Remembering the Lost Beaches and Lake Communities Enjoyed by SoCal’s African-American Communities

Bands, sand and stories.

In the early 20th century, Black Californians founded local beach spots and vacation communities all around Southern California, including Lake Elsinore in Riverside County, Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach and “The Inkwell” in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica. By the mid-century, popular recreational destinations that once flourished were nearly all gone, as Black residents and patrons were pushed out by racism, vandalism and harassment.

In her new book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites During the Jim Crow Era, historian Alison Rose Jefferson recalls the golden age of picnics, swimming and sunshine at these getaways.

Charles and Willa Bruce

According to LA Magazine, “Jefferson would go to Lake Elsinore only one time with her extended family, but this memorable trip, and the recollections of her elders, would set her on a years-long journey of research and discovery. In Living the California Dream, she documents the history of a long-overlooked network of African American leisure and recreation sites that flourished in SoCal from the 1910s to the 1950s. Along the way she uncovered stories of courage, community, and camaraderie in the California sun.”

Read more here.