Racial Disparities in Real Estate and the Transformation of the Coastal Southeast

Project Directors: Jeffrey Beauvais (PhD candidate, Odum School of Ecology) and James Byers (Odum School of Ecology)

This Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant-funded project is part of the Coastal Studies research category in the Willson Center’s expanded Global Georgia Initiative.

The coastal southeast was once home to the largest number of African-American landowners in the country, but over the past 60 years this region has undergone a rapid demographic, ecological, and economic transformation due to widespread urbanization. A primary driver of this urbanization has been tourism, as once neglected and undesirable tidal property became a gold mine for investors looking to cash in on a growing middle class that longed for beachside recreation. While a booming tourism economy should have been a windfall for landowning African-Americans, it instead brought with it a wave of displacement and the loss of vast acres of African-American land. Our research will examine how coastal tourism was built upon the deliberate, coercive acquisition of African-American property and the ecological and social consequences of this process. While blatant racism might seem a thing of the past, African-Americans along the coast continue to lose their land today and this research is a critical first step in ensuring future development is carried out in a socially just and ecologically responsible manner.