Part of the New Jersey Historical Commission, the African American History Program champions and partners with universities, historical societies, schools, and other institutions, groups, and individuals in a collaborative statewide effort to develop African American history in New Jersey. Founded by the late Giles Wright in 1983, it was recommenced at the Commission in 2021.
The African American History Program’s work includes a speaker and panel series to preserve, educate, and engage the public about New Jersey history and historical sites (many sessions are made available on the Commission’s website). It also stewards the Black Heritage Trail; directs administration of the Mildred Barry Garvin Prize; consults on Historical Commission and other Department of State initiatives and collaborations, including RevolutionNJ, as well as public partnerships such as the Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture (MTW) series at Rutgers University – Newark.
This site is under development and there is much more to come. It is our goal to make it a helpful and enriching space for learning more about African American history in New Jersey. Please join our mailing list, in addition to following our social media channels for updates on the African American History Program and all of the Commission’s work.
We hope that you will join us on this incredibly important mission.
Noelle Lorraine Williams
Director, African American History Program
Black Heritage Trail email: NJBlackHeritageTrail@treas.nj.gov
Join our mailing list: https://bit.ly/NJHCMailingList
African American History Program
The New Jersey African American History Program hosts virtual and in-person events including the "Black Is: African American History and Sites in New Jersey” series. Please visit the New Jersey Historical Commissions YouTube page for more information.
Black Heritage Trail
The New Jersey Black Heritage Trail was proposed by State Assemblyman Antwan McClellan with bipartisan support and signed into law by Governor Murphy on September 7, 2022. The legislation calls for the New Jersey Historical Commission to establish a Black Heritage Trail “to promote awareness and appreciation of Black history, heritage, and culture” that will “highlight Black heritage sites through historical markers and a trail-like path that connects the stories of Black life and resiliency.”
Under this program, the Historical Commission will work in cooperation with other state agencies, such the Historic Preservation Office, the Division of Travel and Tourism, as well as local governments, owners or operators of Black heritage sites, and others to identify a series of sites. The bill also names the New Jersey Black Heritage Foundation as a principal collaborator, due to its mission that includes broadening, deepening and diversifying statewide participation in and appreciation for Black arts, history and culture.
In preparation for this project, the New Jersey Historical Commission conducted virtual and in-person community meetings and a survey in June 2023 to solicit public feedback.
Please sign up for the mailing list at the following site: https://bit.ly/NJHCMailingList
RevNJ is a partnership between the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the New Jersey Department of State, and the nonprofit Crossroads of the American Revolution Association to plan the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution in New Jersey.
The African American History Program is developing research and educational materials on African American and Indigenous ideologies around freedom, land ownership and citizenry during this period.
Mildred Barry Garvin Prize
The Mildred Barry Garvin Prize is an award of $1,000 to a New Jersey teacher, guidance counselor, or school librarian for outstanding teaching of Black American history in kindergarten through high school or outstanding performance in a related activity such as developing curriculum materials.
Marion Thompson Wright Lecture
The Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture (MTW) series was co-founded in 1981 by Dr. Price and the late Giles R. Wright, who served many years as the inaugural director of the Afro-American History Program at the New Jersey Historical Commission. Mounted in observance of Black History Month in New Jersey, the MTW Series is one of the nation’s most remarkable and longest-running scholarly conference series devoted to the historical literacy of a community.
The New Jersey Black Heritage Trail was signed into law by Governor Murphy on September 7, 2022. The legislation calls for the New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC) to establish a Black Heritage Trail “to promote awareness and appreciation of Black history, heritage, and culture” that will “highlight Black heritage sites through historical markers and a trail-like path that connects the stories of Black life and resiliency.”
In June 2023, the NJHC held two in-person community meetings in north and central New Jersey, and a third virtual meeting hosted by a south Jersey partner. The NJHC also launched a survey to solicit public feedback that will close on July 10th. Please enjoy this video by New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way, who oversees the NJHC and state’s larger arts and cultural portfolio of divisions and programs.