Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites During the Jim Crow Era (Nebraska, 2020) is about the places where the past and future meet. Throughout the early twentieth century, African Americans moved to California for jobs, for the beautiful weather and landscapes, and to start futures for themselves and their families. Like their white neighbors, they found sites of play and fun across the Southern California environment, from lakes to beaches to country clubs. Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson, an independent scholar and conservation consultant, describes several instance of place making - imbuing beaches and other locations with meaning and memories for the African Americans across the region - and how whites in Southern California reacted with racist backlash against Black leisure in public places. Jefferson, who has worked closely with various groups in greater Los Angeles to promote public memory of the sites covered in the book, describes how contestation over the meaning of these places has continued into the present day. At its core, this is a book about people having fun, and how people have made meaning, or resisted those meanings, at places where people have always flocked for a good time.
Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.