Trenton, NJ - In an ongoing effort to incorporate public input into its most important public history initiatives, the New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC) will conduct community meetings on the launch of its statewide Black Heritage Trail. New Jersey residents and organizations are encouraged to attend and share their visions for the Black Heritage Trail and, in doing so, help inform future programs and events surrounding this essential initiative.
“We have a responsibility to make all of our histories visible. The Black Heritage Trail will mark places of significant history and play a vital role in recognizing the contributions of African Americans in New Jersey,” noted Secretary of State Tahesha Way. “I am proud to oversee the New Jersey Historical Commission and its continued work to ensure that these Americans and their stories are included in our shared history.”
The sessions will take place at the Newark Museum of Art on June 3rd at 2 p.m. and at Thomas Edison State University in Trenton on June 22nd at 5:30 p.m. A virtual meeting will also be announced in the near future.
The Newark Museum of Art is a co-sponsor of the June 3rd event and has provided free admission to registrants. Registration information and location details for the meetings can be found here.
“Our plan is to showcase the many contributions of Black Americans to more than 300 years of New Jersey history – a time period that spans from before the Revolutionary War,” explained Noelle Lorraine Williams, director of the Historical Commission’s African American History Program. “The struggles for equality and contributions to democracy, culture, and economics must be represented. It is critical that we include frequently underrepresented populations such as women and the LGBTQ community. Public input allows us to be as comprehensive as possible in our planning.”
In September 2022, Governor Phil Murphy signed bipartisan bill A2677, sponsored by Assembly members Antwan McClellan, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, and Shavonda Sumter, along with Senators Troy Singleton and Michael L. Testa Jr., which established a Black Heritage Trail in New Jersey.
As part of the legislation, the Historical Commission will work in cooperation with other state agencies, each of which has a unique role in implementing the project. This includes the Division of Travel and Tourism, New Jersey’s leading voice for promoting the importance of tourism as essential to the state’s economy, image, and overall quality of life; the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, which is charged with preserving, protecting, and promoting the state’s historic resources; and the New Jersey Black Cultural and Heritage Initiative, which prioritizes broadening and diversifying statewide participation in and appreciation for Black arts, history, and culture.
The Historical Commission plans to highlight significant African American historical sites in New Jersey including sites connected to securing voting rights for all to the office of one of New Jersey’s earliest Black doctors.
The New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC) is a state agency dedicated to the advancement of public knowledge and preservation of New Jersey history. Established by law in 1967, its work is founded on the fundamental belief that an understanding of our shared heritage is essential to sustaining a cohesive and robust democracy.