Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Aaron Sheehan-Dean

Committee Co-Chair

Peter Carmichael

Committee Member

Ken Fones-Wolf

Committee Member

Kyrstal Frazier

Committee Member

Brian Luskey


This dissertation examines the political meanings of consumption and racial segregation in the public and commercial leisure spaces of the New Jersey shore during the Reconstruction era. Moving beyond issues of identity, racial violence, and labor disputes, I show how Jim Crow unfolded and operated in the post-Civil War North by emphasizing the importance of political economy and ideas about public health and welfare. Beginning in the 1880s, ideas about the rights and health of consumers became more important in helping shape the meanings of freedom than did the triumph of free labor ideology. The rise of mass consumption as a guiding principle of economic growth, and the debates about political economy that it spurred---intertwined with the ideologies that led to Jim Crow segregation at the Jersey shore.;Throughout the late-nineteenth century, both whites and blacks used the ideologies of the marketplace to shape and resist segregation at northern beach resorts. White segregationists argued that Jim Crow laws were legal and necessary since they preserved the sanctity of property, privacy, and social propriety. In contrast, African Americans employed a variety of consumer-focused tactics to desegregate northern beach towns, shape their own independent leisure districts, and discredit the environmental inequalities of service economies. By making consumer rights and public health central to the struggle against segregation, northern black activists successfully made sites of entertainment and consumption critical battlegrounds in a national campaign for civil rights, market fairness, and environmental justice during the early Jim Crow era.