At the end of a 90-minute tour around Atlantic City, New Jersey, participants stand before a blacked-out “Trump” sign on the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, which closed in 2014.
Levi Fox, an Intellectual Heritage professor and an American and public history doctoral candidate, created the Trump Gambling Heritage Tour. He first began to offer the tours in September and held them every Saturday until the inauguration last Friday. The tour began on the boardwalk at the closed Trump Taj Mahal casino and took visitors to other famous casinos and Trump-related locations in Atlantic City.
In June, Fox started Jersey Shore Tours, a company with several themed tours in both Atlantic City and Ocean City, including one inspired by the award-winning HBO show “Boardwalk Empire.” Fox said he aims to make the Trump Gambling Heritage Tour completely objective and nonpartisan by focusing not on politics, but rather on Trump’s influence on Atlantic City’s history.
“Not only did [tour participants] learn about Donald Trump in Atlantic City, but also things about Atlantic City that they didn’t think they were going to learn,” he said. “They have the opportunity to learn about the boardwalk, for example.”
As a historian, Fox enjoys the opportunity to give visitors a glimpse into the history of the city.
Although the tour is the only Trump-themed walking tour in Atlantic City, Fox said the tour isn’t unique. In Washington, D.C., there are limousine tours that highlight Trump’s personal and professional accomplishments.
Fox said it was his interest in American history that prompted him to start the tour. He was interested in the ways Trump’s business ventures changed Atlantic City.
“Trump Taj Mahal closed in October 2016,” he said. “From 1984, [when Trump Plaza first opened] to October, there was always one Trump casino operating in Atlantic City. It was the end of an era, essentially, looking at the last days of the Taj Mahal.”
The regular Saturday tours ended before the inauguration, but the tour is still available by request. Meanwhile, Fox is also involved with a committee that wants to start a Trump museum in Atlantic City. Although Trump’s election has been a source of outrage, anxiety and fear for some groups, Fox said the committee is made up of many people with different points of view.
“At Temple, we believe in shared authority, the idea that other people’s voices are heard,” he said. “We don’t want this to be a single narrative. The voice of people, the curators, but rather the voices of the community which are sometimes in opposition to each other. It’s not just a story, depending on who you talk to.”
Robert Blaskiewicz, another member of the committee and a critical thinking professor at Stockton University, said the exhibit isn’t about praising Trump, but instead documenting his history in Atlantic City.
“The idea behind the project is that now that Trump will be president, his life story will be of interest to future generations of historians,” Blaskiewicz said. “We’d like to get a jump on the process of collection here in Atlantic City. The final form that the project will take is still up in the air.”
“Museums and historical exhibits showcase important events in history, good and bad,” Blaskiewicz added. “Trump and his organization had a long history in the city, and from talking to locals, I’ve found a wide range of opinions of his legacy. All of those voices are welcome, all of the stories they tell are important.”
Yasmine Hamou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.