The Northside reminds us that black history is American history.
—Wendel A. White
In The Northside, Johnson brings the untold story of Atlantic City’s black community vividly to life, from the arrival of the first African Americans to Absecon Island in the early 19th century through the glory days of the “World’s Playground.” Drawing on dozens of personal interviews and painstaking archival research, he reveals long-forgotten details about the people on whose backs the gambling mecca was built and offers a wide-ranging survey of the accomplishments of more recent generations.
Exploited for their labor and banished to the most undesirable part of town, resilient Northsiders created a vibrant city within a city—a place where black culture could thrive and young people could aspire to become artists, athletes, educators, and leaders of business, politics, and society. As Nelson Johnson shows in this unflinching portrait, Atlantic City was built on their toil—and the Northside was born of their dreams.
November 2010 | 384 pp/hardbound | ISBN: 978-0-937548-73-8 | Price $24.95Order The Northside
Foreword, by Dr. Clement Price
Chapter 1: Indispensable
Chapter 2: Working, Not Being Worked
Chapter 3: The Off-Season
Chapter 4: The Disinherited
Chapter 5: Cornerstones
Chapter 6: Building Blocks
Chapter 7: “Pop”
Chapter 8: “K-y at the Curb”
Chapter 9: Breaking Down Barriers
Chapter 10: The Summer of Freedom
Chapter 11: Unintended Consequences
Chapter 12: Embracing the Future
About the Author
The story of America is incomplete without history from the bottom up.
—Donald DeVore, historian
Cobwebs were at the top of her list. They were a nuisance. She wasn’t launching her attack without a hairnet. Fall had been warm and winter mild for Atlantic City—perfect conditions for spiders. Although few of the long-legged creatures could have survived, their remnants would be everywhere. It reminded her of spring cleaning several years earlier when she was interrupted by the delivery of her neighbor’s baby boy. The child’s father had come running to fetch her away from work. What a joy that was!
“Atlantic City became the most ‘Black’ city in the North. By 1905 the Black population was nearly 9,000. By 1915 it was greater than 11,000, comprising more than one-fourth of the permanent residents. During summer, the Black population swelled to nearly 40 percent.”
Nelson Johnson, whose family’s presence in Atlantic County predates the founding of Atlantic City, is a lifelong resident of Hammonton, New Jersey. He practiced law for 30 years and was active in Atlantic City and Atlantic County politics through much of that period.
Johnson’s previous book, Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City, inspired the critically acclaimed HBO series from Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter.
The illustrations by Tyrone L. Hart appearing on the front cover of The Northside were commissioned specially for this book.
A lifelong resident of Atlantic City whose work is exhibited throughout the region, Mr. Hart specializes in contemporary and historic scenes of people and places on the Northside.
The artist recalls how reading an early draft of The Northside brought to mind his late grandmother, Katie Bell Gardner, who arrived in Atlantic City in 1921 at the age of 21.
Mr. Hart dedicates the work seen here to this inspiring woman who, more than anyone he has known, lived the story told in these pages.
“Nelson Johnson has opened the door on a neglected yet critical aspect of the African-American experience in the modern era. … The Northside reminds us that black history is American history.”
—Wendel A. White
“From the grand Boardwalk hotels to the Paradise Club to Chicken Bone Beach, the racism of the times kept Atlantic City’s blacks segregated from white tourists. But in response, African Americans built their own city within a city—and a unique, tight-knit, thriving community that Nelson Johnson has chronicled here in fascinating detail.”
—James Perskie, The Press of Atlantic City
“The Northside manages to capture all the subtlety and grit that shaped the lives of people, especially African Americans, in Atlantic City in the mid-20th Century—a microcosm of the issues gripping the nation during those turbulent times. A remarkable and inspiring book.”
—Donna Brazile, political commentator,
CNN and ABC, and contributing
columnist, Ms. and O, The Oprah Magazine
Order The Northside: African Americans and the Creation of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson with foreword by Clement Price now for $24.95.
Release Date: November 2010
The Northside by Nelson Johnson brings the remarkable story of Atlantic City’s black community vividly to life, from the arrival of the first African-Americans to Absecon Island in the early 19th century through the glory days of the “World’s Playground.”
It’s the book the whole town is talking about.
Now, Atlantic City artist Tyrone Hart—whose original artwork graces the book’s cover—has created a unique line of quality T-shirts to celebrate the Northside. As the weather heats up, it’s the perfect way to express your pride in Atlantic City’s Northside while strolling AC’s world-famous boardwalk!
The shirts are 100% cotton and are available in large and extra large.