An Educator’s Perspective on Teaching the Voices of Enslaved People in New Jersey as Part of Local History

Few high school history textbooks have much to say about slavery in the northern colonies and states. While coverage of the evils of slavery has dramatically increased in recent years, the focus has always been on enslaved people in the south. Although slavery is mentioned 14 times in the NJSLS 2020 standards, the only connection to slavery in New Jersey is 6.1.8.History CC.4.a: “Explain the growing resistance to slavery and New Jersey’s role in the Underground Railroad,”[1] implying that New Jersey was a hotbed of abolitionism instead of the dark reality: the gradual abolition law in 1804 maintained slavery for life for those born before its passage, and the so-called Act to Abolish Slavery in 1846 replaced slavery with apprenticeship for life[2]. The ratification of the 13th Amendment didn’t merely free the enslaved in states that were in rebellion, but 16 enslaved people in New Jersey.[3]

An Educator’s Perspective on Teaching the Voices of Enslaved People in New Jersey as Part of Local History

Robert Fenster

            Is it at all surprising that most students graduate high school in New Jersey unaware of the enduring nature of this institution in their home state? Although it might be argued that malignant forces are behind a whitewashing of New Jersey history, it seems more likely that a collective reductionism is at work here. There are only so many days to “cover” the curriculum, so some simplification is necessary. It’s easier for students to understand the binary depiction of the southern enslaver states being evil, while the north is the home of abolition. However, that sort of teaching is oversimplified and not only does injustice to actual history, but to the lives of thousands of people who were enslaved in New Jersey.

            In the summer of 2020, I was fortunate to participate in Slavery in the Colonial North, a National Endowment for the Humanities institute held at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, New York under the guidance of Leslie Harris and Jacqueline Simmons. There I was inspired to dig deeper into New Jersey history. I went to the Somerset County clerk’s office and examined  birth certificates and manumission records of enslaved people from Hillsborough, the town I teach in. Some of the names of the enslavers were recognizable to my students because their descendants are still in town or particular roads are named for them. Although that lesson was in and of itself was impactful, it didn’t do enough to explore the lives of enslaved men and women.

Before I began to focus on agency, I would often be asked by students, “Why didn’t they fight back?” I would turn the question back to the class and ask them to consider possible answers. Typically students would suggest a fear of consequences, a lack of options in a world of systemic oppression, or white access to authority and weaponry. Although these are all somewhat valid in particular circumstances, and the conversation worthwhile, a better immediate response would have been, “They did, and in many ways.” No U.S. history class should lack a focus on the myriad ways that enslaved people resisted: open rebellion, self-liberation, sabotage, poisoning, self-harm,, defiance of rules governing marriage, religion, and literacy, and the development of a unique culture to name just a few. During the American Revolution, thousands of enslaved people self-liberated and joined the British military in the hopes of bringing down the institution of slavery for themselves and others. A smaller number served as substitutes in the Continental Army or state militias with the hope of gaining their freedom through their service.

            One of the biggest stumbling blocks to adequately examining the lives of the enslaved is a lack of primary sources. Many enslaved people did not know how to write or were actively prevented from learning. As a consequence, most of the sources from the relevant time periods are secondary sources, which require historians to draw inferences after filtering for the potential biases of the original authors. In some cases, the bias is overt and easy to spot; for example, the writing of any white supremacist. On the other hand, Memoir of Quamino Buccau, A Pious Methodist, is written by William Allinson, an abolitionist. Although the book provides some basic biographical information, its focus belies the author’s utter lack of interest in the enslaved person’s internal life, reducing him to a prop.[4] Allinson and other similar contemporary writers may have had good intentions, but they tend to infantilize their subjects, providing their own form of racist depiction to the mix.


[1]New Jersey Student Learning Standards – Social Studies, accessed January 8, 2022, https://www.state.nj.us/education/cccs/2020/2020%20NJSLS-SS.pdf.

[2]An Act For the Gradual Abolition of Slavery (1804), accessed January 8, 2022, https://www.loc.gov/resource/rbpe.0990100b/?sp=1.Selected New Jersey Laws related to slavery and Free People of Color, accessed January 8, 2022, https://www.montclair.edu/anthropology/wp-content/uploads/sites/36/2021/06/Slavery-in-New-Jersey-Literature-Review-Appendix-B-Slave-Codes_Remediated.pdf.

[3] Julia Martin, “Slavery’s legacy is written all over North Jersey, if you know where to look,” NorthJersey.com, accessed January 8, 2022, https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/essex/montclair/2021/02/28/american-dream-paramus-nj-part-north-jersey-slavery-legacy/4212248001/.

[4]Kenneth E. Marshall, Manhood Enslaved: Bondmen in Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century New Jersey (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2011), 18

Origin and Meaning of Critical Race Theory

Origin and Meaning of Critical Race Theory

Alan Singer

On a November 2021 CNN broadcast, host Chris Cuomo interviewed comedian/commentator Bill Maher about a supposed leftwing peril threatening the United States, feeding him a series of softball questions and responding with “Oh my God” facial expressions. After acknowledging “I’m not in schools” and “I have no interaction with children,” Maher announced that he has heard from people all over the country that “kids are sometimes separated into groups, oppressor and oppressed” and being taught “racism is the essence of America.” He derided this practice as “just silly, it’s just virtue-signaling” and accused people advocating for curriculum revision of being “afraid to acknowledge progress,” a psychological disorder he alternately labeled “wokeness” and “progressophobia.” Maher’s comments on “wokeness” and “progressophobia” reminded me of a 19th century medical condition described by Dr. Samuel Cartwright from Louisiana in DeBow’s Review in 1851 as “Drapetomania, the disease causing Negroes to run away from slavery.”

I kept waiting for Chris Cuomo to ask Maher to provide an example, any example, to support his claims, but Cuomo never did and Maher never felt compelled to offer any evidence. On his television show, Maher promotes a group of contrarians that want to start their own college where they will be free to present offensive ideas and dismiss objections without having to provide supporting evidence or answer to anyone. Cuomo never asked Maher about that either.

In August 2021, the Brookings Institute reported that at least eight states had passed legislation banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory, although only Idaho actually used the phrase. The modern iteration of Critical Race Theory began in the 1980s when legal scholars followed by social scientists and educational researchers employed CRT as a way of understanding the persistence of race and racism in the United States. Kimberlé Crenshaw, who teaches law at UCLA and Columbia University and was an early proponent of critical race theory, described it as “an approach to grappling with a history of white supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.” Basically, Critical Race Theory disputes the idea of colorblindness or legal neutrality and argues that race and racism have always played a major role in the formulation of American laws and the practices of American institutions. It is a study of laws and institutions that sifts through the surface cover to look for underlying meaning and motivation. In my work as a historian, I traced the current debate over “citizen’s arrest” back to its implementation in the South during the Civil War when it was used to prevent enslaved Africans from fleeing bondage. It essentially empowered any white person to seize and hold any Black person they suspected of a crime, stealing white property by stealing themselves As an academic discipline CRT does not claim that everything about the United States is racist or that all white people are racist. The CRT lens examines laws and institutions, not people, certainly not individual people.

What has come to be known as a CRT approach to understanding United States history and society actually has much deeper roots long before the 1980s. A 19th century French observer of American society, Alexis De Tocqueville, in the book Democracy in America published in 1835, wrote: “I do not believe that the white and black races will ever live in any country upon an equal footing . . . But I believe the difficulty to be still greater in the United States than elsewhere . . . [A]s long as the American democracy remains at the head of affairs . . . [I]t may be foreseen that the freer the white population of the United States becomes, the more isolated will it remain.

In an 1852 Independence Day speech delivered in Rochester, New York, Frederick Douglass rhetorically asked, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Douglass then answered his own question. “The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence [given] by your fathers is shared by you, not by me . . . What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; our shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

In the 19th century, a reverse CRT lens was openly used by racists to justify the laws and institutions derided by Alexis De Tocqueville and Frederick Douglass. In the majority opinion of the Supreme Court in its 1857 Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Roger Taney claimed, and the Court ruled, that “A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a ‘citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States” because “When the Constitution was adopted, they were not regarded in any of the States as members of the community which constituted the State, and were not numbered among its ‘people or citizens.’ Consequently, the special rights and immunities guaranteed to citizens do not apply to them.”

The deep roots of racism were recognized by the United States Congress when it drafted the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments after the American Civil War. Abolitionist and civil rights proponent Congressman Thaddeus Stevens issued a warning in December 1865. We have turned, or are about to turn, loose four million slaves without a hut to shelter them or a cent in their pockets. The infernal laws of slavery have prevented them from acquiring an education, understanding the common laws of contract, or of managing the ordinary business of life. This Congress is bound to provide for them until they can take care of themselves. If we do not furnish them with homesteads, and hedge them around with protective laws; if we leave them to the legislation of their late masters, we had better have left them in bondage. If we fail in this great duty now, when we have the power, we shall deserve and receive the execration of history and of all future ages.” Stevens was right. Enforcement legislation was gutted by the Supreme Court making way for Jim Crow segregation, Klan terrorism, and the disenfranchisement of Black voters for the next 100 years. The power of racism was so great that in 1903, W.E.B. DuBois wrote in the forethought to The Souls of Black Folk that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.”

The legal system recognizing the legitimacy of racial distinction was affirmed by the Supreme Court in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. Although the Supreme Court reversed itself with the Brown v. Topeka Kansas ruling in 1954, legal action to change American society really started with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, both designed to enforce the 14th Amendment prohibition that states could not make or enforce laws that “abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as amended in 1982, outlawed laws and practices that had the result of denying a racial or language minority an equal opportunity to participate in the political process, even if the wording of the law did not expressly mention race. A racist result was racism.

The New York State Court of Appeals also argued that under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act a law could be challenged as discriminatory if the “practice has a sufficiently adverse racial impact–in other words, whether it falls significantly more harshly on a minority racial group than on the majority . . . Proof of discriminatory effect suffices to establish liability under the regulations promulgated pursuant to Title VI.” Governments have the obligation to demonstrate that “less discriminatory alternatives” were not available. This is the modern origin of Critical Race Theory.

According to the Texas Tribune, the “new Texas law designed to limit how race-related subjects are taught in public schools comes with so little guidance, the on-the-ground application is already tying educators up in semantic knots as they try to follow the Legislature’s intent.” In one Texas district, a director of Curriculum and Instruction notified teachers that they had to provide students with “opposing” perspectives on the World War II era European Holocaust, presumably Holocaust-denial voices. It remains unclear if science teachers will now have to legitimize social media claims that the COVID-19 virus arrived on Earth from outer space.

In her blog, Heather Cox Richardson, an American historian and professor of history at Boston College, focused on subjects that were crossed out of the law, which listed topics permissible to teach. The dropped topics included the history of Native Americans, the writings of founding “mothers and other founding persons,” Thomas Jefferson on religious freedom, Frederick Douglass articles in the North Star, William Still’s records for the Underground Railroad, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, documents related to women’s suffrage and equal rights, and documents on the African American Civil Rights movement and the American labor movement, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. The Texas legislature also crossed out from the list of topics that are permissible to teach the “history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong.”

What caught my attention more though was what the Texas legislators decided to include on the permissible list, documents that they apparently had never read. The “good” topics and documents include the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Federalist Papers “including essays 10 and 51,” excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and the transcript of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate from 1858 when Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas ran against each other for Senator from Illinois. When you read these documents through a Critical Race Theory lens or any critical lens, they expose the depth of racism in America’s founding institutions.

The Declaration of Independence includes a passage that has stuck with me since I first read it as a high school student in the 1960s. “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” I was always impressed by the vagueness of the passage. Who has the right to abolish a government? Did they mean the majority of the people, some of the people, or did the decision have to approach near unanimity? Did enslaved Africans share this right to rebel? Very unlikely.

The words “slave” and “slavery” do not appear in the United States Constitution until passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 that banned slavery. However, a number of clauses in the original document were intended to protect the institution. The three-fifths compromise, which refers to “other Persons,” gave extra voting strength to slave states in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College.  Another clause forbade Congress from outlawing the trans-Atlantic slave trade for at least twenty years. A fugitive slave clause required that freedom-seekers who fled slavery to states where it was outlawed had to be returned to slavery if they were apprehended. The Constitution also mandates the federal government to suppress slave insurrections and the Second Amendment protected the right of slaveholders and slave patrols to be armed.

Both Federalists 38 and 54, which were most likely written by future President James Madison, himself a slaveholder, justified slavery. Madison first mentioned slavery in Federalist 38 where he defended the right of the national government to regulate American participation in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In Federalist 54, Madison explained the legitimacy of the Constitution’s three-fifths clause and of slavery itself. According to Madison, “In being compelled to labor, not for himself, but for a master; in being vendible by one master to another master; and in being subject at all times to be restrained in his liberty and chastised in his body, by the capricious will of another, the slave may appear to be degraded from the human rank, and classed with those irrational animals which fall under the legal denomination of property. In being protected, on the other hand, in his life and in his limbs, against the violence of all others, even the master of his labor and his liberty; and in being punishable himself for all violence committed against others, the slave is no less evidently regarded by the law as a member of the society, not as a part of the irrational creation; as a moral person, not as a mere article of property. The federal Constitution, therefore, decides with great propriety on the case of our slaves, when it views them in the mixed character of persons and of property.”

In the first Lincoln-Douglas debate on August 21, 1858, Stephen Douglas accused Lincoln of trying to “abolitionize” American politics and supporting a “radical” abolitionist platform. Lincoln responded that he was “misrepresented.” While Lincoln claimed to hate slavery, he did not want to “Free them, and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not . . . We cannot, then, make them equals . . . anything that argues me into his idea of perfect social and political equality with the negro, is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of words . . . I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.” Lincoln then added in words that show the depth of American racism, “I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality.”

The real question is why the big outrage about Critical Race Theory today? A group of traditional historians was infuriated by claims in the New York Times 1619 Project that race and racism have played a significant role in throughout American history, including as a motivation for the War for Independence. Whatever you think about that claim in the 1619 Project, I don’t think anyone seriously believes that opposition by a small group of historians is the basis for the assault on CRT. The much-criticized opening essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones does not even mention Critical Race Theory.

I believe the public attacks on Critical Race Theory, including in school board meetings, are a rightwing response to challenges to police actions following the murder of George Floyd and to the Black Lives Matter movement’s demands for racial justice. They have nothing to do with what or how we teach.

CRT became controversial when President Trump denounced it in an effort to rally his supporters during his re-election campaign. Trump declared, without any evidence, that “Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools, it’s being imposed into workplace trainings, and it’s being deployed to rip apart friends, neighbors and families.” According to Professor Crenshaw, acknowledging racism was being defined by President Trump and his supporters as racism. Racial equity laws and programs were called “aggression and discrimination against white people.”

We don’t teach CRT in the Pre-K to 12 curriculum because we don’t teach theory. We certainly don’t teach children to hate themselves or this country. What we do teach is critical thinking, and a critical race theory approach is definitely part of critical thinking.

Critical thinking means asking questions about text and events and evaluating evidence. It is at the core of Common Core and social studies education. I like to cite the conservative faction of the Supreme Court that claims to be “textualists,” meaning they carefully examine the text of laws to discover their meaning. Because they will need to become active citizens defending and extending democracy in the United States, we want young people to become “textualists,” to question, to challenge, to weigh different views, to evaluate evidence, as they formulate their own ideas about America’s past, the state of the nation today, and the world they would like to see.

The Texas anti-CRT law also includes more traditional social studies goals, “the ability to: (A) analyze and determine the reliability of information sources; (B) formulate and articulate reasoned positions;  (C) understand the manner in which local, state, and federal government works and operates through the use of simulations and models of governmental and democratic processes; (D) actively listen and engage in civil discourse, including discourse with those with different viewpoints; (E) responsibly participate as a citizen in a constitutional democracy; and (F) effectively engage with governmental institutions at the local, state, and federal levels.” It also includes an appreciation of “(A) the importance and responsibility of participating in civic life; (B) a commitment to the United States and its form of government; and (C) a commitment to free speech and civil discourse.”

Given these very clearly stated civics goals, I recommend that Texas social studies teachers obey the civics legal mandate by organizing with their students a mass campaign to challenge restrictions in the Texas law, including classroom “civil disobedience” by reading the material that was crossed out of the law. Maybe someday Texas students can share Martin Luther King’s “dream.”

AIM: How enlightened was the European Enlightenment? A CRT Lens Lesson

This lesson on the European Enlightenment is for the high school World History curriculum. The European Enlightenment is one of the first topics explored in the New York state 10th grade social studies curriculum. This lesson uses a CRT lens to build on understandings about the Scientific Revolution and the trans-Atlantic slave trade that were studied in the 9th grade. It establishes themes that reemerge in units on European Imperialism in Africa and Asia and lessons on Social Darwinism. Many scholars credit the European Enlightenment with establishing modern ideas like liberty and democracy. But it also defended gender inequality and attempted to establish a scientific basis for racism. Students are asked to take a closer look and decide: “How enlightened was the European Enlightenment?”

Do Now: The European Enlightenment is often known as the Age of Reason because Enlightenment thinkers tried to apply scientific principles to understand human behavior and how societies work. Many of the earliest Enlightenment thinkers were from England, Scotland, and France but the idea of using reason and a scientific approach spread to other European countries and their colonies. In the United States, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are considered Enlightenment thinkers. While there are no firm dates, most historians argue that the European Enlightenment started in the mid-17th century building on the Scientific Revolution, and continued until the mid-19th century. Some historians have pointed out that the Age of Reason in Europe was also the peak years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade when millions of Africans were transported to the Americas as unfree labor on plantations.

One of the first major European Enlightenment thinkers was John Locke of England. Read the excerpt from Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government, written in 1690, and answer questions 1-4.

John Locke: “Liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others . . . Good and evil, reward and punishment, are the only motives to a rational creature: these are the spur and reins whereby all mankind are set on work, and guided . . . Man . . . hath by nature a power . . . to preserve his property – that is, his life, liberty, and estate – against the injuries and attempts of other men . . . The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom . . . All mankind . . . being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.”

Questions

  1. According to Locke, what is the most important human value?
  2. How does Locke believe this value is preserved?
  3. What document in United States history draws from Locke? Why do you select that document?
  4. In your opinion, why is John Locke considered a European Enlightenment thinker?

Activity: You will work with a team analyzing a quote from one of these European Enlightenment thinkers and answer the following questions. Select a representative to present your views to class. After presentations and discussion, you will complete an exit ticket answering the question, “How enlightened was the European Enlightenment?”

Questions

  1. Where is the author from? What year did they write this piece?
  2. What is the main topic of the excerpt?
  3. What does the author argue about the topic?
  4. Why is this author considered a European Enlightenment thinker?
  5. In your opinion, what do we learn about the European Enlightenment from this except?
 David Hume (Scotland, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779): “What truth so obvious, so certain, as the being of a God, which the most ignorant ages have acknowledged, for which the most refined geniuses have ambitiously striven to produce new proofs and arguments? What truth so important as this, which is the ground of all our hopes, the surest foundation of morality, the firmest support of society, and the only principle which ought never to be a moment absent from our thoughts and meditations? . . . Throw several pieces of steel together, without shape or form; they will never arrange themselves so as to compose a watch. Stone, and mortar, and wood, without an architect, never erect a house.”  
Baron de Montesquieu (France, The Spirit of the Laws, 1748): “Political liberty in a citizen is that tranquility of spirit which comes from the opinion each one has of his security, and in order for him to have this liberty the government must be such that one citizen cannot fear another citizen. When the legislative power is united with the executive power in a single person or in a single body of the magistracy, there is no liberty, because one can fear that the same monarch or senate that makes tyrannical laws will execute them tyrannically. Nor is there liberty if the power of judging is not separate from legislative power and from executive power. If it were joined to legislative power, the power over life and liberty of the citizens would be arbitrary, for the judge would be the legislator. If it were joined to executive power, the judge could have the force of an oppressor. All would be lost if the same man or the same body of principal men, either of nobles or of the people exercised these three powers: that of making the laws, that of executing public resolutions, and that of judging the crimes or disputes of individuals.”
Marquis de Lafayette (France, The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789): “Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen: Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (France, Emile, or Education, 1762): “Women have ready tongues; they talk earlier, more easily, and more pleasantly than men. They are also said to talk more; this may be true, but I am prepared to reckon it to their credit; eyes and mouth are equally busy and for the same cause. A man says what he knows, a woman says what will please; the one needs knowledge, the other taste; utility should be the man’s object; the woman speaks to give pleasure. There should be nothing in common but truth . . . The earliest education is most important and it undoubtedly is woman’s work. If the author of nature had meant to assign it to men he would have given them milk to feed the child. Address your treatises on education to the women, for not only are they able to watch over it more closely than men, not only is their influence always predominant in education, its success concerns them more nearly, for most widows are at the mercy of their children, who show them very plainly whether their education was good or bad.”
Mary Wollstonecraft (England, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792): “Till women are more rationally educated, the progress in human virtue and improvement in knowledge must receive continual checks . . . The divine right of husbands, like the divine right of kings, may, it is to be hoped, in this enlightened age, be contested without danger . . . It would be an endless task to trace the variety of meannesses, cares, and sorrows, into which women are plunged by the prevailing opinion that they were created rather to feel than reason, and that all the power they obtain, must be obtained by their charms and weakness . . . It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world. . . . How many women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practiced as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that consumes the beauty to which it at first gave lustre.”
Immanuel Kant (Germany, 1761, quoted in Achieving Our Humanity): “All inhabitants of the hottest zones are, without exceptions, idle . . . In the hot countries the human being matures earlier in all ways but does not reach the perfection of the temperate zones. Humanity exists in its greatest perfection in the white race. The yellow Indians have a smaller amount of Talent. The Negroes are lower and the lowest are a part of the American peoples . . . The race of the Negroes, one could say, is completely the opposite of the Americans; they are full of affect and passion, very lively, talkative and vain. They can be educated but only as servants (slaves), that is they allow themselves to be trained. They have many motivating forces, are also sensitive, are afraid of blows and do much out of a sense of honor.”
Thomas Jefferson (British North America, Preamble, Declaration of Independence, 1776): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Thomas Jefferson (Virginia, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785): “The first difference which strikes us is that of colour. Whether the black of the negro resides in the reticular membrane between the skin and scarf-skin, or in the scarf-skin itself; whether it proceeds from the colour of the blood, the colour of the bile, or from that of some other secretion, the difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if its seat and cause were better known to us. And is this difference of no importance? Is it not the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races? Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of colour in the one, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immovable veil of black which covers all the emotions of the other race? . . . Their griefs are transient. Those numberless afflictions, which render it doubtful whether heaven has given life to us in mercy or in wrath, are less felt, and sooner forgotten with them. In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection . . . Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.”

Exit ticket: “In your opinion, how enlightened was the European Enlightenment?”

What did Thomas Jefferson Buy in October 1803?

The Louisiana Purchase is generally presented to students as a land deal between the United States and France. Napoleon’s hope for a French New World empire collapsed when formerly enslaved Africans on the western third of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola defeated French forces and established an independent republic. The United States was anxious to purchase the French port of New Orleans near the mouth of the Mississippi River to open up the river to U.S. settlers west of the Appalachian Mountains.  Napoleon made a counter-offer and for $15 million the U.S. acquired over 800,000 square miles of land stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. Or did it?

In middle school, students generally trace the expansion of American territory on maps and may read a biography of explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their First Nation guide and translator Sacagawea. Sacagawea was a Shoshone woman who had been kidnapped by another tribe. At the time of the expedition, she was married to a French fur-trapper and pregnant. Her baby, a son, was born during the expedition.

In high school students often examine the constitutional debate surrounding the purchase. President Thomas Jefferson was generally a strict constructionist who believed in limited federal authority. Although the Constitution did not expressly authorize the federal government to purchase territory, Jefferson and his special envoy James Monroe argued it was permissible under the government’s power to negotiate treaties with foreign powers. Parts or all of the present day states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana, were acquired by the United States.

However, despite claims to the territory between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains by both Spain and France, there were very few European settlers in the region outside of the area near New Orleans where the non-native population was about 60,000 people, including 30,000 enslaved Africans. During the expedition west, Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea encountered members of at least fifty different Native American tribes, some of whom had never met Europeans before, most of whom had never heard of France or Spain, and none of whom recognized Spanish, French, or American sovereignty over their homelands. The Native American population of the region included the Quapaw and Caddo in Louisiana itself, and the Shoshone, Pawnee, Osages, Witchitas, Kiowas, Cheyenne, Crow, Mandan, Minitari, Blackfeet, Chinook, and different branches of the Sioux on the Great Plains.

The reality is that for $15 million the United States purchased French claims to land that belonged to other people and was not France’s to sell and then used military force to drive the First Nations into restricted areas and instituted policies designed to destroy their cultures. Middle school students should consider how they would you feel if someone from someplace else who they had never met knocked on their door and told their family that they all had to leave because a King across the ocean or a President thousands of miles away gave them ownership over their house and the land it stood on? High school students should discuss whether Manifest Destiny, American expansion west to the Pacific, was a form of imperialism, and how it was similar or different from European colonization in the Americas, Africa, and Asia? High school students should also discuss whether United States treatment of the First Nations constitutes genocide and what would be an appropriate recompense for centuries of abuse.

As many areas of the United States shift from celebrating Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, a good question to start with is to ask students exactly what did Thomas Jefferson buy in October 1803?

Using Literature to Teach about Race in America

Using Literature to Teach about Race in America

Stephanie Rosvoglou, Debra Willett, and Melissa Wilson

African American authors use the genre of historical fiction to highlight the experiences of their communities, urban, suburban or rural. Using short stories and novels, ordinary and sometimes not so ordinary events are relayed through the actions of fictional characters. Contemporary authors Colson, Whitehead, Walter Mosley and Guy Johnson use imaginary people in real-life settings that are reflections of African American life past and present, as did Zora Neale Hurston writing in the 1930s and Toni Morrison in the 1970s. Throughout these novels, racism and the inevitable cycle of abuse and poverty are present. Fiction can be used to help students develop a better understanding of race and racism in the United States past and present. These books can either be assigned as supplemental reading in a social studies class or in an English class paired with American history.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (Lippincott, 1937)

Zora Neale Hurston, a Columbia University trained anthropologist, explores racism and gender bias through the eyes and voice of her character Janie Crawford. Their Eyes Were Watching God is set in 1937 in Eatonville, Florida. It serves as a reminder of the brutalities that the plantation owners once caused to the previously enslaved community and how reminders of enslavement continue to haunt the community.

Janie’s grandmother was born into slavery and was raped by a plantation owner. His wife was suspicious and questioned why Janie’s mother looked white and had yellow hair. The wife threatened to whip her and sell her mother. This didn’t happen because African Americans were freed after the “Big Surrender at Richmond.” Janie’s grandmother and mother settled in West Florida. At seventeen, Janie’s mother was raped by her schoolteacher. As a result, Leafy started drinking and abandoned Janie. Because of the disadvantages that both Janie’s grandmother and mother faced, they were trapped in a class and cycle of abuse, hard labor, and poverty.

Through her relationships with men, especially the affluent Joe Starks, Janie is able to break the cycle of poverty and abuse that both her mother and grandmother faced, however she remained isolated from the Black community. After Starks death, Janie marries a younger and darker skinned man known as Tea Cake. Tea Cake is bit by a rabid dog. As he plunges into insanity, he attacks Janie who shoots him. Janie is put on trial, charged with his death, in a trial marked by all of the racial prejudice of the period. Janie is finally acquitted by an all-white jury. In this novel we learn how race prejudice has been absorbed by the Black community and fuels resentment against a lighter-skinned woman.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970)

Toni Morrison also exams how racial prejudice is absorbed by the Black community. The novel takes place in Ohio during 1940 and 1941 and is told through the voice of Claudia McTeer, the foster-sister of Pecola Breedlove. Pecola endures hatred, prejudice, and racism, including from the Black community, because she is dark skinned and considered unattractive. She dreams of having blue eyes, which symbolize whiteness. When Pecola goes to a candy store, the owner of the store looks at her with disgust. Pecola wonders how a white immigrant storekeeper could possibly understand a little black girl. Pecola is eventually raped and impregnated by her drunk and abusive father. The baby is born prematurely and dies as Pecola drifts into insanity. The abuse of Pecola and her insanity are attributed to racism that infests the Black community because of the racial hierarchy in American society.

Always Outmanned and Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley (Norton, 1997)

Walter Mosley is a bi-racial author born in California in 1952. His mother is of Russian Jewish linage and his father is African American World War II veteran from Louisiana. Mosley grew up in South Central L.A and witnessed many of the situations he writes about. His family eventually moved to a middle-class community bordering on affluent west L.A. Mosley is not only an award- winning author of crime novels, but he has also written for young adults, produced and written for motion pictures and television.

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned follows the life of Socrates Fortlow, an ex-convict who battles to live a moral life in the city of Los Angeles. In the 1990s, 5.7 million people in the United States were under a form of correctional supervision. About 30% were white, 38% were black and 27% were Hispanic, but blacks made up only 12% of the general population. Overwhelmingly these jail sentences were due to drug arrests. Mosley uses an incident with a drug dealer to highlight Fortlow’s violent but moral code of life.

The setting for the novel is the poor L.A. neighborhood of Watts. Fortlow, who is now fifty-eight, has been released from prison after serving a sentence for a double homicide. He has been living in LA for the past eight years still encumbered by guilt and regret. He occasionally thinks about what transpired and what could have occurred if he made a different choice. Walter Mosley gives a sympathetic and compassionate account of Fortlow’s experience. We see him grow from a hard criminal to a person who tries to live the years he has left with moral conviction. He makes decisions and handles situations using methods that are unorthodox but necessary for the greater good of his neighborhood. Along the way, Fortlow meets young Darryl, an eleven-year-old that reminds him of himself. He feels obligated to save Darryl from a life of hardship and crime to ensure that he does not spend his life in prison. While struggling with the idea that he still viewed himself as a murderer, Fortlow mentors Darryl to keep him out of trouble. He ultimately saves Darryl and eventually finds self-identity, self-love, and self-confidence.

Mosley pulls you into the story with the astonishing developments of his main character, Socrates Fortlow. The reader can see the character transformation from a murder convict into a compassionate man that finds himself while helping others. I would have high school students read and study this novel to better understand the experiences of some African Americans living in poor neighborhoods and the struggles they go through throughout much of their lives. The teaching of this novel gets easier once the use of some of the difficult language is discussed, so that the students may better understand what terms are used and the context of those terms.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (Balzer Bray, 2017)

Starr Carter is a sixteen-year-old Black girl who lives in the poor neighborhood of Garden Heights while attending an all-white preparatory school across town. She decides to attend a party with her friends and runs into Khaill, a long-time childhood friend. They began to hang out and he offers her a ride home. While on the way, a white police officer pulls them over. Khaill gets out of the car awaiting the return of the officer. Khalil then opens the car door just to check on Starr and he was immediately shot and killed by the officer, badge number One-Fifteen. Khalil’s death makes national news and Starr wants justice. She wants people to know who he really was, not what the media is portraying him to be. While fighting for justice, Starr realizes that no one can shut her up. Her voice can be used as a weapon. She ultimately finds her voice and uses it to inform others of what really happened to Khalil and what happens to many black men and women in today’s society. Justice must prevail.

This book gives the reader the felt experience of Starr and how she deals with seeing her best friend get shot right in front of her. She has to deal with the implications of the media and police trying to dictate who he was and to justify the need to kill him. Starr’s greatest challenge is using her voice to bring justice to Khalil. It is often taught that black voices don’t matter, but through risk taking, bravery, and extreme strength and power, she finally recognizes the importance of speaking up for who you are and what you believe in, no matter the consequences. I would definitely allow my high school students to read and study this book. It gives an account of Starr’s experiences and the struggles she went through to speak to the world about who Khalil was and to get him true justice. Never stop using your voice and never give up.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday, 2019)

The Nickel Boys follows the life of Elwood Curtis, a business owner living in New York City. In the present day, an investigation takes place into the Nickel Academy that had been closed for several years. The investigation exposes the school’s hidden history of brutalities, including many bodies that were secretly buried on the grounds. Many men who were jailed at Nickel Academy are deciding to come forward to share their experiences of what happened there. Elwood Curtis is forced to tackle the long-term impacts of his experiences.

In 1960s Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis is a hardworking high school student with an idealistic sense of justice. Motivated by Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, he always tried to speak out about injustices. When he was chosen to attend a university to start earning credits for college, he was very excited. However, on the first day, he decides hitchhike with an African American man. When they are pulled over, it is revealed that the vehicle was stolen. Elwood is arrested and convicted. He is sent to Nickel Academy, a juvenile detention center. Most boys at Nickel Academy receive poor education, are made to perform hard labor, and regularly receive harsh physical reprimands. The staff ignores and conceals sexual abuse and visits to the “White House,” from which some boys never come back. The children are segregated by race, with black boys facing the worst treatment. Elwood makes friends with another boy by the name of Turner. Turner has been in the Nickel Academy for a while and knows how everything works. Elwood tries to serve his time while keeping his head down but is gravely beaten on two instances: once for interfering when a young boy was being attacked by sexual predators, and once after writing a letter to inspectors describing the facility’s inadequate conditions and mistreatment. Turner overhears the administration’s plan to have Elwood killed and they decide to try to escape. Elwood is shot and killed while Turner avoids being captured. We then discover that Turner has been using Elwood’s name and tried to live up to his principles. In the present day, he finally exposes his history and real name, Jack Turner, to his wife, then heads back to Florida to tell his friend’s story.

Colson Whitehead reveals the truth about a reform school that operated for 111 years. He revealed the harsh and unjust treatment of young black boys that destroyed their lives. This book gives very descriptive imagery on how these boys were treated and the condition they were in. If this book is taught, students could see the harsh treatments that these black children faced. It also shows how in society today, hanging out in a wrong crowd, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, could ruin your entire life in just an instant. It shows the injustices of what happens to black children. They are not even given a chance. They are sent straight to jail without anyone defending them and without anyone telling judges and authority figures who they really are as a person, or who they can be.

“Rights, Redistribution, and Recognition”:Newark and its Place in the Civil Rights Movement

“Rights, Redistribution, and Recognition”:Newark and its Place in the Civil Rights Movement

Victoria Burd

New Jersey, a northeastern state situated directly under New York and steeped in American history, is often seen as a liberal beacon for the 20th and 21st centuries. The state has consistently voted Democrat in every presidential election for over twenty years, holds a higher minimum wage than many other states, and has decriminalized marijuana in recent years. Despite these “progressive” stances, New Jersey, like the rest of the United States, is mired by a history of racial injustice and discriminatory violence, often perpetrated by the hands of the state itself. New Jersey’s key cities such as Newark, Trenton, and Camden served as battlegrounds in a fierce fight for equality and justice, yet these cities remain an often forgotten fragment of the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century due to their location in the North.

Defining the Civil Rights movement is a difficult task, as Black Americans have been fighting against racism and discrimination in America for centuries before the term “Civil Rights movement” was even coined. For the purposes of this paper, the focus will be on the post-World War II Civil Rights movement, from the 1950s-1970s, where many famed protests and riots took place across the Northern and Southern United States. Large cities such as Newark, Trenton, Camden, and various others in New Jersey performed critical roles in the Northern Civil Rights movement, with Newark being one of the most publicized of its time. Acting as a catalyst to other race riots in cities such as Trenton and Plainfield, as well as being more thoroughly documented, the 1967 Newark riots serve as a case study by which to compare other cities in New Jersey, the events of the Civil Rights movement in Newark to other events in the North as a whole, and where Newark compares and contrasts with the Southern Civil Rights movement. This paper will explain the preceding events, context, and lasting effects of the 1967 Newark riots and the historiography existing around the Northern Civil Rights movement, before comparing and contrasting Newark and the Northern Civil Rights movement to that of the South and analyzing how the Civil Rights movement in Newark differed from other movements in the North.

According to the Report of The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known better as the Kerner Commission or Kerner Report, the Civil Rights movement can be separated into major stages: the Colonial Period, Civil War and “Emancipation”, Reconstruction, the Early 20th Century, World War I, the Great Depression and New Deal, World War II, and the focus of this paper, the postwar period (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 95-106). During the war, Black Americans waged what was known as the “Double-V Campaign”: victory against foreign enemies and fascism abroad, and victory against racial discrimination at home (Mumford, 2007, p. 32). After having experienced racially integrated life and interracial relationships while being deployed in Europe, specifically England and Germany, during the Second World War, Black veterans came home with a renewed vision for racial equality in the United States. Kevin Mumford, author of Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America, describes this sentiment among Black Americans well, explaining that,“‘…before [Black American Soldiers] go out on foreign fields to fight the Hitlers of our day, [they] must get rid of all Hitlers around us,’’ (Mumford, 2007, p. 36). This renewed sense of conviction for equal rights combined with a World War II emphasis on liberty and personal freedoms (although not intended for Black Americans), antithetical to fascist governments of Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, formed the ideological groundwork for a culture of Black Americans ready to relentlessly pursue equal and just treatment during the postwar period.

The postwar period began with grassroots movements in the South, most prominently the Alabama bus boycotts which led to the meteoric rise of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who for many White Americans (on opposite sides of the spectrum of racial tolerance), served as the unofficial spokesman of the Civil Rights movement (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 106). While other Civil Rights leaders such as Malcolm X were prevalent within the movement, Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of nonviolent resistance meant less disruption in the lives of White Americans, and thus garnered more support from that group. As the Civil Rights movement gained traction, not just in the south but across the entire United States, elected officials were pressured to create legislation that would address the core agenda of the Civil Rights movement. One key example is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed employment discrimination against “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” under Title VII (Sugrue, 2008, p. 360-1). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark victory for Civil Rights groups in both the North and South, as it not only ended certain measures of discrimination, but provided the first steps towards “equality” of Black Americans.

This legal measure acted as the first step away from legal discrimination for Black Americans, but as legal barriers began to lift, social and corporate barriers quickly took their place. The definition of racism changed drastically during this period. According to Carol Anderson, author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide, “…[when] Confronted with civil rights headlines, depicting unflattering portrayals of KKK rallies and jackbooted sheriffs, white authority transformed those damning images of white supremacy into the sole definition of racism,” which in turn, caused more hostility between White and Black Americans, as Black Americans continued to fight for societal equality and justice (Anderson, 2017, p. 100). As racism became harder to prove on a legal basis, methods of resisting racism became more extreme. The transition from legal to societal discrimination marked a shift in the Civil Rights movement, with the justification of violence rising amongst many different Civil Rights groups and characterizing Northern protests from Southern.

Newark

Newark is a port city in New Jersey founded in 1666, by the Puritan colonists who claimed the land after removing the Hackensack Native American tribe against their will. Like the Black Americans who would come to occupy the city, the Hackensack natives would be largely removed from the narrative surrounding Newark’s development (Mumford, 2007, p. 13). Newark possessed a strong Black community for much of its history, yet this community existed outside of the White public sphere. This Black community published their own newspapers, participated in their own ceremonies, and formed their own societies, creating a distinct circle separate from the White population (Mumford, 2007, p. 17). Throughout many periods of the long Civil Rights movement, White citizens of Newark vigorously resisted Black American integration in their city, maintaining societal segregation (Mumford, 2007, p. 18).  In 1883, the City of Newark passed legislation prohibiting segregation in hotels, restaurants, and transportation, yet what could have been sweeping and unprecedented reform of 19th century civil rights policy was ultimately undermined when consecutive policies for equal protection and education were blatantly disregarded by White Newarkers (Mumford, 2007, p. 19). The culture of Jim Crow was alive and well in a city that saw neighborhoods of many different demographics tightly compacted next to each other (Mumford, 2007, p. 22).

The Great Migration period also affected Newark’s Black public sphere, with Black Southerners migrating to northern cities in hopes for a better life (Mumford, 2007, p. 20). At the same time, Newark experienced an influx of European immigrants from countries such as Italy and Poland. The relationship between Italian Americans and the Black community worsened during the Great Depression, as both groups were affected by diminishing opportunities in manufacturing jobs, a relationship that would only continue to curdle into the 1950s and 1960s (Mumford, 2007, p. 27). This relationship was only further exacerbated by Italians taking up positions of authority in public housing projects that housed mostly black tenants and families (Mumford, 2007, p. 58). The Great Migration, which resulted in 1.2 million Southerners heading North due to World War I labor shortages, was emphasized by ambitious recruitment and enthusiasm for a new place (Mumford, 2007, p. 20). According to demographer Lieberson and Wilkinson, the migrating Black Southerners did find some success in the economic opportunities of the North, with an inconsequential difference between the incomes of Black native Northerners and themselves (Lieberson & Wilkinson, 1976, p. 209). Overall, northern cities offered blacks economic opportunities unavailable in much of the South—indeed many migrated to northern cities during and after World War I and World War II when employers faced a shortage of workers. Overall, however, blacks were confined to what one observer called “the meanest and dirtiest jobs,” (Sugrue, 2008, p. 12).

Integration continued to spread throughout the Central Ward of Newark (otherwise known as the heart of the city, and predominantly black), and into the South, West, and North Wards, with the North Wards containing a large Italian migrant population (Mumford, 2007, p.

62). By 1961, the Civil Rights movement officially entered Newark, with the Freedom Riders, Civil Rights activists from the South, congregating in Newark’s Military Park before continuing their journey to other Southern states (Mumford, 2007, p. 78). Tensions between Italians and Black Americans came to a head in 1967, when an unqualified Italian “crony”, rather than an already appointed capable Black candidate, was appointed by the mayor for a public school board position at a school in which half the students were black. The conflict arising from this situation would eventually become one of the reasons for the 1967 Newark riots (Mumford, 2007, p. 104).

Newark Riots of 1967

The inciting incident of the Newark riots was the arrest and subsequent beating of cab driver John William Smith at the hands of White police officers (Mumford, 2007, p. 98). According to those living in apartments that face the Fourth Precinct Station House, they were able to see Smith being dragged in through the precinct doors. As recounted in the Kerner Commission, “Within a few minutes, at least two civil rights leaders received calls from a hysterical woman declaring a cab driver was being beaten by the police. When one of the persons at the station notified the cab company of Smith’s arrest, cab drivers all over the city began learning of it over their cab radios,” (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 33). After the police refused to negotiate with civil rights leaders representing a mob that formed outside, the crowd was dispersed by force, and reports of looting came in not long after. The Newark riots had begun, and they would end up being the most destructive race riot among the forty riots that occurred since Watts two years earlier (Reeves, 1967). The violence, looting, and firebombing became so severe that units of both State Police and National Guardsmen were sent into the Central Ward to lay siege to the city (Bergesen, 1982, p. 265). According to newspaper articles written about the riots, “Scores of Negroes were taken into custody, although the police said that 75 had been arrested…the injured in the hundreds…more than 100 persons had been treated [in hospital] alone,” (Carroll, 1967). Additionally, “A physician at Newark City Hospital said four persons had been admitted there with gunshot wounds…stabbed or struck by rocks, bottles, and bricks,” (Carroll, 1967).  Four people were shot by Police for looting and six Black Newarkers died as a result of police officers and National Guardsmen firing into crowds, showcasing that police violence during the Newark riots was indiscriminate, racially charged, and often fatal (Bergeson, 1982, p. 265). The initiating events in Newark would spread to other major urban centers in New Jersey in the week following the riots, with varying degrees of severity.

Understanding the history of Newark, the inciting events of these riots, and the progress of these riots is key to uncovering Newark’s and, in a broader sense, New Jersey’s role in the Civil Rights movement. This paper analyzes how violence is used as a distinction between riots in the North and South. It also investigates the main causes of the Civil Rights movement and subsequent rioting in Newark, including the phenomenon of  “White flight,” redlining and the housing crisis, and poverty caused by rapid urbanization. Lastly, the paper considers the impact of the lack of public welfare programs, intercommunity-autonomy and governmental transparency as tools for curbing civil unrest amongst majority black communities.

Lasting Effects on the City of Newark

Twenty-six people died during the Newark riots, most of whom were Black residents of the city, and over 700 people were injured or hospitalized during the riots. The property damage resulting from the looting and fires valued at over ten million dollars, and spaces still exist where buildings once stood (Rojas & Atkinson, 2017). The long-term physical and psychological effects of the riots on the people of Newark and on the reputation of the city itself cannot be understated (Rojas & Atkinson, 2017). Beyond the pain and grief caused by the loss of life and property, the riots represented a paradigm shift for Newark as a city. The eruptive violence in the city streets was perhaps the final nail in the coffin arranged by systemic racism, as Newark’s reputation as a dangerous city plagued by violence and corruption solidified in the minds of its former White residents and White generations long after (Rojas & Atkinson, 2017). As a result, the entrenched Black communities of Newark found themselves losing tax revenue and job opportunities quickly. The disadvantages that came from the riots and their causes only further incentivized White families to keep their tax dollars and children as far away from Newark as possible; this also occurred during a time in which taxes for police, fire, and medical services were being increased to compensate emergency departments for their involvement in the riots (Treadwell, 1992). Areas such as Springfield Avenue, once a highly commercialized street, were turned into abandoned, boarded up-buildings, further contributing to Newark’s negative reputation (Treadwell, 1992). What once were public housing projects, well lived-in homes, and family businesses remain vacant and crumbling, if not already demolished from the looting and fires fifty years ago which much of Newark did not rebuild (Treadwell, 1992). Even church buildings which once conveyed a sense of openness to all of the public are lined with fences and barbed-wire to prevent looting and vandalism (Treadwell, 1992). While the riots did lead to Black and Latino Americans vying for political positions that previously belonged to the White population, ushering in the election of the first Black mayor and first Black city council members in Newark in 1970 (Treadwell, 1992). Despite Black Americans gaining some control politically, the Central Ward still lacked economic and social renewal, with any efforts towards regenerating Newark failing to undo the larger effects of the riots of 1967 (Treadwell, 1992). Any of the limited economic development that did occur was largely restricted to “White areas”, such as downtown Newark, as opposed to the Black communities (“50 Years Later,” 2017). Larry Hamm, appointed to the Board of Education at 17 years old by Newark’s first Black mayor, expounds on the economic disparity between Black and White Newarkers, with “dynamism [prevalent] downtown, and poverty in the neighborhoods,” (Hampson, 2017). Fifty years after the riots, police brutality remains a constant for Black Newarkers, with a 2016 investigation into the Newark police department finding that officers were still making illegal and illegitimate arrests, often using excessive force and retaliatory actions against the Black population (“50 Years Later,” 2017). A city with a large Black population, one third of Newark residents remain below the poverty line, with Newark residents only representing one fifth of the city’s jobs (Hampson, 2017). Despite the foothold that Black Americans have gained in Newark’s politics, the economic power largely remains in the hands of White corporations and organizations (Hampson, 2017). Other economic factors, such as increases in the cost of insurance due to increased property risk, tax increases for increased police and fire protection, and businesses and job opportunities either closing or moving to different (Whiter) neighborhoods following White flight also have a significant lasting economic impact on the city (“How the 1960s’ Riots Hurt African-Americans,” 2004). The people of Newark were also affected psychologically and emotionally. On one hand, many Black Americans felt empowered – their community had risen against injustice and was largely successful in catching the nation’s attention despite the lack of real organization, challenging the system that desperately tried to keep them isolated and creating a movement that emphasized their power (“Outcomes and Impacts – the North,” 2021). Yet, just as many Black Americans became hopeless, seeing a country and its law enforcement continue to disregard their lives and stability, treating them as secondary citizens despite the many legal changes made under the guise of creating equality (CBS New York, 2020).

The riots of 1967 destroyed Newark’s reputation and economic stability, steeping the population in poverty. While the Black Community used this opportunity to gain political power in the city and to jumpstart the Black Power movement in New Jersey, many Black Newarkers remain in despair, seeing their community members injured and killed with no change to the systemic cycle of racism that perpetuates the city.

The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders Report (Kerner Commission Report)

The 1968 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders Report is one of the most referenced resources in this paper, due to the unique document’s origins, in which sitting President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967 tasked a commission specifically with determining the causes of the rising number of U.S. race riots that had occured that summer, with the riots in Detroit and Newark acting as catalysts for the founding of the commission. While Johnson essentially anticipated a report that would serve to legitimize his Great Society policies, the Kerner Report would come to be one of the most candid and progressive examinations of how public policy affected Black Americans’ lives (Wills, 2020). The Commission was led by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, and consisted of ten other men, most of whom were White. The only non-white members of the Commission were Roy Wilkins, an NAACP head, and Sen. Edward Brooke, a Republican from Massachusetts (Bates, 2018). Despite the lack of racial representation on the commission, the members placed themselves in the segregated and redlined Black communities they were writing about, interviewing ordinary Black Americans and relaying their struggles with a humanistic clarity that was largely uncharacteristic of federal politics in the 1960s. This report identified rampant and blatant racism as the cause of the race riots of 1967, starkly departing from Lyndon B. Johnson’s views on race relations and in the process establishing historical legitimacy as a well-supported and largely objective source (Haberman, 2020). The Kerner Commission clearly outlines how segregation, White Flight and police brutality contributed the most to worsening race relations and rising tensions between Black communities and the White municipal governments who mandated said communities (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 119, 120, 160). Despite the Kerner Commission clearly outlining the causes and effects of the racial climate of the 1960s, the commission makes no effort to justify the riots themselves, or even validate the emotions and frustrations resulting from the oppression that the Commission identifies. For everything that the commission does state, it leaves just as much unstated. As the Commission explains, America in the 1960s was in the process of dividing into two separate, unequal, and increasingly racially ubiquitous societies, and the Commission itself validates this theory by displaying a clear identification of what the Black experience looks like while having next to no willingness to justify or defend the riots themselves (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 225). The Kerner Commission is a factually accurate but contextually apathetic document which, for its purpose in this paper, serves as one of the key documents due to its accuracy; yet it is important to acknowledge its shortcomings in the larger context of the Civil Rights Movement. Despite clearly identifying both the causes of the 1967 race riots and racial tensions in America, the Kerner Commission has gone largely ignored, as many of the issues identified by the commission remain present in Black communities, and in some instances, have worsened significantly, such as the issues of income inequality and rising incarceration rates (Wilson, 2018).

Section 1: How Newark and the Northern Civil Rights Movement was Alike and Consistent with Civil Rights Movements in the South

Newark’s riots and Civil Rights movement reflected many of the same characteristics seen in Civil Right movements across the country, both in the North and South. Key similarities between Newark and the rest of the Civil Rights movements in the United States, as well as decisive factors that sparked the rioting in Newark, include the phenomenon of “White Flight”, effects from police brutality and over-policing as a result of White Flight, and the quickly deteriorating relationship between black communities and law enforcement with the introduction of the National Guard into areas of conflict, combined with the familiar effects of redlining that are still visible across the United States today.

White Flight

One of the main causes of the Newark riots was the phenomenon known as “White flight”, and the effects caused by extreme racial isolation. To truly understand the impacts of “White Flight”, one must first define the concept. “White Flight” is the unique phenomenon of middle class White Americans leaving cities that were becoming more diversely integrated with Black Americans who were migrating from rural areas to these cities. In the 1950s, 45.5 million White Americans lived in areas considered to be “cities”, yet research by Thomas Sugrue in his work Sweet Land of Liberty explains how although the White population in cities did increase in the next decade, it was not of the same rate as previous years or in line with the Nation’s whole white population, with theoretically 4.9 million White Americans leaving cities between 1960 and 1965 (Sugrue, 2008, ch. 7, Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 119). American cities were becoming less white, caused by Black American populations in cities increasing, and resulting in an even greater Black population in urban centers (Sugrue, 2008, p. 259). This population movement was not only seen in the South or key cities in the North such as Detroit and Chicago (though present there as well). Kevin Mumford explains Newark’s experience with this phenomenon, citing how the Central Ward of Newark (i.e., the “heart” of the city) included 90 percent of the black population of Newark, a drastic difference from the initial years of the Great Migration which saw only 30 percent of Newark’s black population settling in the Central Ward (Mumford, 2007, p. 23). White flight changed the landscape of New Jersey, with densely populated cities such as Newark, Trenton, and Camden becoming more clearly divided from new suburban residential areas, and the development of these new suburban areas leading thousands to flee the inner cities (Mumford, 2007, p. 50).

White flight impacted more than just the distinct and divided racial makeup of cities and suburbs; impacts were also seen in other areas of life. The “persistant racial segregation” in post-war America often decided what kind of education an individual received, what jobs were accessible, and even the quality of an individual’s life (Sugrue, 2008, p. 201). Urban (i.e., majority Black) residents were further hurt from this White flight, as suburban areas located close to urban centers drained urban areas of their taxes, decreased their population, and left fewer jobs available to urban communities (Sugrue, 2008, p. 206). The lack of urban taxes funding urban public schools resulted in unequal educational opportunities, further validating the White argument that having Black Americans in cities “ …signified disorder and failure” (Mumford, 2007, p. 5).

What ultimately made White Flight possible and cyclically reinforced White privilege was agency. White Americans possessed the agency to choose home ownership, involved and “cookie-cutter” communities, and access to adequate education. They had stronger and better-funded education systems, public services, and largely avoided many of the social problems that plagued black communities, including economic instability, lack of reliable housing, and health issues further exacerbated by overcrowded living conditions. Furthermore, White Americans did not fear the police, as this form of law enforcement showed an extensive history of protecting and benefitting White communities. As explained by Sugrue,”Ultimately, the problem of housing segregation was one of political and economic power, of coercion, not choice, personal attitudes, or personal morality,” (Sugrue, 2008, p. 249). The existence of a black middle class and integrated suburbs represented a deterioration of this agency, and was therefore not permitted by the larger White population. The considerable and ever growing gap of wealth, stature, and control between White and Black Americans was not lost on the Black urban population. After being revitalized by the hope that the World War II emphasis on freedom and liberty gave Black Americans, the disappointment and bitterness that stemmed from the lack of social change morphed public opinion in Black communities from that of optimism to resentment (Sugrue, 2008, p. 257). This resentment, exacerbated by continuous outside stressors, would eventually bubble over into violent demonstrations. The hundreds of racial revolts of the 1960s [The Newark riots among them] marked a major turning point in the black revolution, highlighting the demand for African American self-determination (Woodard, 2003, p. 289).

White Flight was a fundamental motivator in the Newark riots, yet was experienced by urban centers across the North, South, Midwest, and West Coast. The stark contrast between Black and White Americans in regards to agency over housing, public programs, education and law enforcement, stemming from the upending of White Americans’ tax dollars from urban centers grew dramatically and inversely during the 1950s and 1960s, setting the stage for a period of unprecedented violence and racial unrest in America’s cities. Post-war optimism among Black Americans was severely dashed by the lack of extension of freedom and liberty at home, and the financial and social atrophy that followed would inform fierce resentment among Black Americans, ushering in a newer, more embittered chapter of the Civil Rights movement.

Police Brutality, “Snipers”, and the National Guard

As American cities became increasingly Black due to the phenomenon of White flight, already strained relationships between Black Americans and law enforcement worsened. Newark saw a palpable shift in intercommunity relations with the police. Over-policing and police brutality in Black neighborhoods acted as a product of a lack of racial representation in the ranks of American police forces (Bigart, 1968). To further emphasize this divide between the police and minority groups, the use of brute force was prevalent on the Black population, especially during the riots of the late 1960s. Police brutality against John William Smith acted as an inciting event to the Newark riots, but brazen, and often fatal violence at the hands of Newark’s police forces fanned the flames of violent unrest.

Even before the Newark riots, the police were infiltrating and undermining Civil Rights groups in America’s cities. One such case that preceded the riots occurred in the suburb of East Orange, New Jersey, in which multiple Black Muslims were arrested, resulting in the arrestees being released from jail having sustained a fragmented skull, lacerations, and genital trauma at the hands of the police (Mumford, 2007, p. 110). This incident occurred only a week before the Newark riots, and is, in hindsight, indicative of the Newark Police Department’s willingness to enact acts of brutal violence in the name of “keeping the peace” and disrupting leftist organizations (Mumford, 2007, p. 110). As chronicled by Sugrue, the Black population of America,”…doesn’t see anything but the dogs and hoses. It’s all the white cop,” (Sugrue, 2008, p. 329).

The Newark riots began, fittingly, at a police station. After John William Smith was allegedly beaten by two white officers and brutalized in holding, a mob formed in front of the Fourth Precinct demanding to see the taxi driver and his condition. Any hopes of the crowd being dispersed peacefully and a riot being avoided were dashed when a Molotov cocktail struck the police station (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 33). The ensuing riot control would prove more destructive and archaic than the looting and arson being committed at the hands of rioters. Riot police, armed with automatic rifles and carbines, fired indiscriminately into the air, at cars, at residential buildings, and into empty storefronts of pro-black businesses (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 38). At least four looters were shot and at least six civilians were killed as a result of firing into crowds (Bergesen, 1982, p. 264-5). Beyond gun violence, a specific instance in which a black off-duty police officer attempting to enter his precinct during the riots was beaten and brutalized by his white coworkers who did not recognize him offers an indication of how unprompted much of the violence against the Black population of Newark was (Carroll, 1967). In the end, 26 people died, and over 69 were injured (Carroll, 1967).

As extreme as the violence against demonstrators was during the Newark riots, it was far from unique. Similarly tactless and lethal methods of crowd control had been deployed during race riots in Watts and Detroit (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 20, 54). Another similarity between these three race riots, as well as other race riots in the South, were the supposedly looming presence of urban snipers (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 180). While it remains unseen if Black nationalists armed with sniper rifles were truly as ubiquitous as the media would have then made it seem, what is verifiable is the fact that Riot Police used urban snipers as justification to scale up militarization efforts and enter and proliferate Black communities (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 40, Mumford, 2007, p. 142). Despite being difficult to verify, the threat of snipers waiting patiently to pick off police officers in dense urban areas was a deeply vivid and real threat to police and National Guardsmen sent into Newark and other cities. In Newark, there are multiple accounts of police firing indiscriminately into apartment windows out of fear for snipers. It is assumed, however, that most reports of sniper fire during race riots across cities in the United States were misidentified shots sourced from police or National Guardsmen (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 180).

The presence of the National Guard as peacekeepers during the Newark riots is another factor that is both consistent with other race riots and contributed heavily to high death tolls among said race riots. Of the roughly 17,000 enlisted New Jersey National Guardsmen that responded to the riots in 1967, only 303 of them were Black (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 37). The largely white Guardsmen who were tasked with keeping the peace in cities in the full swing of anarchy had for the most part only had limited experience with black people, let alone crowd control operations. The majority of the reporting Guardsmen at Newark were young, not adequately psychologically or tactically prepared, and “trigger happy” (Bigart, 1968). The naivety of these Guardsmen, the presence of military-grade equipment such as machine guns and armored vehicles, and the looming threat of snipers created a situation in which it is possible that black demonstrators were seen as an enemy force to be subdued or neutralized, rather than American citizens engaging in protest. By any measure, however, the temperament of the National Guard displayed a clear and fervent prejudice against African Americans, and Guardsmen were reported to have taken part in the destruction of Black lives and property alongside Newark Police and New Jersey State Police (Bigart, 1968). Reinforcing a clear bias against Black Americans, Black enlistment in the National Guard declined deeply following integration within the Guard. There is no way of knowing for sure if a higher number of enlisted black Guardsmen would have led to a deeper understanding of Black communities, and in turn a less destructive response to the race riots of the 1960s; yet the police brutality that faced John William Smith, and the subsequent brutality that faced Newark rioters further exacerbated the riots themselves, with police using the word “sniper” as an excuse to wreak havoc on the Black masses.

Redlining and the Turn from Legal to Public Discrimination

Redlining is a discriminatory practice in which Black citizens were segregated into specific neighborhoods under the guise of lacking financial assistance through loans and government programs, rather than Jim Crow Laws. Large areas of residential housing occupied disproportionately by Black homeowners were designated to be high-risk by banking organizations, and would thus be denied housing loans to move out of their neighborhood. The results of this practice were strictly segregated neighborhoods that existed far beyond the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and ostensibly dashed any possibility for Black Americans to build generational wealth. Redlining is a key example of how many discrimination practices, in both the North and South, changed from being legally enforced to publicly and socially enforced. Redlining and public discrimination practices affected Black communities in both the Northern and Southern United States, and contributed directly to the Newark riots by preventing Black Americans from accruing generational wealth, pushing out “ghetto” communities through urban renewal, and forcing Black Americans to remain in impoverished communities through publicly enforced racial lines.

Redlining was conceptualized and implemented during the Second World War, when William Levitt revolutionized residential communities with easily built and affordable housing in the form of Levittown, America’s first true suburb. Initially, Levitt, a staunch segregationist, outright banned Black Americans from living in his communities on the basis of race. As a result, Black Americans paid more on average for housing than White Americans did, while being excluded from access to new and contemporary housing (Sugrue, 2008, p. 200). As advancements in legal protections for Black Americans were made during the 1950’s, realtors, leasing managers and landlords shifted their efforts towards a more privatized form of discrimination, emphasizing the individual rights of businesses to decide who to do business with (Sugrue, 2008, p. 202). White Americans in the North during this time had developed a curious sense of superiority over the discriminatory culture and customs of the South, despite engaging in the same discriminatory practices under the guise of “Freedom of Association,” (Sugrue, 2008, p. 202). White Americans in the north drew their own lines, publicly enforcing White-only neighborhoods and refusing Black consumers access to their housing market, similar to the Jim Crow laws in the South. At the same time that White liberals were expressing admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King, they were drawing invisible borders through their communities, ready and willing to relegate Black Americans to ghettos if it meant their property value remained high (Mumford, 2007, p. 65). Black Americans not only faced discriminatory lending practices, as a single black family had the potential to shutter a community of well-to-do-whites, but in addition the Federal Housing Administration was in open support of restrictive covenants (Sugrue, 2008, p. 204).

For Black Americans, it was not only enough to prove that they could exist in white neighborhoods without presenting a risk to White financial assets and housing, it was their responsibility to justify their existence in White suburbs against the risk of financial loss. As Sugrue explains, “It was one thing to challenge the status quo; it was another to create viable alternatives,” and black communities were not able to create these alternatives while still effectively being segregated (Sugrue, 2008, p. 220). As a result of these discriminatory practices, Black Americans’ experiences with White Americans was primarily relegated to that of interactions with the police. Redlining only served to further solidify many Black communities as “ghettos”, as many areas that became heavily redlined were already suffering from unemployment and disinvestment. Furthermore, redlined communities were subject to urban renewal efforts, where black communities were essentially uprooted to make room for expanding public projects that were intended to displace the ghetto population (Theoharis & Woodard, 2003, p. 291). A specific example of this phenomenon would be the “Medical School Crisis”, a major catalyst for the Newark riots in which a school campus was proposed that would displace Black citizens in Newark’s Central Ward (Theoharis & Woodard, 2003, p. 291).

The effects of redlining in Black neighborhoods was severe. The extent of the widening wealth gap was not lost on Black Americans, who truly began to feel the effects of a lack of self-governance and generational wealth, both of which could not exist inside redlined communities. Black Americans became further aware not only of the wealth gap, but in the differences in status and power that existed between Black and White Americans (Sugrue, 2008, p. 257). Economic inequality became synonymous with racial inequality, and Black Americans began actively protesting both as a result of redlining (Sugrue, 2012, p. 10). As previously mentioned, urban development was a rising trend amongst metropolitan areas, and the superhighways needed to make the newly paved American Highway system work often involved building massive ramps and tracts of highway over residential housing that could not be sold (Sugrue, 2008, p. 259). Public school systems were affected as well. As previously recounted in the effects of White flight, taxes were being drained from urban centers to fund schools bordering between central cities and White suburbs, yet Black Americans did not benefit from these schools, remaining segregated and without necessary resources to make their education truly “equal” (Sugrue, 2008, p. 206). Gerrymandering further ensured these separate school districts, drawing more invisible lines that dictated which schools children living in certain areas would attend (Sugrue, 2012, p. 13). Many White community members argued that these schools were not separated intentionally, but that it was “… the natural consequence of individual choices about where to live and where to send children to school,” completely disregarding that the segregated districts are a byproduct of White-imposed redlining (Sugrue, 2012, p. 14). The effects of this practice were so dire that Newark’s mayor called for the state control of public schools (Bigart, 1968). In the end, the image many White Americans held of Black neighborhoods became a self-fulfilling prophecy; that redlined areas were occupied by gangsters, bootleggers, and other criminals. In reality, the economic hardships imposed by stringent redlining created the circumstances under which crime was inevitable (Sugrue, 2008, p. 203).

Beyond a network of financial discrimination, the White general public also maintained the lines surrounding redlined communities through publicly and socially enforced separation. Rare cases of Black families attempting to move into segregated majority White neighborhoods such as Levittown were almost always met with at best, verbal, and at worst, physical abuse (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 119). To Whites, the impoverished neighborhoods of Newark were no better than “…a vast crawl of negro slums and poverty, a festering center of diseases, vice injustice, and crime,” (Mumford, 2007, p. 52) and the acceptance of Black families into White neighborhoods represented a direct threat that their communities would be labeled the same way.

Redlining and the practice of socially and publicly enforcing discrimination measures affected Black communities across America, and contributed directly to the riots by preventing Black Americans from leaving the poverty-stricken neighborhoods known as “ghettos”, forcing urban renewal on the already limited spaces Black Americans could live, and furthering the wealth gap between Black and White Americans. Redlining proved to be a long-lasting roadblock in the slow march towards the advancement of America’s Black Population. Its inception and widespread use was indicative of a still-segregationist White America who was willing to explore alternative avenues in the name of maintaining the racial purity of their neighborhoods. Redlining essentially served as the next interpretation of Jim Crow laws – severe stratification of Black economies, reinforced by a White majority committed to keeping said system in place (Mumford, 2007, p. 22). In response to these measures, Black groups that were not against using violence to enact results began to popularize, leading to an expansion of the Black public sphere, the establishment of the Black Power movements, and the rise in riots across the country.

Section 2: How Newark and the Northern Civil Rights Movement Differed from the

Civil Rights Movement of the South

Despite their significant similarities, the Northern and Southern Civil Rights movement differ in various ways that allow for specific characteristics of each movement. The greatest difference between the two regional movements was the ideas and theories surrounding the use of, and different applications of, violence as a means for social change. As the South turned towards nonviolent measures of civil protest, the North did the opposite, at times using the South as an example of how nonviolent protests were not successful (Sugrue, 2008, p. 291). After experiencing the nonviolent tactics of the South and observing the little change it brought to the North, people in Newark and other cities in the North began to use more aggressive tactics, such as firebombs, molotovs, and violent protests, both as aggressors and defenders.

The South and Nonviolence

In the years leading up to the Newark riots, attention was once again on the South as nonviolent ideology continued to spread and characterize the Southern Civil Rights movement.

Nonviolent protests stemmed out of Selma, Alabama, when Civil Rights workers staged a protest in 1965, law enforcement interrupted the protest, and weeks later two White supporters of the Civil Rights movement were killed by racists due to their participation (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 20). Other indicators of the Southern ideology of the Civil Rights movement are further exemplified by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a Civil Rights organization which used protest measures such as sit-ins, boycotts, and the Freedom Rides, and whose headquarters was located in Atlanta (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 29). When the Freedom Riders arrived in Newark in 1961 on their way to Tennessee, the Black community of Newark saw firsthand how nonviolent protesting in the South functioned (Mumford, 2007, p. 78). Newark would experience many other nonviolent Civil Rights events before the riots of 1967, including the events of Freedom Summer 1964, which acted as a campaign to recruit Black voters, and the actions of the Congress of Racial Equality (at this point a civil disobedience organization that would later join the Black Power movement) who organized sit-ins at White Castle diners across New Jersey for better treatment of Black consumers and just hiring protocols for aspiring Black employees (Mumford, 2007, p. 80). Violence against Black Americans continued despite these protests, including the death of Lester Long Jr. and Walter Mathis, which further reminded the

Black community of one of the most notorious lynchings, Emmett Till (Mumford, 2007, p. 117).

It was clear to many Black Northerners that racism, discrimination, and brutality against Black Americans would not bend to nonviolent will, therefore causing the Northern Civil Rights movement, and, by extension, the Newark rioters, to use more aggressive tactics in order to stimulate change.

Violence and Resistance in Newark and the North

Black Americans in Newark and across the North bore witness to the nonviolent protests in areas such as Birmingham and Selma, and, instead of imitating their methods, used these events as justification for turning to more violent tactics (Sugrue, 2008, p. 291). Nonviolent protesting measures were criticized by many, including key individuals such as Nathan Wright, an author prevalent in the Black Power movement, who claimed that it lowered “black self-esteem” and led to the ideology that Black community members themselves were not worth defending (Mumford, 2007, p. 111). To many Black Americans, violence was a justifiable means, aligning with the psychoanalytic theory of Frantz Fanon, who claimed that “…the development of violence among the colonized people will be proportionate to the violence exercised by the threatened colonial regime,” (Mumford, 2007, p. 109). Up to this stage in the Civil Rights movement, and for decades after, the effect of White colonialism, segregation, brutality, redlining, and other discriminatory measures more than sufficed as violence exercised against the Black American people, and therefore provided the North and the rioters of Newark with a justifiable means to turn towards violence.

The Northern Civil Rights riots themselves were steeped in aggressive tactics, though it is uncertain in many circumstances whether the rioters were the true initiators of such events. Molotovs and firebombs became key components of the movement, mostly the threat rather than the use themselves. Police confiscated six bottles with the makings of Molotov cocktails after raiding the homes of various Black Americans who were classified as “militant”, and Black activists anonymously dispersed guides on how to assemble these incendiary weapons (Mumford, 2007, p. 115, Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 22). During the Newark riots, fires spread through downtown Newark, yet officials from the Fire Department adamantly claimed that the rioters were not the ones who set the fire (Carroll, 1967). There were also reports of gunfire between law enforcement and Black rioters, with the gunfire being “aimed” at police reportedly originating from the tops of buildings and the interiors of cars, further exacerbating the rumors of “snipers” attacking the police and National Guard (Carroll, 1967).

Other riots in the North experienced severe aggression as well, though with substantial evidence that some rioters were instigators in the events. In the Plainfield riots, a series of New Jersey riots that mirrored those of Newark, black youths were reported physically assaulting and murdering a police officer, Gleason, to which the police department then claimed that “…under the circumstances and in the atmosphere that prevailed at that moment, any police officer, black or white, would have been killed…” in the hostile situation (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 44). This, black rioters recognized, would be used as a justification for retaliation against all Black rioters. Rioters (the majority young) then began arming themselves with carbines from a local arms manufacturing company, and firing without clear targets (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 45). This is a drastic change from the nonviolent protests that characterized the South, and furthered the distinction between the Northern Civil Rights and Southern Civil Rights movements. Though the changes between the protesting tactics of the North and South remain markedly different, there remain many differences between Northern protests as well, including the roles that welfare and public programs, intercommunity agency, and governmental transparency play in maintaining peace.

Section 3: How Various Civil Rights Movements in the North Differed from Newark and Each Other

Anti-Poverty and Welfare Programs

Anti-Poverty and welfare programs proved to be invaluable tools for New Jersey’s cities in diffusing racial violence before it escalated to the level of the Newark riots. In New Brunswick, following the events in Newark, a growingly despondent group of Black youths began committing what the Kerner Commission refers to as “random vandalism” and “mischief” (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 46). Despite being relatively harmless, concerns still loomed that an eruption of violence comparable with Newark remained a possibility in New Brunswick. As a result, the city government funded a summer program for the city’s anti-poverty agency (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 46). Enough young people signed up for leadership positions in the summer program that the city cut their stipends in half and hired twice as many young people (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 46). This summer program did not single-handedly deescalate racial tensions between Black youth and White city government, but it did establish a rapport that was utilized to come to a sort of common ground (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 46). The same cannot be said about the events that transpired in Plainfield, around the same time. Like New Brunswick, Plainfield was on the brink of extreme racial violence, and in similar fashion, young people and teenagers were demanding community recreation activities be expanded. The city government, however, refused, and Plainfield went on to sustain violence and destruction at the hands of rioters, second only to the Newark riots (Mumford, 2007, p. 107).

Perhaps it seems overly simplistic to suggest the difference between neighborhood kids and radicalized arsonists is simply having something to do; but what is repeatedly noted by the Kerner Commission in their profile of an average Newark rioter is a lack of preoccupation. They describe the typical rioter as young, male, unmarried, uneducated and often unemployed (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 73). These men often did not attend high school or university, and went into and out of periods of joblessness. What is noteworthy is that the attitude of these men towards education and employment is that of frustration, rather than apathy (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 78). According to the Commission Report, rioters typically desired more consistent and gainful employment or the opportunity to pursue a higher education, but were stymied by race or class barriers (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 78). The Kerner Report established a pattern of explaining systemic barriers to positive social, health, economic, and education outcomes, quickly followed by assertions of black pathology. The report does not conclude that it is absolutely logical to find oppression intolerable and that some type of action should be expected, or an apathy toward political and educational systems would be a rational response to these barriers (Bentley-Edwards et. al., 2018). Regardless, there appears to be a direct correlation between giving urban youths leadership positions within their communities, and a desire to preserve and protect that community. Perhaps if this tactic was employed by the city of Newark, there would have been less desire to loot and proliferate, and more importantly, the possibility that this tactic could be used in contemporary urban centers.

Communal Autonomy and Self-Governance

As mentioned earlier in this paper, a sense of communal agency was paramount in upholding White privilege, and was a consistently desired standard in New Jersey’s cities during the 1960s. In Elizabeth, an impending race riot was preemptively undone by utilizing intercommunity autonomy and self-governance (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 40). Among a hundred volunteer peacekeepers in Elizabeth was Hesham Jaaber, an orthodox Muslim leader who led two dozen of his followers into the streets, armed with a bullhorn to urge peace and order (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 40). Both demonstrators and police dissipated and a full riot failed to materialize in Elizabeth (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 40). This approach can be compared with the Newark riots, in which peace was supposed to be achieved at the hands of nearly 8,000 heavily armed, excessively violent White National Guardsmen who knew nothing about the people they were supposedly deployed to serve. Per the example in New Brunswick, a correlation between the effectiveness of de-escalation measures from law enforcement who live in that community and the ineffectiveness of de-escalation in cities when law enforcement do not reside in that community becomes apparent.

Government Transparency and Community-Government Partnerships

An excellent example of how government transparency can positively affect race relations is the previous example of New Brunswick. Despite the success of the anti-poverty summer program, there still remained a radical sect of incensed young people in the city. When this group of 35 teenagers expressed an interest in speaking directly to the newly instated Mayor Sheehan, the Mayor obliged their request and agreed to meet with them (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 46). After a long discussion in which the teenagers “poured their hearts out,” Sheehan agreed to draw up plans to address the social ills that these young Black Americans were facing. In return, the 35 young people began sending radio broadcasts to other young people, insisting that they “cool it,” and emphasized the Mayor’s willingness to tackle Black issues (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 46). Sheehan also demonstrated her willingness for peaceful negotiation with her constituents when in the days after the Newark riots, a mob materialized on the steps of city hall, demanding that all those jailed during demonstrations in New Brunswick that day be released from holding. Rather than using the police to disperse the group by force, Sheehan met the mob face to face with a bullhorn and informed them that all held arrestees had already been released. Upon hearing this, the mob willingly dispersed and returned home (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 47).

It is perhaps unsurprising that the Newark police did not utilize these tactics, though they had ample opportunities to do so. In the moments directly before the riot, in front of the Fourth Precinct Station House, Mayor Addonizio and Police Director Spina repeatedly ignored attempts by Civil Rights leader Robert Curvin to appease the crowd by performing a visual inspection of John William Smith for injuries (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968, p. 117). It was not until nearly a full day of rioting had occurred before Mayor Addonizio even considered a political solution to the rioters demands, and by that point it was too late to reach an arrangement (Mumford, 2007, p. 129).

The consistent factor among instances of avoided and deescalated violence is a level of mutual respect between city government officials and Black communities. Repeatedly, arson, looting, and destruction of property occurred in areas where rioters felt that their surroundings, their infrastructure, and community did not belong to them. Based on evidence mentioned in this section, it is clear that the more a community is involved in administering the area that they live in, the more they feel inclined to defend and preserve their neighborhood.

Conclusions and Why Teaching This History is Necessary

This paper analyzed key distinctions between inciting events of the Civil Rights movement riots in the North and South, including the differing ideologies on nonviolent verses violent protesting, the phenomenon of “White flight” and subsequent redlining, the housing crisis and poverty caused by rapid urbanization and lack of public welfare programs. This paper explains how intercommunity autonomy and government transparency, along with anti-poverty measures were underutilized tools in curbing civil unrest amongst Black communities, leading to increased tensions, anger, and distrust between Black Americans and White communities and government. It also compares the violence prevalent in Northern Civil Rights movement protests, stemming from disregard and denial of the blatant systemic racism rampant in the states, to the nonviolent protesting measures characteristic of the South and the Civil Rights movement as a whole. Throughout the recapitulation of the Civil Rights movement, specifically that in New Jersey using the Newark Riots of 1967, a side of state history that is often overlooked becomes clearer. Through this clarification, one can see the effects this history still has on New Jersey, and, in a larger sense, the United States today. As students continue to see protests regarding the injustice, inequality, and brutality facing Black communities in New Jersey and across the country, the importance of understanding the decisions throughout history that sparked these events becomes all the more important. Without understanding “White flight”, students cannot fully understand why center cities have a vast majority Black population, while suburbs remain significantly White. Without understanding redlining in key cities such as Newark, students cannot understand why New Jersey schools severely lack diversity, still remaining severely separated, or why tax money from central cities are being redirected to schools bordering suburbs.

Without understanding the deep history of police brutality toward Black Americans, students cannot fully understand or analyze the tragedies of today, such as the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah Jovan McClain, and countless others. Racism and discrimination is deeply rooted not only in the South, not only in the North, but in New Jersey and the entirety of America, and the effects of such racism and discrimination are still seen daily. It is impossible to separate the history of New Jersey from its racist roots, making understanding these roots integral to understanding New Jersey. Now more than ever, teachers are forced to critically think about what role the history of racism in America has in their classroom – yet the conversation must exist with students for as long as the effects of this racist past are still seen in classrooms across the United States, including their home state. By centering the education of racism on New Jersey, students make a deeper connection to the history, and recognize that racism and segregation, as often taught in history classes, did not solely exist in the South, but down the street from them, in their capital, and across the “civilized” North. Teachers can use Newark as a way to initiate the conversation of racism in New Jersey, educating students on how racist institutions and injustices evolved into rioting, how the cycle is still seen today, and how many of the reasons people in 1967 rioted are still reasons that they saw people riot in 2020. When teaching about the Civil Rights movement, teachers can include the North in their instruction, emphasizing how racism looked different in the North compared to the South, yet still perpetuated inequality. It is not a happy history, nor one that citizens should be proud of- and it is far from being rectified. Yet, it is the duty of citizens and students of New Jersey to research these topics that are often overlooked and hidden, to analyze how racism and discrimination still impacts Black New Jersians, before analyzing the post-war Civil Rights movement and the activism and movements such as Black Lives Matter in New Jersey today. By failing to educate students on the effects of racism in the North, students are left uneducated on how to identify legal and institutionalized racism, and vulnerable to misinformation. Until the measures of deeply ingrained racism and discrimination are fully dissolved and racial injustice is consistently upended, beginning with proper education, protesting and civil unrest will remain a constant in the American experience, as will the consistent need to educate students on these injustices.

References

Primary Sources:

“50 Years Later, Newark Riots Recall an Era Echoed by Black Lives Matter.” (2017). NBCNews.com. NBCUniversal News Group. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/50-years-later-newark-riots-recall-era-echoed-black-lives-n780856.

Bates, K. G. (2018). “Report Updates Landmark 1968 Racism Study, Finds More Poverty and Segregation.” NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2018/02/27/589351779/report-updates-landmark-1968-racism-studyfinds-more-poverty-more-segregation.

Bigart, H. (1968) “Newark Riot Panel Calls Police Action ‘Excessive’; Newark Riot Panel Charges Police Action against Negroes Was ‘Excessive’.” The New York Times. Retrieved from https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1968/02/11/91220255.html?page Number=1.

Carroll, M. (1967). “Newark’s Mayor Calls in Guard as Riots Spread.” New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1967/07/14/83616047.html?page Number=1.

CBS New York. (2020). “Newark Public Officials Reflect on 1967 Riots amidst New Protests: ‘The City Has Now Begun to Rise from the Ashes’.” CBS New York. CBS New York. Retrieved from https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2020/06/01/newark-riots-1967-protests/.

Haberman, C. (2020). “The 1968 Kerner Commission Report Still Echoes Across America.” The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/us/kerner-commission-report.html.

Hampson, R. (2017). “Newark Riots, 50 Years Later.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/07/12/50-years-after-newark-trump-urban-america-inner-city-detroit/103525154/.

Handler, M. S. (1967). (“Newark Rioting Assailed by Meeting of N.A.A.C.P.; N.A.A.C.P. Hits Newark Riots.” The New York Times. Retrieved from https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1967/07/16/83617963.html?page Number=1.

“How the 1960s’ Riots Hurt African-Americans.” (2004). National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from https://www.nber.org/digest/sep04/how-1960s-riots-hurt-african-americans.

“Outcomes and Impacts – the North.” (2021). RiseUp North Newark. Retrieved from https://riseupnewark.com/chapters/chapter-3/part-2/outcomes-and-impacts/.

Reeves, R. (1967). “Riots in Newark Are the Worst in Nation since 34 Died in Watts.” The New York Times. Retrieved from https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1967/07/15/83617474.html?page Number=11.

Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. (1968). Bantam Books. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat03997a&AN=RUL.b115507 2&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Robinson, D. (1967) “Jersey Will Seek U.S. Funds to Rebuild Newark; Riot Victims Would Get Food, Medicine, Business Loans and Money for Rent.” The New York Times. Retrieved from  https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1967/07/18/90375693.html?page Number=22.

Rojas, R., & Atkinson, K. (2017). “Five Days of Unrest That Shaped, and Haunted, Newark.” The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/nyregion/newark-riots-50-years.html.

Special, H. B. (1967). “Newark Riot Deaths at 21 as Negro Sniping Widens.” The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1967/07/16/archives/newark-riot-deaths-at-21-as-negro-s niping-widens-hughes-may-seek-us.html?searchResultPosition=26.

Sullivan, R. (1968). “Negro Is Killed in Trenton.” New York Times. Retrieved from https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1968/04/10/89130687.pdf?pdf_redirect =true&ip=0.

Treadwell, D. (1992). “After the Riots: The Search for Answers : For Blighted Newark, Effects of Rioting in 1967 Still Remain : Redevelopment: The Once-Bustling Commercial Thoroughfare at the Center of That City’s Unrest Is Still an Urban Wasteland 25 Years Later.” Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from  https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1992-05-07-mn-2525-story.html.

Waggoner, W. H. (1967). “Courtrooms Calm as Trials Start for 27 Indicted in Newark Riots.” The New York Times. Retrieved from https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1967/09/26/83634623.html?page Number=41.

Wills, M. (2020). “The Kerner Commission Report on White Racism, 50 Years on …” JSTOR Daily. Retrieved from https://daily-jstor-org.ezproxy.usach.cl/the-kerner-commission-report-on-white-racism-50 -years-on/.

Wilson, B. L. (2018). “The Kerner Commission Report 50 Years Later.” GW Today. Retrieved from https://gwtoday.gwu.edu/kerner-commission-report-50-years-later.

Secondary Sources:

Anderson, C. (2017). White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (1st ed.). Bloomsbury, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Bentley-Edwards, K. L., Edwards, M. C., Spence, C.N., Darity Jr., W. A., Hamilton, D., & Perez, D. (2018). “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? The Missing Kerner Commission Report.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the SocialSciences 4, no. 6: 20–40. https://doi.org/10.7758/rsf.2018.4.6.02.

Bergesen, A. (1982). “Race Riots of 1967: An Analysis of Police Violence in Detroit and Newark.” Journal of Black Studies 12, no. 3 (March 1, 1982): 261–74. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.rider.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN= edsjsr.2784247&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Lieberson, S., and Wilkinson, C. A. (1976). “A Comparison between Northern and Southern Blacks Residing in the North.” Demography 13, no. 2: 199–224. https://doi.org/10.2307/2060801.

Mumford, K. J. (2007). Newark : A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America. American History and Culture. New York University Press. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat03997a&AN=RUL.b140884 3&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Sugrue, T. J. (2012). “Northern Lights: The Black Freedom Struggle Outside the South.” OAH Magazine of History 26, no. 1: 9–15. doi:10.1093/oahmag/oar052

Sugrue, T. J. (2008). Sweet Land of Liberty : The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North. 1st ed. Random House. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat03997a&AN=RUL.b140557

6&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Theoharis, J., & Woodard, K. (2003). Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South, 1940-1980. 1st ed. Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat03997a&AN=RUL.b1327086&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Debate over the 15th Amendment Divides Abolitionists

Debate over the 15th Amendment Divides Abolitionists

Alan Singer

The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution declares “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The wording of the Amendment drove a wedge between different factions in the anti-slavery movement. A number of prominent women in the movement argued for a universal right to vote. Some advocates for the amendment as written believed the moment was ripe to end voting discrimination against Black men, but that adding women’s suffrage to the Amendment would mean its defeat. Some of the opposition to granting Black men the right to vote but not white women was overtly racist.

Questions

  1. Why did the 15th Amendment divide allies in the abolitionist movement?
  2. Why did women in the movement demand universal suffrage?
  3. What was the argument for limiting the 15th Amendment to voting rights for Black men?
  4. How did this debate expose racism amongst those who opposed slavery?
  5. If you were an elected representative in the 1860s, what would have been your position on the 15th Amendment? Why?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1865): “By an amendment of the Constitution, ratified by three-fourths of the loyal States, the black man is declared free. The largest and most influential political party is demanding suffrage for him throughout the Union, which right in many of the States is already conceded. Although this may remain a question for politicians to wrangle over for five or ten years, the black man is still, in a political point of view, far above the educated women of the country. The representative women of the nation have done their uttermost for the last thirty years to secure freedom for the negro, and so long as he was lowest in the scale of being we were willing to press his claims; but now, as the celestial gate to civil rights is slowly moving on its hinges, it becomes a serious question whether we had better stand aside and see “Sambo” walk into the kingdom first. As self-preservation is the first law of nature, would it not be wiser to keep our lamps trimmed and burning, and when the constitutional door is open, avail ourselves of the strong arm and blue uniform of the black soldier to walk in by his side, and thus make the gap so wide that no privileged class could ever again close it against the humblest citizen of the republic?”

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1866): “You white women speak here of rights. I speak of wrongs. I, as a colored woman, have had in this country an education which has made me feel as if I were in the situation of Ishmael, my hand against every man, and every man’s hand against me . . . We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul. You tried that in the case of the Negro. You pressed him down for two centuries; and in so doing you crippled the moral strength and paralyzed the spiritual energies of the white men of the country. When the hands of the black were fettered, white men were deprived of the liberty of speech and the freedom of the press. Society cannot afford to neglect the enlightenment of any class of its members. At the South, the legislation of the country was in behalf of the rich slaveholders, while the poor white man was neglected . . . Talk of giving women the ballot-box? Go on. It is a normal school, and the white women of this country need it. While there exists this brutal element in society which tramples upon the feeble and treads down the weak, I tell you that if there is any class of people who need to be lifted out of their airy nothings and selfishness, it is the white women of America.”

Petition to the Senate and House of Representatives for Universal Suffrage (1866): “The undersigned, Women of the United States, respectfully ask an amendment of the Constitution that shall prohibit the several States from disfranchising any of their citizens on the ground of sex. In making our demand for Suffrage, we would call your attention to the fact that we represent fifteen million people—one half of the entire population of the country—intelligent, virtuous, native-born American citizens; and yet stand outside the pale of political recognition. The Constitution classes us as ‘free people,’ and counts us whole persons in the basis of representation; and yet are we governed without our consent, compelled to pay taxes without appeal, and punished for violations of law without choice of judge or juror. The experience of all ages, the Declarations of the Fathers, the Statute Laws of our own day, and the fearful revolution through which we have just passed, all prove the uncertain tenure of life, liberty and property so long as the ballot—the only weapon of self-protection—is not in the hand of every citizen. Therefore, as you are now amending the Constitution, and, in harmony with advancing civilization, placing new safeguards round the individual rights of four millions of emancipated slaves, we ask that you extend the right of Suffrage to Woman—the only remaining class of disfranchised citizens—and thus fulfill your Constitutional obligation ‘to Guarantee to every State in the Union a Republican form of Government.’ As all partial application of Republican principles must ever breed a complicated legislation as well as a discontented people, we would pray your Honorable Body, in order to simplify the machinery of government and ensure domestic tranquility, that you legislate hereafter for persons, citizens, tax-payers, and not for class or caste. For justice and equality your petitioners will ever pray.”

Thaddeus Stevens (1867): “There are several good reasons for the passage of this bill. In the first place, it is just. I am now confining my arguments to Negro suffrage in the rebel States. Have not loyal blacks quite as good a right to choose rulers and make laws as rebel whites? In the second place, it is a necessity in order to protect the loyal white men in the seceded States. The white Union men are in a great minority in each of those States. With them the blacks would act in a body; and it is believed that in each of said States, except one, the two united would form a majority, control the States, and protect themselves. Now they are the victims of daily murder. They must suffer constant persecution or be exiled.”

Sojourner Truth (1867): “There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored woman; and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women get theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1869): “If American women find it hard to bear the oppressions of their own Saxon fathers, the best orders of manhood, what may they not be called to endure when all the lower orders of foreigners now crowding our shores legislate for them and their daughters. Think of Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung, who do not know the difference between a monarchy and a republic, who cannot read the Declaration of Independence or Webster’s spelling-book, making laws for Lucretia Mott, Ernestine L. Rose, and Anna E. Dickinson.”

Frederick Douglass (1869): “I do not see how anyone can pretend that there is the same urgency in giving the ballot to woman as to the negro. With us, the question is a matter of life and death, at least, in fifteen States of the Union [in reference to the former slave states]. When women, because they are women, are hunted down through the cities of New York and New Orleans . . . when they are in danger of having their homes burnt down over their heads; when their children are not allowed to enter schools; then they will have an urgency to obtain the ballot equal to our own.”

Susan B. Anthony (1869): “If you will not give the whole loaf of suffrage to the entire people, give it to the most intelligent first. If intelligence, justice, and morality are to have precedence in the government, let the question of women brought up first and that of the negro last . . . Mr. Douglass talks about the wrongs of the negro; but with all the outrages that he today suffers, he would not exchange his sex and take the place of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”

Local History: Jacob Wynkoop and Black New Paltz

Local History: Jacob Wynkoop and Black New Paltz

Reprinted with permission from https://www.huguenotstreet.org/exhibits

Jacob Wynkoop (1829-1912) was born in New Paltz two years after slavery was legally abolished in New York State. Jacob had an exceptional and varied life for any man of his time, black or white. Among the first African Americans to buy land in the community, he also served in the Union Army during the Civil War, organized politically on behalf of black citizens in town, and built a series of homes that today still define a neighborhood in the village of New Paltz. Unlike countless other Africans and African Americans from the dawn of European colonization through the 19th century and beyond, Jacob’s story is fairly well documented in the historical record. This exhibit, curated by Josephine Bloodgood, Director of Curatorial and Preservation Affairs, was originally installed in the DuBois Fort Visitor Center in 2019, but has been expanded online.

Huguenot Street is proud to offer a new walking tour app titled “Jacob Wynkoop: Building a Free Black Neighborhood,” narrated by Chaundre Hall-Broomfield, a Newburgh native and performer known for his dual roles as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison in the national tour of “Hamilton” with the Angelica company. This new addition to the app (available now at the App Store and Google Play) takes visitors on a guided tour of the Broadhead-Church-Mulberry neighborhood of New Paltz, highlighting the houses built by 19th-century Black carpenter and Civil War veteran Jacob Wynkoop (https://www.huguenotstreet.org/app).

The Historic Huguenot Street Walking Tour app provides succinct narratives for each of the historic buildings on the street with information about the architecture, past residents, and multicultural history of New Paltz. While using the app, you can view archival photos, images of the buildings’ interiors, and the collections pieces within. The tour features the Crispell Memorial French Church, the replica Esopus Munsee wigwam, and all seven historic house museums. Development of the app was made possible in part through support from the County of Ulster’s Ulster County Cultural Services & Promotion Fund administrated by Arts Mid-Hudson. Narration by Grace Angela Henry.

Local History – Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson

Source: http://friendsofhinchliffestadium.net/FriendsII/HInchliffe_Overview.html

Hinchcliffe Stadium – Paterson, NJ

Hinchliffe Stadium near the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey, was placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2004. It has a permanent niche in the nation’s sports and social history as one of a handful of surviving stadiums that were home to professional black sports during the “Jim Crow” era. At a time when baseball was an indisputable game of greats, Hinchliffe featured some of the greatest ballplayers in America, players who ironically had no access to the major leagues

Hinchliffe was built by public funds at the start of the Great Depression. It was meant as a sports haven for a generation of working-class kids struggling through hard times in a city dependent on industry. But financial reality demanded it also be a “paying investment,” and the City made it one. Its 10,000-seat capacity (more with temporary bleacher seating) proved an instant draw not just for baseball but for a wide range of sports: football, boxing, auto-racing, and major track and field meets, plus star-studded musical and entertainment events. The stadium’s heyday lasted well into the 1950s.

Local History – Underground Railroad in New York

Source: https://parks.ny.gov/historic-preservation/heritage-trails/underground-railroad/default.aspx

Journey to the North Exhibit

The Journey to the North is a six-panel traveling exhibit about the Underground Railroad. The exhibit uses the story of one fictitious character to convey real events experienced by freedom seekers during their journey to freedom. Much of the narrative is told from the point of view of Sarah, a fifteen-year-old fictional escaped slave. As students read the text they are encouraged to imagine themselves in her situation and faced with her decisions. Each of the 6 panels are 84”h x 40”w. with an approximate overall Footprint of 18’ in length.

The exhibition was developed for the New York State Historical Association by the Cooperstown Graduate Program in History Museum Studies.  Generous support for the exhibition came from the NY Council for the Humanities and Heritage New York. 

New York State was at the forefront of the Underground Railroad movement. It was a major destination for freedom-seekers for four main reasons:

  • Destination & Gateway: New York was a gateway to liberation for freedom-seekers (often referred to as escaped slaves). Its prime location, with access to Canada and major water routes, made it the destination of choice for many Africans fleeing slavery along the eastern seaboard.
  • Safe Haven: Freedom-seekers knew they would be protected in New York’s many black communities as well as Quaker and other progressive white and mixed race communities. A large and vocal free black population was present after the manumission (freeing) of slaves in New York State in 1827.
  • Powerful Anti-Slavery Movement: Anti-slavery organizations were abundant in New York State – more than any other state. The reform politics and the progressive nature of the state gave rise to many active anti-slavery organizations.
  • Strong Underground Railroad Leaders: Many nationally-known and locally influential black and white abolitionists chose to make their homes in New York. Among them were: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, Henry Ward Beecher, Sojourner Truth and John Brown.

The “Journey to the North: New York’s Freedom Trail” exhibit is available for loan to not-for-profit educational institutions. Those interested must meet the loan requirements. For exhibit details and a loan application please contact Cordell Reaves at Cordell.Reaves@oprhp.state.ny.us.

Documenting New Jersey’s Overlooked Black History

Documenting New Jersey’s Overlooked Black History

Jennifer Schuessler

Reprinted with permission from The New York Times, December 23, 2020 (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/22/arts/black-cemetery-new-jersey-history.html)

Photograph from the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum

History can seem thick on the ground in Hopewell, a quaint, prosperous town of 2,000 in semirural central New Jersey, not far from where Washington crossed the Delaware. A cemetery on the main street holds a grand obelisk honoring John Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Next to it stands a monument topped by a stone on which another patriot stood to give a fiery speech supporting the cause of liberty. But one afternoon in late summer, a group from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia drove right past those landmarks, and followed a winding road up to a burial ground with a different story to tell.

Stoutsburg Cemetery, tucked in a clearing about halfway up Sourland Mountain, is one of the state’s oldest African-American burial grounds. It may also be one of its best chronicled, thanks to Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills, two self-described ordinary small-town, middle-aged women turned “history detectives” who have spent more than a dozen years combing through wills, property deeds, tax records and other documents to recover the area’s overlooked Black history. Plenty of people research their genealogy, or undertake local history projects. But few create their own museum, as Ms. Buck and Ms. Mills did when they founded the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum, which opened in 2018 in a one-room 19th-century African Methodist church not far from the cemetery. The museum may seem to tell just one hyperlocal story, but it’s part of a broader effort to paint a fuller, more accurate picture of early America. And notably, at Sourland, the story is being told by descendants themselves.

In the 19th century, Sourland Mountain — named, some say, for the poor quality of its soil — had a reputation as a remote, hardscrabble, even dangerous place. And its Black settlements did not go unnoted by white chroniclers, who sometimes peddled exaggerated stories. In 1883, a white doctor and local historian published an oral biography of Sylvia Dubois, a formerly enslaved woman who ran a rough-and-tumble tavern on the mountain (and who was said to have lived to the age of 115). A few years earlier, in 1880, a correspondent from The New York Times had come through. He was there to cover a sensational murder trial, but ended up filing a long dispatch under the blaring headline “A REMARKABLE COLONY OF BARBARIANS IN THE MIDST OF CIVILIZATION.” The article traced the settlement’s origins to William Stives, a “mulatto” Revolutionary War veteran who had married a Native American woman and built a cabin in the “bleak and uninhabited” hills. But it mostly expressed horror at the inhabitants’ “lawless character” and their reputation for rampant “miscegenation,” as evidenced by the appearance of many couples he saw. “That one really got to me,” Ms. Buck, whose husband’s aunt is a descendant of Stives, said of the article. “They’re calling my in-laws barbarians?”

Ms. Buck and Ms. Mills never located Stives’s grave, as they had hoped. But they did find records of his military pension application and his discharge papers — signed, they were stunned to see, by George Washington. They also uncovered the story of another pioneer, Friday Truehart, Mills’s fourth-great-grandfather, who arrived from Charleston, S.C., in 1780 at age 13 with his enslaver, a minister named Oliver Hart. A 19th-century newspaper article said Truehart had been born in Africa, and named for Friday in “Robinson Crusoe” by a ship’s captain. But then Ms. Mills found Hart’s transcribed diary, which included an entry noting the purchase of 4-year-old Friday and his mother, Dinah, along with the child’s precise birth date — Friday, May 29, 1767. Ms. Mills calls learning how Truehart (who was freed in 1802) arrived in Hopewell “one of the most exciting discoveries of my life.”

Through their research, the two women have connected with white people whose history is intertwined with the cemetery. Among them is Ted Blew, the fifth-great-grandson of the man who enslaved Tom Blew, whose son Moses is buried at Stoutsburg. Mr. Blew met Ms. Buck and Ms. Mills in 2018, when they spoke at a Blew family reunion. He had known from wills that his ancestors owned slaves. But until he visited Stoutsburg, he said, that fact was just “words on a page.” “The cemetery has really opened our eyes to this part of our family history,” he said.

When the Museum of the American Revolution sent Ms. Buck and Ms. Mills the 1801 poll list with Hagerman’s name, the two women immediately spotted Tom Blew’s name, along with that of another Black man from the community. And the researchers are still puzzling over how to read a third name. Is it “Isaac Blew”? Or “Jude Blew” — as Tom’s wife, Judith, who is also buried at Stoutsburg, was referred to in other documents? If so, it would be an anomaly. Under the law at the time, only widows and unmarried women could vote. And in 1801 Tom Blew was still alive.

African American Cemeteries on Long Island

African American Cemeteries on Long Island

Debra Willett

Although there are references to free blacks on Long Island as early as 1657 most of the African Americans on Long Island were enslaved until after the Revolution. However, slavery on Long Island was both less widespread and shorter-lived than that of the South. Day workers, journeymen, or family help were more typical. New York State had enacted legislation to abolish slavery in 1799. The new constitution of the State of New York was enacted in 1821. Under its terms, black males who owned $250 in taxable property were eligible to vote. However, emancipation was neither immediate nor universal. Instead, the terms of the statute called for male slaves to be freed when they attained the age of 28; females, when they reached 25. This resulted in a gradual emancipation that was not complete until 1827, when the last child born into slavery had reached the age of freedom.

After the emancipation, many of the newly freed Blacks established communities of their own around the Island. Some of the early free black communities included the communities of Success and Spinney Hill in the Lake Success/Manhasset area. Freemen also settled in Sag Harbor, New Cassel, Roslyn Heights, Amityville, Glen Cove, Setauket, and Bridgehampton. In the twentieth century, black suburbs were established from east to west along the Island. Many of these, like Gordon Heights and North Amityville, were built especially for a black population. Others evolved into predominantly black communities after World War II, when working-class whites abandoned older areas and settled in the newly constructed, but racially restricted GI Bill communities. At the same time the older communities they were vacating experienced an influx of the emerging African-American homeowner class. By the 1960s, communities such as Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt, and Wyandanch had become home to a growing black middle class.

Centuries of spiritual tradition, dating back to their time in Africa, had supported the black community in slavery and in freedom. After the African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in Philadelphia at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the AME church became a strong center for the freemen of Long Island. By the time of the Civil War there were over thirty African-American churches on Long Island, of which twenty-seven were of the AME denomination. In addition, there are several black churches within the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Congregational denominations. Many of these early churches remain strong centers of social and religious life in the African-American communities of Long Island.

Until the 1950s, about 90 percent of all public cemeteries in the U.S. employed a variety of racial restrictions. Until recently, to enter a cemetery was to experience, as a University of Pennsylvania geography professor put it, the “spatial segregation of the American dead.” Even when a religious cemetery was not entirely race restricted, different races were buried in separate parts of the cemetery, with whites usually getting the more attractive plots.

In most cases Long Island followed the de facto cemetery racial segregation that most of America followed until the 1900s. Most African American cemeteries were adjacent to a church that owned and maintained them. Unfortunately, when the communities disappeared so did the cemeteries. The thriving community of Freetown in East Hampton that had its foundation in 1800’s made up of free African Americans and former slaves encompassed a cemetery. This cemetery appears in a 1916 Suffolk County atlas, but by 1930the community and its cemetery had disappeared due to a form of “suburban renewal”. In the few instances of a racially mixed cemetery the African Americans were buried in their own section without markings or a marker that denotes their importance to a specific family. In the McCoun Cemetery on Sandy Hill Rd and Agnes St, Oyster Bay there is a marker that states “Sophia Moore born a Slave.” Most African Americans historically were buried with a marker or a very simple one unless they were part of the military.

Prominent African Americans Buried in Long Island Cemeteries

Flushing Cemetery, Queens County, New York: This cemetery opened in 1853. At the time Queens was mainly rural with a population of less than 20,000 people. The original site was 20 acres, and in 1875 an additional 50 acres was added from an adjacent farm. Flushing Cemetery added a Quaker section in 1860 and was always one of the few non-segregated cemeteries. Several prominent African Americans are buried there. They include musicians Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Hodges and Hazel Scott. World War I pioneer aviator Eugene Bullard and the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Sr. are also interred there.

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (1901-1971):

Louis Armstrong

Armstrong, a trumpeter and singer, was one of the most popular and influential musicians in America in the 20th century.

He was born in New Orleans and had only a 5th grade education. While working for a local family, Armstrong purchased his first cornet. After an arrest, he was placed in a home for boys where he learned how to play and eventually became the leader of the Waif’s Home Brass Band. Armstrong was released in 1914 and found work as an entertainer on Mississippi riverboats with Joseph “King” Oliver.

After World War I, Armstrong migrated to Chicago with Oliver’s band where he eventually formed his own band, Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven. In the 1950s and 1960s, Armstrong was an active supporter of the Civil Rights movement. He was an early “cross-over” star appearing on live television. Louis Armstrong’s house in Corona, Queens is now a public museum and Queens College houses a research collection bearing his name.

Johnny Hodges (1906-1970): Cornelius “Johnny” Hodges was a jazz alto sax player and a soloist in the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Hodges was considered to be second only to the legendary Charlie Parker as a jazz great.

Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. (1865-1953): Powell was an American minister and father to the late Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. He was born in Virginia to formerly enslaved parents. He entered the ministry in 1892 and in 1908 became pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York. He often preached against discrimination and was a member of the NAACP and National Urban League.

John “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917-1993): Gillespie was American trumpet player, bandleader, and singer. He helped make the “bebop” genre of jazz popular. Gillespie influenced many other musicians including Miles Davis and Chuck Mangione. His grave is unmarked.

Eugene Bullard (1894-1961): 

Eugene Bullard

Bullard was an American who flew for French forces as a member of the Lafayette Flying Corps during World War I. He was wounded 3 times and earned a Croix de Guerre. Bullard was known for flying with a pet rhesus monkey named Jimmy. After the war, Bullard remained in Europe and fought during World War II in the French Army. Bullard escaped from occupied France and returned to the U.S. where he settled in Harlem and worked briefly as an interpreter for Louis Armstrong. In 1954 President Charles de Gaulle invited him to Paris to re-light the flame of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe. The French government honored Bullard again 1959 by making him a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur. When he died Bullard was buried in the uniform of a French Foreign Legionnaire. President Bill Clinton posthumously promoted Bullard to U.S.A.F. 2nd lieutenant.

Hazel Scott: (1920-1989): 

Hazel Scott

Scott was a world-renown pianist and singer known as the “Darling of Café Society” for her interpretations of classical masterpieces. She was born in Trinidad and raised in Harlem where she met jazz greats Fats Waller and Lester Young. While still in high school she hosted her own radio show, broke sales records with her recordings, and soloed at Carnegie Hall. Scott was very vocal about racial discrimination. She refused to play for segregated audiences, would not act in any movie that depicted her in a role she considered demeaning, and demanded the same pay as white actresses. Scott was the first African American performer to have her own national television show, but was blacklisted after she was named as a Communist sympathizer by the House Un-American Activities Committee. She left the U.S. for Europe and did not return and resume her career here until 1967.

Long Island National Cemetery: This cemetery is located in Farmingdale, N.Y. It was established in 1936 because the Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn was almost filled to capacity.

 Sgt. Leander Willett (1895-1956): Willet was born in Oyster Bay, NY and was a member of the World War 1 all-African American 369th Infantry unit known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.” The unit spent 191 days on the front lines in France, more than any other regiment. 169 men won individual war crosses and two soldiers were the first Americans to received the French Croix de Guerre. Sgt. Willett was wounded in the Argonne Forest offensive when he was bayoneted and gassed.

William Thompson (1927-1950): Thompson served in the Korean Conflict and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. On August 6, 1950, Thompson’s unit was hit with a surprise attack at night. He set-up his machine gun in the path of the enemy combatants and pinned them down to allow his platoon to withdraw and re-group in a more favorable position. Although hit with grenade and bullet fragments, Thompson remained at his post until he was killed by a grenade.

John Coltrane (1926-1967):  Coltrane was born in North Carolina and served in the U.S. Navy where he was stationed in the Manana Barracks in Pearl Harbor where he unofficially played with Navy band. Because the band was all-white Coltrane could not be listed as a member and was referred to as a guest performer. During his career, Coltrane played with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Hodges, McCoy Tyner, and Charlie Parker. His former home in Philadelphia was designated a National Historic Landmark and his last home in Dix Hills N.Y. is on the National Register of Historic Places. Posthumously Coltrane was awarded a lifetime Grammy Achievement Award, and the U.S. Post office issued a commemorative stamp. His wife, Alice Coltrane (1937-2007), also was a musician and composer.

Henry Dumas (1934-1968): Dumas was a writer and poet. Her was born in Arkansas but grew up in Harlem and attended both C.U.N.Y and Rutgers University. After serving in the Air Force, he took a position at Southern Illinois University. Dumas was shoot and killed by a New York City Transit Policeman in the 125th St. and Lenox Ave. subway station. His death was ruled a case of mistaken identity. 

Capt. Lewis Cunningham Broadus (1877-1961): Broadus started his military life as a Buffalo Soldier at Fort Custer, Montana. With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Capt. Broadus saw action in Cuba at the Battle of El Caney. Broadus requested a promotion based in his service, but was denied because African-Americans were not permitted to be commissioned officers. Broadus saw action in the Philippines and was awarded a Certificate of Merit by President Theodore Roosevelt for bravery. During WWI, Broadus was stationed in Hawaii along with several thousand African-American recruits, and his request for promotion was honored. He completed officer’s training at the Reserves Office Training Camp at Fort Des Moines Iowa.

Holy Rood Cemetery Holy Rood Cemetery: This cemetery is located in Westbury, New York and is part of the Rockville Centre Diocese. People buried at Holy Rood include Commissioner William J Willett (1931-2003) of Glen Cove N.Y. native. Willett served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean Conflict. After the war, Willett joined the Nassau County police force and was one of the first African-American “beat” cops in Nassau County. In 2000 Willett was named Police Commissioner of Nassau County, one of the largest police departments in the United States.

Calverton National Cemetery: Calverton is located in eastern Long Island between the towns of Manorville and Riverhead in Suffolk County. Calverton National Cemetery features a memorial pathway lined with a variety of memorials that honor America’s veterans. As of 2009, there are 23 memorials here, most commemorating soldiers of 20th century wars. African American service men buried at Calverton include Isaac Woodard (1919-1992). Sergeant Woodard served in the Pacific Theater of World War II and was honorably discharged in 1946. In uniform, he boarded a bus for home and, enroute, was brutally attacked and blinded. Woodard was one of many black servicemen who experienced discrimination and violence, but his case sparked a national outcry. The NAACP sought justice, musicians immortalized the travesty, and Orson Welles unmasked Woodard’s attacker – police chief Lynwood Shull – on his radio show. No charges were filed until President Harry Truman ordered an investigation, but an all-white jury acquitted Shull in less than a half hour. In response, Truman established a Civil Rights Commission and desegregated the military.

African American History: A Past Rooted in the Hudson Valley

African American History: A Past Rooted in the Hudson Valley

David Levine

Reprinted with permission from https://hvmag.com/life-style/history/african-american-past-hudsonvalley/  

The origin story of what was to become the United States of America typically features two main characters: the native peoples who had lived on these lands for centuries, and the Europeans who took those lands from them. But there was a third cast member in this drama, one whose role is at best downplayed and at worst ignored: Africans and their descendants. In 1613, just four years after Henry Hudson’s crew sailed up the river that would bear his name, and seven years before the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, a mixed-race man named Juan Rodrigues (or some spelling variant near that) left Hispaniola for the New World, set up shop in and around Manhattan Island, traded with the natives for a time, squabbled with the Dutch—who called him a “black rascal”—and then disappeared from the public record as the first African to set foot in the Hudson Valley.

In 1626, just 10 years after the establishment of New Amsterdam, the Dutch West India Company shipped 11 African male slaves—whom they labeled “proud and treacherous”—into the colony, with women brought in two years later. Some slaves were moved to Fort Orange, the outpost that became Albany. As land patents divvied up the Valley, every patent holder whose name still graces the region stocked his farm with slaves. In 1664, when the Dutch handed the keys to the new kingdom to the British, about 800 Africans and their children inhabited the Valley, only about 75 of them considered free.

The British increased slave importation, and by the early 1700s New York State had more slaves than anywhere else in the colonies, more than the deep South, more than Boston, more than the Virginia plantations. “The two biggest slave markets in the country before the American Revolution were in New York City and Albany,” Dr. A.J. Williams-Myers, a retired professor of Black Studies at SUNY New Paltz, says. By 1790, the first federal census counted more than 19,000 enslaved New Yorkers; Georgia had 12,000. “New York was not a society with slaves, it was a slave society, dependent on enslaved Africans,” he says.

As New Yorkers, we like to think of ourselves as different from the south in regards to slavery. We were different only in that, numerically speaking at least, we were worse. Any history of African descendants in the Hudson Valley must first come to grips with this fact. From the earliest moments of European contact, African Americans have been part of the Valley’s dramatis personae. “Africans have been portrayed as in the shadow of history, when actually they were center stage,” Williams-Meyers says. “Where European people went, Africans went with them, shoulder to shoulder with their enslavers.” 

The oppressed as oppressors

As the Hudson Valley economy transitioned during the 17th century from the fur trade to farming, Africans helped make the region the most prosperous in the New World. Hudson Valley farms helped feed Great Britain, its newest colonies and its holdings in the Caribbean, and Africans did much of the work. A 1733 century painting called the “Van Bergen Overmantel,” by artist John Heaten, depicts the Marten Van Bergen farm near the Greene County town of Leeds. Historic Hudson Valley writes that “no other single artifact offers more information about life in colonial New York. Here African, Native American, and European people populate the landscape.” Dr. Myra Young Armstead, Lyford Paterson Edwards and Helen Gray Edwards Professor of Historical Studies at Bard College, calls this painting, “a good picture of what was going on and why the Hudson Valley was a big area of slavery.”

Even those who came here because of oppression became oppressors. The French Huguenot founders of New Paltz purchased their first of many slaves in Kingston in 1674, a hypocrisy not lost on a Huguenot descendant. “My ancestors fled France for religious and political freedom. Before leaving France they saw their own families tortured, enslaved, and killed. Yet these emigrants came to the New World and, for their own personal gain, forced other human beings to labor against their will,” Mary Etta Schneider, board chair of Historic Huguenot Street, said this summer. “For this I am ashamed.” 

Schneider was speaking in advance of a September 2016 event, in which HHS welcomed Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project. McGill travels the country spending the night in historic slave dwellings to bring awareness to their existence, history, and need for preservation. More of these are in the north than most people know. “The history I learned in school was junk,” McGill says. “Slave dwellings are part of the history of this nation. They are hidden in plain sight.” Huguenot slaves were likely locked in at night so they couldn’t escape, Schneider said, and those who slept there along with McGill got “a sense of what it must have felt like to just reinforce that ownership, that lack of ability to have any control over your life.” Addressing another myth, that northern slave owners were “better” than southern ones, McGill says bluntly, “There were no great slave owners. When you assign a degree of severity, you start with bad.”

Long before Nat Turner, slaves in New York were rebelling against their owners. In 1712, 23 slaves killed nine whites in New York City, and rumors both real and unproved of slaves plotting revolts from the City to Albany kept tensions high throughout the 18th century. In 1794, three slaves—including two girls of 12 and 14—were hanged for setting a fire that burned much of downtown Albany; two were hanged from “the Hanging Elm Tree,” at the northwest corner of State and Pearl Streets (planted in front of the house of young Philip Livingston), the third on Pinkster Hill, site of the current Capitol. “Slaves and owners were on constant war footing,” William-Myers says. “The Hanging Tree in Albany shows you the use of fear to keep Africans in their place.”

Revolutionaries and warriors

And yet, slaves helped their masters win independence. “You cannot discount Africans’ input in the Revolutionary War,” Williams-Myers says. Though they often were sent to replace their owners in battle, under the assumption that whey would be freed after the war, they fought bravely and well. “They are never pictured as part of that, but they were there on the battlefield,” he says. Slaves held positions along the Hudson River as General Clinton made his way up from New York City, and fought at the battles of Saratoga, along the Mohawk River and throughout the region. “African warriors were one of the colonies’ secret weapons,” he says. “They were significant in winning the war.”

After the war, slaves weren’t freed right away, but Federalists like John Jay and Alexander Hamilton founded the New York Manumission Society in 1785 to promote abolition. It happened in fits and starts, and full emancipation was realized when the last New York slaves were freed by July 4, 1827. It was the largest emancipation in North America before the Civil War.

The Hudson Valley to a large extent welcomed freed African Americans. During this gradual emancipation, Quaker groups offered land—usually rocky, undesirable land, to be clear—to help freed slaves, and self-sustaining black communities sprung up in Rockland (Skunk Hollow, near the New Jersey border), Westchester (The Hills in Harrison and another community near Bedford), Dutchess (near Hyde Park, Beekman and Millbrook), Ulster (Eagles Nest, west of Hurley), and all the other river counties. Though legally emancipated, blacks weren’t entirely free yet, and the Valley, like the rest of the state, was in no way free from racism. Laws limited blacks’ rights to vote, to travel with whites on public transportation, to attend school and more. “You could argue that the earliest ‘Jim Crow’ laws actually appeared in the north, not the south,” says Dr. Oscar Williams, Chair of the Department of Africana Studies at the State University of New York at Albany.

The opening of the Erie Canal, in 1815, precipitated the slow and steady migration from upstate farms to river cities for employment. “Cities like Newburgh and Poughkeepsie offered jobs to blacks, while there was bigger movement to New York City or Albany, the nodes of the Valley,” Armstead says. Black institutional and social life took hold in these cities. Rhinebeck, for example, had a vibrant neighborhood of black artisans on Oak Street. African American Revolutionary War veteran Andrew Frazier and his family, who are buried in the “Potter’s Field” section of Rhinebeck Cemetery, owned land in the Town of Milan. In Kingston, the A.M.E. Zion Church on Franklin Street, the oldest African American church in Ulster County, owns the Mt. Zion African American Burial Ground on South Wall Street. The cemetery holds the remains of members of the U.S. Colored Infantry’s 20th Regiment, which fought in the Civil War. An extension of the Mt. Zion cemetery on South Pine Street is “one of the earliest, and potentially largest slave cemeteries known in the northeast,” according to an anthropologist who conducted an archeological survey for the city of Kingston in 1993. The Rye African American Cemetery, inside the Greenwood Union Cemetery, was established in 1860 as a burial place for blacks. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the final resting spot for African American Civil War veterans and the descendants of many slaves from Rye.

As the Civil War approached, the Hudson Valley was a hotbed of abolition. So-called Colored Conventions, movements held by free slaves to oppose slavery and push for rights for free blacks, were held all over country, including in Poughkeepsie, Armstead says. The Underground Railroad had important station stops along the river, such as the Beecher House in Peekskill and the Stephen and Harriet Myers House in Albany. Sojourner Truth started on her march to freedom as Isabella Baumfree, a slave born on an estate near what is now Ripton, sold to a family in New Paltz. In Troy, an African American named Henry Highland Garnett was Malcolm X before Malcolm X. Garnett led a radical movement from his position as the first pastor of the Liberty Street Negro Presbyterian Church. First working with abolition leaders like William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, he gave a famous speech in 1843 at the National Negro Convention, a “Call to Rebellion” encouraging slaves to rise up in open revolt. His position was opposed.

Past, prologue

After the Civil War, blacks continued to move from local farms to industrial centers, and in their “Great Migration” from the South. New York City was a major destination, and in time blacks also moved into the suburbs, exurbs and growing river cities of the Valley. Freedom did not mean integration, however. As just one example, in the 1920s, land in the Nepperhan neighborhood of Yonkers, now known as Runyon Heights, was sold to blacks because whites didn’t want it and it was naturally separated from white communities.

Work, as always, continued to be the magnet drawing African Americans north, and the Valley had one of the world’s most powerful magnets: IBM. After World War II, “IBM was really important, ahead of its time, a global force that recruited from black colleges and universities,” Armstead says. By the late 1950s and 1960s, black professionals populated the area. “That generation is dying or dead now, but they became the first black heads of organizations, the first black teachers,” she says.

The history of African Americans over the last half century is a story of progress and regression, of course, both nationally and here in the Valley. The current political climate is restive. The struggle has been ongoing for 403 years now, ever since Juan Rodriguez stepped ashore and began battling the Dutch. The story has evolved, but it hasn’t ended. As William Faulkner wrote, the past is never dead. It’s not even past.

“The Captain’s Story” by Harriet Beecher Stowe

“The Captain’s Story” by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Ellen Gruber Garvey

This article is reprinted with permission of the author. It was originally published in the Washington Post under the headline “A forgotten 19th-century story can help us navigate today’s political fractures.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/03/23/forgotten-19th-century-story-can-help-us-navigate-todays-political-fractures/   

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Can Democrats truly reconcile with those Republicans who called President Biden’s election fraudulent and encouraged violent attack of the U.S. Capitol? Earlier moments in U.S. history should caution us about the lure and danger of reconciliation when one side refuses to acknowledge wrongdoing. After the Civil War, former Union partisans sought to get along with the Southerners who fought to keep Black people enslaved even after the war. But later, they doubted the wisdom of having done so.

One of those people was Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1852), the most influential novel in the United States during the 19th century. Her famous book kindled readers’ sense that they could and must end slavery, even if that meant disrupting alliances, friendships and family ties with enslavers and their supporters. Thirty years later, Stowe wrote a story little known even it its own time, in which she considered what happened when these same White Northerners who fought against slavery reconciled too easily with former enslavers.

Can Democrats truly reconcile with those Republicans who called President Biden’s election fraudulent and encouraged violent attack of the U.S. Capitol? Earlier moments in U.S. history should caution us about the lure and danger of reconciliation when one side refuses to acknowledge wrongdoing. After the Civil War, former Union partisans sought to get along with the Southerners who fought to keep Black people enslaved even after the war. But later, they doubted the wisdom of having done so.

One of those people was Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1852), the most influential novel in the United States during the 19th century. Her famous book kindled readers’ sense that they could and must end slavery, even if that meant disrupting alliances, friendships and family ties with enslavers and their supporters. Thirty years later, Stowe wrote a story little known even it its own time, in which she considered what happened when these same White Northerners who fought against slavery reconciled too easily with former enslavers.

Written in 1882, but set in 1866, “The Captain’s Story” tells of two former Union army captains who visit Florida, where they once fought on the battlefield. They hope to relax and recuperate from the toll the war had taken on their health. The two listen to their white Floridian guide’s ghost story, which includes his casual mention of having murdered enslaved African captives. The ghost of one captive continues to haunt a nearby plantation, he says. Despite moral qualms, the two captains decide to continue their trip with their murderous guide who can show them all the best fishing grounds. They will get along, and leave his punishment to God.

Stowe began spending winters in Florida just after the Civil War, about the time the story is set, initially hoping to help her son recover from his own Civil War trauma. She wrote popular travel articles in the 1870s touting the state’s pleasures for Protestant Northern Whites, hoping to attract them to politically overwhelm the Southern planters. Full of chummy advice on how to travel south and where to buy land, the accounts spurred the state’s first tourist boom while also raising money for a Black school. In “The Captain’s Story,” she swerves to remind her readers of the brutalities of her Florida neighbors who once enslaved people.

Although Stowe was a founder of the Atlantic Monthly, “The Captain’s Story” was not published there, perhaps because few 1880s editors wished to take the horrors of slavery seriously. Albion Tourgée, the editor of the short-lived but high-paying weekly Our Continent, did, however. He was a Union veteran who worked for Reconstruction then wrote about his experiences in two best-selling novels focusing on the difficulties and assaults the freed people faced. He went on to fight Jim Crow, as the lawyer representing a Black plaintiff attacking segregation in public facilities in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Although Our Continent was not a crusading publication and sought to attract White Southern readers, too, Tourgée published other works that acknowledged that the Civil War was fought over slavery. Yet Our Continent was obscure enough that “The Captain’s Story” received no notice in the press at the time. It was not anthologized or reprinted.

The story’s questioning of White complicity in postwar racism is subtle and conflicted. But it does stand in stark contrast to other popular magazine stories of the time. Northern magazines shoveled out stories romanticizing Southern plantations as places where sweet, quasi-familial ties between enslavers and enslaved people infused life with graciousness. Plantation fiction frequently featured a tired Northern businessman who, like the two captains, goes South to rest and comes to appreciate relaxed Southern hospitality.

Marriage to a Southern woman in these stories offered an allegory of reconciliation between Northern and Southern Whites. As the White abolitionist and orator Anna E. Dickinson noted, “The fashion of the day has been, and is, to talk of the love feast that is spread between old foes, till at last we of the North and of the South are doing what our forefathers did 30 years ago — grasping hands across the prostrate body of the negro.”

Of course, former Confederates did not seek reconciliation. Instead, they created the cult of the Lost Cause, celebrating the nobility and heroism of the Confederacy, leading to the erection of statues honoring Confederate leaders and school textbooks that continued to inculcate this version of history for over a century.

That is why Stowe’s story is significant. It called out the murderous past, presented plantation owners and their friends as lawless, brutal, disloyal, casual killers, scornful of the family ties of enslaved people.But the story disappeared, and that illuminated the shifting reality of race relations in 1882. Reconstruction had ended, a reign of racial terror lynchings had commenced, and states passed Black Codes that allowed Southern Whites to continue to coerce the labor of African Americans.White supremacy had regrouped with new legal structures and Northern collusion, and former Confederates were back in power in the South. Ex-Confederates suppressed the Black vote and reinstated slavery under different names.

The myth of benevolent plantation life took hold through sheer repetition in fictional work, most familiar now through “Gone With the Wind,” imagery and plantation tours. Burying Stowe’s story while celebrating that myth matters. It is another small part of concealing slavery’s past and obscuring the power of white supremacy, which still haunt the United States.