Profile: Alison Rose Jefferson, Ph.D.
Presently my research and professional interest revolves around the intersection of historical memory, American history, the African American experience in Southern California during the twentieth century great migration and Jim Crow era, heritage conservation, spatial justice and cultural tourism. I am also interested in the experiences of people of African descent in other global settings. I recently earned my doctorate in History (in the primary fields of Public History and American History) at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Along with other work activities utilizing my knowledge and skills expertise, I am preparing the book manuscript “Leisure’s Race, Power and Place: The Recreation and Remembrance of African Americans in the California Dream” (working title) for publication with University of Nebraska Press. This study examines how African Americans pioneered leisure in American’s “frontier of leisure” through their attempts to create communities and business projects, in conjunction with the growing African American population of Southern California during the nation’s Jim Crow era. The places I examines illustrate a range of kinds of leisure production purposes and societal encounters. Through struggle over them, African Americans helped define the practice and meaning of leisure for the region and the nation, confronted the emergent power politics of leisure space, and set the stage for the sites as places for remembrance of invention and public contest. My research extends the narrative of the African American experience in American historical writings and memory of California, and the U.S. in general by expanding the examination of the struggle for leisure and public space for all Americans within long civil rights movement.
I have participated in numerous public programs, including public history engagement programming, lectures, museum exhibitions, oral history interview research, the creation of commemorative monuments and documentary films. I was recently honored with the Santa Monica Conservancy’s rare and prestigious James G. Cameron Award for my many significant contributions to the understanding of African American history in Santa Monica and the southern California region. My work as a historian has recently been featured in articles on TheAfricanChannel.com and in the Los Angeles Times.
As the lead coordinator on Nick Gabaldón Day 2013 and a new site for Coastal Cleanup Day and CoastWeeks activities beginning in 2012, I developed new, innovative partnerships between Heal the Bay, the Black Surfers Collective, the Santa Monica Conservancy, Surf Academy, Santa Monica College, the California Historical Society, the Black Underwater Explorers and other groups. I introduced the lead organizations to each other and facilitated their staffs’ working together to meet their common and divergent objectives. My scholarship and activism was the basis for many of the organizations’ collaborative participation. The principal programming has been at the historical Jim Crow era, African American beach site in Santa Monica, California derogatorily once called the “Inkwell.” The programming featured the complexities of human history and experiences explored through history and ocean life in multiple media and public activities, at the site and other locations. A diverse public has connected with new experiences and knowledge attainment of more culturally inclusive stories of our shared, national heritage, and concern for our natural environment.
Before beginning my UCSB studies in 2009, I held the position of historian at Historic Resources Group in Southern California, where I worked on historic preservation planning, oral history projects, and interpretative projects. I drew on my regional history expertise to execute literature and on-site research to document and evaluate historic resource sites, and to write various types of technical and cultural resource reports, landmark nominations, and interpretative material content.
In 2007 I created the actual language engraved on the plaque: “The Inkwell: A Place of Celebration and Pain,” that graces a marker in the City of Santa Monica located along the bicycle and pedestrian path, Ocean Front Walk (at the end of Bay Street). The monument commemorates the Jim Crow era beach site used by African Americans as a gathering place and Nick Gabaldon, the first identified surfer of African American and Mexican descent.
My independent research—of people and places which have been overlooked in the “collective memory” of the heritage of the Southern California region—also resulted in the 2005 designation of Phillips Chapel, a 100-year-old African American church, as a Landmark in the City of Santa Monica, California.
On a project that creatively connected neighborhoods with their heritage, I was an assistant curator on the 2006–2007 exhibit, “Intersections of South Central: People and Places in Historic and Contemporary Photographs,” featured at the California African American Museum at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. A catalog developed for the exhibit featured essays I contributed.
I earned a Master’s degree in Heritage Conservation in 2007 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Pomona College in Claremont, California. Prior to returning to school to earn my master’s degree, I worked as a marketing and public relations consultant for a business improvement district in downtown Los Angeles, the Figueroa Corridor Partnership (FCP). Earlier in my professional life, I was employed in marketing, research, and administrative capacities at several entertainment companies, and in the equity investment industry.