Remove the Statue of the racist, James A. Bradley from Asbury Park

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OPEN LETTER TO THE CITY OF ASBURY PARK 

MAYOR JOHN MOOR

DEPUTY MAYOR AMY QUINN

COUNCILMAN JESSIE KENDLE

COUNCILWOMAN YVONNE CLAYTON

COUNCILWOMAN EILEEN CHAPMAN

We, the undersigned, are writing today to ask for the removal of the James A. Bradley statue from Bradley Park. This statue is an overt symbol of racism and erroneously commemorates a history of segregation that remains a subject of contention in our predominately African American community.

James A. Bradley was a key segregationist and was known as the “Jim Crow of the North.[1]” In addition to founding Asbury Park, James A. Bradley was a major landowner, the publisher of the “Asbury Park Journal,” and was the Mayor of the City. In each of these roles, Mr. Bradley chose to promote racism in order to protect his own economic interest by segregating the Asbury Park Boardwalk, thereby institutionalizing racism[2] [3] [4].  

Within years of the Civil War, James A. Bradley bought 500 acres with the intention of building a resort community that would “be attractive to and demonstrative of the values of middle-class white Protestant America.[5] ” By the early 1880s, Asbury Park had some estimated 3,000 permanent residents, hundreds of hotels and a vibrant tourist industry “attracting as many as 50,000 summer visitors a year.[6] ” However, on the other side of town resided “Asbury Park’s other population – the group of African American men and women who worked as hotelmen, laundresses, waiters, and janitors in Bradley’s service industry.[7]” With many of the white tourists objecting to the large presence of African Americans that worked and vacationed in Asbury Park, Mr. Bradley instituted social and racial boundaries in many public spaces – first “establishing bathing hours during which black people would be allowed access to the beaches,[8] ” then barring blacks from “white establishments through the creation of colored facilities, [9] [10] ” and eventually prohibiting all African Americans from the “beaches, bathing houses, pavilions, and promenades. [11] ” Bradley, himself, was known to have written out signs enforcing segregation. Not only was Bradley met with resistance from the African American community, but his actions were noted by the press and used by Southern legislators to argue for segregation which later become law under Jim Crow in 1896 [12] [13] [14] [15].

James A. Bradley’s actions put in place segregationist policies that are still affecting us today. The economic disparity that exists between the West and East side of our city is a direct result of these racist policies. We, concerned residents, taxpayers, veterans and community organizations, feel there is a need for our representatives to take a stand, correcting the wrongs of the past by moving forward devoted to an inclusive and reparative vision for the future.

Although we recognize that this is our history, this statue is an affront in a city, which prides itself upon being progressive. Our city can lead the way as we did in legalizing same sex marriage and calling for the legalization of marijuana. We can be bold in addressing the persistent racism that exists in certain aspects of our culture. The first step in doing so is to remove this statue that represents a dark period in our past and an ideology unworthy of honor.

As our elected Mayor and Council Members of the City of Asbury Park, will you commit to removing the statue of James A. Bradley; and form a commission to recommend a statue or symbol of replacement, which represents Asbury Park’s diverse community and cultural values?

 

Footnotes:
[1] “Remove the Statue of Asbury’s James Bradley, the Jim Crow of the North” DeSeno - 2017
 http://www.moremonmouthmusings.net/2017/09/25/remove-the-statue-of-asburys-james-bradley-the-jim-crow-of-the-north/
[2] “Legendary Locals” Chesek, Thom – 2015 Pg. 11 “...[Bradley] and filling his Asbury Park Journal with racist editorials.”
[3] “Greetings from Jim Crow, New Jersey: Contesting the meaning and abandonment of reconstruction in the public and commercial spaces of Asbury park, 1880-1890” Goldberg – 2006 Pg. 6 “Bradley and his summer guests sought to create pubic space by clinging to pre- war notions of racial and class separation.”https://concept.journals.villanova.edu/article/view/279/242
[4] IBID “Responding to a question from the Daily Journal as to whether or not black citizens possessed the right to enter into the public spaces occupied by white vacationers, Bradley explained that “people who make their living out of Asbury Park” are excluded from the rights of those whose presence is paid for, because as both “colored citizens” and as “servants,” their presence lessens the attraction to white tourists and therefore threatens the economic value of the community.”
[5] “Asbury Park, A Brief History” Bilby, Joseph G. and Ziegler, Harry – 2009 Pg. 13
[6] IBID Pg. 14
[7] “Greetings from Jim Crow, New Jersey: Contesting the meaning and abandonment of reconstruction in the public and commercial spaces of Asbury park, 1880-1890” Goldberg – 2006 Pg. 4
[8] “Asbury Park, A Brief History” Bilby, Joseph G. and Ziegler, Harry – 2009 Pg. 25
[9]  “Asbury Park, A Brief History” Bilby, Joseph G. and Ziegler, Harry – 2009 Pg. 27 “Criticizing the “colored invasion” of its space, one objector in the Daily Journal asked whether “Mr. Bradley could be persuaded to build a pavilion for their use and locate it in the immediate neighborhood.”
[10] IBID Pg. 29 “W.H. Dickerson, an outspoken critic of the town’s racial dialogue and a citizen of Asbury Park’s black neighborhood, lamented to the Daily Journal that in skating parlors and other amusements, blacks were barred from white establishments through the creation of “colored facilities,” which were run, Dickerson remarked with anger, for the interests of only “Asbury Park’s colored population and vicinity.”
[11] IBID Pg. 30 “Bradley’s argument in favor of segregation of some kind and even the exclusion of African Americans from the beach and boardwalk altogether ranged from the admonition that the white Asbury Park paying visitor should be made a “welcome guest” by the city’s colored servants,” who should cater to tourists’ prejudices by making themselves scarce, to the position that the boardwalk and beach were his private property, and if an African American presence there results in his losing money, a secular mortal sin in the Gilded Age, he was entitled to end it. Equal rights, according to Bradley, touting a thinly veiled Social Darwinist ideology, were “an impossibility,” so the “colored servants” might just as well get used to life as it was and always would be.”
[12] “Greetings from Jim Crow, New Jersey: Contesting the meaning and abandonment of reconstruction in the public and commercial spaces of Asbury park, 1880-1890” Goldberg – 2006 Pg. 33 In 1887, Reverend J. Francis Robinson called on his congregation to attack “all class legislation and race distinction where the statutes of citizenship and of good behavior introduce the common right.” Robinson declared that “the man who advocates the separation of whites and blacks from the equal enjoyment of civil prerogatives solely on the grounds of color places himself in a position to be questioned as to his patriotic proclivities and the genuineness of a Republic form of government.”
[13] IBID Pg. 39 “We are here,” he (Robinson) exclaimed, “to defend our citizenship and our manhood.” He reiterated to the white members of the audience that: We colored people fought for our liberty some year ago, and we do not propose to be denied it at this late date. We will not be dictated to in this manner by Mr. Bradley or any other man. The colored man contributes largely to the wealth of this country, including the town of Asbury Park, and we are here to stay. We fought to save the Union as the white man did. This country is for the whites and blacks alike, including even the beach of Asbury Park.”
[14] IBID Pg. 23 The majority of white people visiting Bradley’s town “prefer not to come in contact with black people on anything like terms of social equality. That undeniable fact evoked gleeful criticism from a Texas newspaper, which characterized it as hypocrisy in light of Northern criticism of Southern segregation.”
[15] IBID Pg. 41 “A white southern congressman protesting public school integration in Georgia in 1892 routinely referenced the passions expressed by black and white citizens in Asbury Park to support a bill legalizing segregation in public schools. In a particularly revealing argument, he noted that the “loudest protests against the infraction of this law have come from the North,” which was proven, he explained, by the “Asbury Park matter.”

 



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