Wilton Historical Society is going to have its next iteration of its ‘Booked for Lunch’ history book club meeting

The Wilton Historical Society is set to host a talk via Zoom with the author of the book entitled: “Free the Beaches: The Story of Ned Coll and the Battle for America’s Most Exclusive Shoreline” by Andrew W. Kahrl on Thursday, Feb. 24, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

The event will run as a part of the society’s Black History Month programming with a presentation that is part of a “Booked for Lunch,” Wilton Historical Society’s book discussion group keenly focused on history.

The book tells the story of a protester who gathered a band of determined Black mothers and children and challenged the racist, exclusionary tactics of homeowners in a state synonymous with liberalism, according to information from the Wilton Historical Society.

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 and wealthy residents. This book explains the process by which that exlcusionary standard of the time was rattled by the perserverance and determination, along with the vision, of Coll.

Coll’s legacy of remarkable successes, and even failures, illuminates how the U.S.’s fragile coasts have not only become more exclusive in subsequent decades, but have also suffered greater environmental destruction and erosion as a result of that private ownership.

“In ‘Free the Beaches,’ Andrew Kahrl not only tells the remarkable story of activist Ned Coll. He also shows that on the Connecticut shore, white liberalism and racial exclusion went hand in hand,” said Jason Sokol, author of the book entitled: “All Eyes Are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn.”

Sokol’s book was the winner of the 2019 Connecticut Book Awards in the Non-fiction category. The book also earned the Homer D. Babbidge Award, sponsored by the Association for the Study of Connecticut History, according to the Historical Society.

Kahrl is also a professor of History and African American Studies and co-director of The Repair Lab at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Va.

He is also the author of another book entitled: “The Land Was Ours: How Black Beaches Became White Wealth in the Coastal South,” and numerous articles and essays about the history of racial segregation and environmental inequality in the 20th century time in the U.S.

Register at wiltonhistorical.org, or info@wiltonhistorical.org, or call 203-762-7257 for more information or with any questions pertaining to the discussion.

While the event is free, there is a suggested contribution of $10.