Exhibit of black celebrities at segregated Jersey shore

BEST BETS

January 16, 2003|By LORI SEARS

An exhibit on the African-American performers and famous visitors who came to South Jersey from around the turn of the 20th century through the 1950s is on display in Cape May, N.J., Saturday through May 4.

More than 60 photographs, advertisements, memorabilia and artifacts will be on view at the traveling exhibit Stompin' at the Shore at the Emlen Physick Estate. A photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. vacationing in Atlantic City in 1953, and an advertisement for Issy Bushkoff's Club Esquire in Wildwood "starring Birmingham of Charlie Chan Pictures and Bill Bailey, Pearl Bailey's brother" will be displayed.

The visits of Sammy Davis Jr., Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday also are documented in the exhibit.

According to exhibit information, 25 percent of Atlantic City's population was a close-knit community of African-American workers and residents.

Clubs, restaurants, boardinghouses and the beaches and boardwalk of Atlantic City became popular tourist destinations for African-Americans. The beaches, however, were segregated, and African-Americans could only go to the Missouri Avenue area. This strip became affectionately nicknamed "Chicken Bone Beach" because of the many picnic baskets filled with chicken.

A grand-opening event for the Stompin' at the Shore exhibit is at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Carriage House Gallery in Cape May. Light refreshments will be ofFered. The event is free.

Stompin' at the Shore runs Saturday through May 4 at the Carriage House Gallery, Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St., Cape May, N.J. $2; free for ages 3-12. Call 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 for hours.

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