"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
Nelson Johnson frequently stopped working on Boardwalk Empire to wrestle with how best to handle the thorny subject of race. But he persisted, and the result was a chapter—"A Plantation by the Sea"—that inspired this powerful sequel.
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.
"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, 2020 | 384 pp/trade paperback | ISBN: 978-1-940091-07-5
and contributing columnist, Ms. and O, The Oprah Magazine