Profile: Alison Rose Jefferson, M.H.C. | Ph.D.

Alison Rose Jefferson is a publicly engaged independent historian, heritage conservation consultant and a third generation Californian. Presently her research and professional interest revolve around the intersection of historical memory, American history, the history of the African American experience in Southern California during the twentieth century great migration and Jim Crow era, intersection with heritage conservation, spatial justice and cultural tourism. She is also interested in her work’s intersections with the experiences of people of African descent in other global settings.

Along with other work activities utilizing her knowledge and skills expertise, she has written a book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era (University of Nebraska Press, 2020). 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 Jefferson’s examines illustrate a range of recreation and relaxation production purposes and societal encounters at beach and inland locations.


Through struggle over these places described in her book, 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. Her research and applied history projects illuminating these stories extend 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 in long freedom rights struggle.

Her applied history project work and book, Living the California Dream…, were honored with the 2020 Miriam Matthews Ethnic History Award by the Los Angeles City Historical Society for their exceptional contributions to the greater understanding and awareness of Los Angeles history. Jefferson has participated in numerous public programs, including ongoing history public engagement events, lectures, museum exhibitions, oral history interview research, the creation of commemorative monuments, landmark site designations and documentary films.

Jefferson and her team members were honored with the 2021 Cultural Resource Award from the Santa Monica Conservancy for their production of Belmar History + Art, a multifaceted project that commemorates the contributions of the early African American residents, business owners and visitors to Santa Monica and recognizes their neighborhoods and socio-cultural-economic spaces.

She and Michael Blum of Sea of Clouds were honored with the 2020 Cultural Landscape Award from the Santa Monica Conservancy for the accomplishment of getting the Bay Street Beach Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is the first historic district in Santa Monica to receive this national honor. The Conservancy also honored Jefferson with the rare and prestigious 2017 James G. Cameron Award for her many significant contributions to the understanding of African American history in Santa Monica and the Southern California region.

Alison Rose Jefferson after receiving the 2020 Miriam Matthews Ethnic History Award for her book, “Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era” at the Los Angeles Historical Society Annual Gala held at The Dunbar Hotel on Central Avenue, Sunday, March 8, 2020. Photograph by Diane Kanner.

Her work as a historian has been featured in KCET (public TV) programming, including interviews on the “Lost LA” television show in the 2019 episode, “Griffith Park: The Untold Story,” and the 2018 Emmy Award winning, “Coded Geographies” about The Green Book, The Negro Motorist Travel Guide. Jefferson has been interviewed for and contributed to articles for Los Angeles Magazine, AltaObscura.com, TheAfricanChannel.com, and in the Los Angeles and New York Times newspapers, and news feature segments for CBS LA and KTLA TV News programs, among other media outlets.

In 2015, she earned a doctorate in History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She earned a Master’s degree in Heritage Conservation in 2007 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Jefferson holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Pomona College in Claremont, California. Before beginning her doctoral studies in 2009, she worked as a historian and heritage conservation consultant at Historic Resources Group in Los Angeles.

Prior to returning to graduate school to earn her master’s and Ph.D. degrees, Jefferson worked as a marketing and public relations consultant for a community improvement district in downtown Los Angeles, the Figueroa Corridor Partnership. Earlier in her professional life, she was employed in marketing, research, and administrative capacities at several entertainment companies, and in the equity investment industry.



Photographs on the Homepage and Speaker pages (and a few others on other website pages) by Leroy Hamilton

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