open recreational accommodations to all Americans and to the long freedom rights struggle.   

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Alison Rose Jefferson, M.H.C, Ph.D. is a historian and heritage conservation consultant. Her research interests explore the intersection of American history and the African American experience in southern California, particularly during the Jim Crow era, historical memory, public history, spatial justice, and cultural tourism, with an aim to engage broad audiences through applied history projects in the struggle for social justice. 

Her book titled, Living the California Dream, African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era (University of Nebraska Press) which arrives in January 2019, rethinks the significance of the struggle for leisure and public space for all within the long freedom rights struggle.

She is currently working on public history projects revolving around the African American experience during the Jim Crow era, including the research and narrative production for Santa Monica’s Belmar History + Art Project, and  stanchions and guidebook texts for the Central Avenue heritage trail with Angels Walk L.A. 

 Her work has garnered attention in KCET-LA programming, the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets. Learn more about Dr. Jefferson’s work at:

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