Cleaning Up Jim Crow: The Consumer Politics of Environmental Justice and the Fight to End Segregation in Asbury Park, New Jersey
In examining the politics of annexation in Asbury Park, this paper proposes to move Progressive era discussions about black leisure and civil rights beyond traditional labor disputes or contests over access to public accommodations. Instead it argues that the rise of mass consumption as a guiding principle of economic growth, and the debates about environmental justice and consumer protection that it spurned—intertwined with the ideologies that helped contest Jim Crow segregation and protect African Americans’ right to consume at the Jersey Shore. In a society that had long been organized around production, the popularity of northern beach resorts recast traditional ideas about economic freedom and public health and welfare. Free consumer advocates advanced and protected the underground economy of leisure and advocates of consumer protection advanced a program of economic growth and environmental justice. As an indictment against segregation, annexation’s passage on May 6, 1906 ensured the potency of a new consumer movement that linked the public health of consumers and consumer districts to political stability, economic prosperity, and civil rights.