Marker is located at Boardwalk and S Missouri Avenue on railings along the ocean side
Between 1900 and the early 1950s, African-Americans were socially restricted to use the Missouri Avenue Beach Area.
Since many vacationing Black families arrived with chicken-laden hampers, the strip became affectionately named "Chicken Bone Beach."
Visiting Black entertainers, such as Sammy Davis, Jr., "Moms" Mabley and the Club Harlem Showgirls enhanced the Black party atmosphere.
Chicken Bone Beach, circa 1940s. Background: Million Dollar Pier (currently "The Pier Shops At Caesar's"). Designated as an Historical Landmark on August 6, 1997, Chicken Bone Beach survives as a symbol of family unity and African-American Brotherhood. (Photo by John W. Moseley - courtesy of the Charles I. Blockson, Afro-American Collection, Temple University.)
Captain William "Rube" Albouy. Lifeguard, 1925-1955. As many as 5,000 swimmers were assisted by the patrol of six lifeguards, headed by the first Black captain, William "Rube" Albouy, from 1947 to 1955.
Chicken Bone Beach existed in a time when Atlantic City was segregated, and African-Americans were only permitted to bathe on the beach at a one-block stretch at Missouri Avenue, by Convention Hall and the former Million Dollar Pier (now the Pier Shops at Caesar's). The name "Chicken Bone Beach" was an affectionate moniker that the visitors of the beach gave to it. In its heyday, the beach attracted black bathers from across the East Coast, as many cities banned African-Americans from bathing on their beaches entirely. Due to the long journey, families used to bring food with them, and, according to the beach's longtime lifeguard Teroy Collins, "A lot of them brought chicken because you could carry it and it wouldn't go bad on you." Since Chicken Bone Beach was the only one available to black visitors, many famous entertainers who were performing in Atlantic City came to it as well. Some, like local drummer Chris Columbo, even performed on the beach. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also visited the beach in the 1950s.
In this decade, however, beaches were desegregated, and although this opened up more freedoms for the city's black residents and visitors, it also took away some of their sense of community. As times changed and Atlantic City's ocean fronts became filled with casino-run beach bars and other attractions, many began to express concerns that their favorite beach would be transformed and forgotten about. The Chicken Bone Beach Historical Foundation was founded to combat this, and co-founder Henrietta Sheldon led a drive to get the site declared as a historical landmark. Today, the Historical Foundation keeps memories of the beach alive and well. Its mission statement is "To create Pride in our Black heritage and promote family values and unity in Atlantic County. To educate, by exposing our youth, the community and tourists to the original art form of jazz and to celebrate the rich and dynamic African-American history during the era of Chicken Bone Beach." Jazz, once prominently featured in now-gone attractions like the Club Harlem, is an important aspect of black Atlantic City history that the Chicken Bone Beach Historical Foundation serves to preserve. One of the most popular ways it does this is through a series of free jazz concerts held on the beach each summer. The Historical Foundation also sponsors a summer Youth Jazz Camp in the Richard Stockton College's Carnegie Library building.
For more information, see articles from:
Atlantic City Press, May 28, 2001
The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 1, 2008
Atlantic City Weekly, August 20, 2009
Nuaba Express, September 1999