Contact the NJ Historical Commission
NJ Historical Commission
P.O. Box 305
Trenton, NJ 08625

Tel: (609) 292-6062
Fax: (609) 633-8168


2014 New Jersey Forum

November 21 – 22, 2014
Kean University, Union, NJ

With its significant Native American heritage; complex colonial history; ethnically diverse people; religious tolerance; contributions to technology; and, political, racial, and social tension, the history of New Jersey mirrors the development of a nation. The 2014 New Jersey Forum is part of a year-long celebration that will highlight the Garden State’s characteristics of liberty, diversity, and innovation.

This year’s Forum will feature nationally celebrated author and public historian Spencer Crew; Neil Maher, author of Nature's New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement; and John Fea author of The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America.

The conference will also offer roundtable discussions on the state of African American history, careers in public history, under-utilized archival resources, and several panel sessions revealing new research on New Jersey's history.

Forum Presentations

Spencer Crew
Robinson Professor of American, African American, and Public History, George Mason University. Crew will focus on New Jersey activists and the attainment of American citizenship rights.

The Rugged Road to Citizenship: New Jersey's Response to Newcomers  from the American Revolution to the Present

While our founding documents as a nation expound the notions of freedom and liberty, not all individuals have had access to these concepts. Crew’s presentation will chronicle the challenges faced by women, African Americans and immigrants to gain their rights of citizenship and freedom in New Jersey. Beginning with the New Jersey Constitution of 1776 and concluding with a discussion of education for the children of illegal immigrants, the address will explore the concept of liberty and freedom through a historical and contemporary lens

John Fea
Chair and Associate Professor of History, Messiah College.

New Jersey's Presbyterian Rebellion

At the time of the American Revolution Presbyterians were the largest religious denomination and most important cultural and political institution in New Jersey, yet their role in the coming of the American Revolution has been largely ignored by historians.  Presbyterian clergy and laypeople, including William Livingston, Elias Boudinot, James Caldwell, John Witherspoon, and Enoch Green, fused religious and political ideas to create a powerful impetus for revolution.  Presbyterian communities in Princeton, Morristown, Hanover, Greenwich, and Elizabeth-Town, to name a few, were bastions of political radicalism and Christian patriotism.  This talk will examine the powerful influence of Presbyterians in the forging of an independent New Jersey and challenge us to think about how we might integrate Presbyterians into the larger narrative of the American Revolution in the state.

Neil Maher
Associate Professor and Graduate History Coordinator of the Concentration in History of Technology, Environment, and Medicine, Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Spaceship Earth: The Civil Rights Movement and NASA’s War on Poverty.

Maher’s talk is part of his next book project, which examines the relationship between the space race and the more grassroots political and social struggles of the 1960s and 1970s, including those of the anti-Vietnam War, environmental, women’s, and countercultural movements. “Spaceship Earth: The Civil Rights Movement and NASA’s War on Poverty” will examine a similar interplay between the space race and the struggle for racial equality. Maher will begin by discussing early opposition to NASA during the 1960s by civil rights activists, who argued that the space race was siphoning financial resources from a host of racial problems affecting urban areas in particular. He will then describe how NASA responded to such criticism by waging its own “War on Poverty," which in 1972 included the creation of a special “Urban Systems Project Office” that spun off various space technologies to the American public in an effort to solve these same city problems. One such venture involved NASA teaming up with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to transfer energy-efficient space capsule technology developed for its Apollo program to urban housing projects located in New Jersey. Maher’s talk thus focuses on the ways in which the space race shaped civil rights, in both the United States and across the Garden State.

2014 New Jersey Forum Conference

The conference is free but registration is required. As a state agency the New Jersey Historical Commission is unable to pay for guest meals. There will be a $25 charge to purchase breakfast and lunch on the 22nd if you wish. Please indicate if you will purchase your breakfast and lunch on the registration form. The reception on the 21st is free and sponsored by Kean University.

Exhibit Space will be available but it is at a premium. We can only accommodate thirty, six-foot tables. Tables will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. You may request an exhibit table by completing the registration form.

Registration: Registration for the NJ Forum is no longer available online. Please contact the Commission at 609-292-6062.

Cancellation Policy
Cancellations must be received in writing by close of business on November 19th. Registrants who do not inform the Commission of cancellation will be responsible for payment even if they do not attend. Email Janet Field at to cancel your registration.

Kean University

The conference will be offered in the New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics (NJCSTM) Building which is located next to Liberty Hall Museum. Parking will be available in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Lot.

The Forum is presented by the New Jersey Historical Commission in partnership with The New Jersey State Archives, New Jersey State Museum and Kean University, and with partial funding from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.
Image Credits:
(Liberty) Washington at the Delaware, Edward Hicks, ca. 1849, The Athenaeum; Alice Paul, LoC, LC-USZ62-20176; (Diversity) Paul Robeson, Julius Lazarus Archives, Special Collections and University Archives, © Rutgers University Libraries; Seabrook Farms, Japanese internee during WW II, NJ State Archives; Ellis Island photomechanical print, LoC, LC-DIG-ds-03648; (Innovation) Thomas Edison, LoC, LC-USZ62-105139; Ketchup, NJ State Archives; Hot Air Balloon print, LoC, PPM SCA-03478.