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The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey will confer an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, on Nelson Johnson, author of the books Boardwalk Empire and the followup, The Northside: African Americans and the Creation of Atlantic City. The Northside focuses on the contributions of Atlantic City’s black citizens to the city’s growth and success and Johnson’s first book, Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City, is the basis for the award-winning HBO dramatic series of the same name.
The announcement was made yesterday at the meeting of the College’s Board of Trustees.
“We are pleased to confer this degree on a man who has devoted many years to researching the Atlantic City region’s history and preserving it for future generations.”
—Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr.,
Nelson Johnson’s family has been in Atlantic County before the founding of Atlantic City itself. A lifelong resident of Hammonton, he practiced law for 30 years and has been active in Atlantic City and Atlantic County civic matters during that time. He was an attorney for the Atlantic City Planning Board at the time of the approvals for many of the city’s casinos; Johnson was inspired to make sense of the city’s history and to write an objective account. The interviews, research and writing involved in his first book spanned nearly 20 years.
Nelson Johnson frequently stopped working on Boardwalk Empire to wrestle with how to handle the thorny subject of race in Atlantic City’s history. He persisted, and the result was a chapter “A Plantation by the Sea” that inspired the powerful sequel. Plexus Publishing, Inc. has made A Plantation by the Sea- The Northside available for anyone to read online at TheNorthsideBook.com.
The degree will be conferred at Stockton’s spring Commencement ceremonies in May. Mr. Johnson will also deliver the speech prior to college seniors receiving their degrees.