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Living the California Dream

Living the California Dream

African American Leisure Sites During the Jim Crow Era

Alison Rose Jefferson
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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.


Alison Rose Jefferson is an independent historian and heritage conservation consultant. She is a scholar in residence with the Institute for the Study of Los Angeles at Occidental College, working to re-center the African American experience in local history and heritage conservation efforts. Previously she did research and narrative production for the Belmar History + Art project and Central Avenue heritage trail with Angels Walk LA.


  • Publisher: ‎University of Nebraska Press; Reprint edition (January 1, 2022)
  • Language: ‎English
  • Paperback: ‎366 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎1496229061
  • ISBN-13: ‎9781496229069
  • Item Weight: ‎1.18 pounds
  • Dimensions: ‎6 x 1 x 9 inches
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