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How African Americans contributed to the growth of Atlantic City

How African Americans contributed to the growth of Atlantic City

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When the powers that be decided vacationers from Philadelphia needed a place to enjoy fresh air and sunshine, Black workers were hired to build the railroad from Atlantic City to that city. That was in the late 1880s.

Many of them were freed men who came from the south after the Civil War. Once the hotels were built, the men worked at everything from carpentry and painting to waiting on tables and carrying bags. Women's work included cooking and cleaning, laundering clothes and caring for children, Black and white. Between 1880 and 1930, approximately 95% of the workforce was African Americans. Black workers helped build the resort into what we know today.

Geographically the city was divided into two sections, the southside, where most of the whites lived and the Northside where Black people lived. The Northside was a thriving area with all kind of stores and services. Churches also played an important role in the peoples lives. Some were stops in the Underground Railroad.

Entertainment came to the northside, with the Paradise Club being the first nightclub in the country. It was the first to have entertainers perform on a stage instead at the patrons' tables. The next nightclub to open, Club Harlem, became well known and attracted a well-dressed crowd of mostly white people wanting to hear a certain kind of music, jazz. Club Harlem was one of the few places in the '40s,'50s and '60s where one would find many white fans waiting in line to hear and see black entertainers.

When the summer ended and the corps of Black workers were without income, the politicans of the early days kept the African American community fed and housed. Most notably Nucky Johnson and Frank "Hap Farley were the force behind this.

Today the resort that was built on the shoulders of Black laborers is quite different and has changed over the years with the Civil Rights Act and a change in acceptance of people all backgrounds.

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