Nelson Johnson frequently stopped work on Boardwalk Empire to wrestle with how best to handle the thorny subject of race. But he persisted, and the result was Chapter 3 – “A Plantation by the Sea” – that inspired this powerful sequel.
In The Northside, Nelson vividly brings to life the untold story of Atlantic City’s black community, from the arrival of the first African Americans to Absecon Island in the 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 the wide-ranging accomplishments of more recent generations.
Exploited for their labor and banished to the least desirable 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 in business and politics. As Johnson shows in this unflinching portrait, Atlantic City was built on their toil – and the Northside was born of their dreams.
As Johnson says, “African Americans built Atlantic City. Remove them from its history and the town we know today never comes to be.”