Free the Beaches

The Story of Ned Coll and the Battle for America’s Most Exclusive Shoreline
March, 2018
Yale University Press

The story of our separate and unequal America in the making, and one man’s fight against it.

During the long, hot summers of the late 1960s and 1970s, one man began a campaign to open some of America’s most exclusive beaches to minorities and the urban poor. That man was anti-poverty activist and one-time presidential candidate Ned Coll of Connecticut, a state that permitted public access to a mere seven miles of its 253-mile shoreline. Nearly all of the state’s coast was held privately, for the most part by white, wealthy residents.

This book is the first to tell the story of the controversial protester who gathered a band of determined African American mothers and children and challenged the racist, exclusionary tactics of homeowners in a state synonymous with liberalism. Coll’s legacy of remarkable successes—and failures—illuminates how our nation’s fragile coasts have not only become more exclusive in subsequent decades but also have suffered greater environmental destruction and erosion as a result of that private ownership.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
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