As the next step in its development of a state-wide Black Heritage Trail, the New Jersey Historical Commission (NJHC) is now accepting site nominations that promote awareness and appreciation of Black history, heritage, and culture in New Jersey.
Signed into law by Gov. Murphy on September 7, 2022, the New Jersey Black Heritage Trail legislation calls for the NJHC to establish a Black Heritage Trail that will “highlight Black heritage sites through historical markers and a trail-like path that connects the stories of Black life and resiliency.”
“The Black Heritage Trail will serve an important role in connecting our state’s residents and visitors with the complex histories of African Americans in New Jersey,” said Lt. Gov. Tahesha Way. “We have a responsibility to make all of our histories visible, and I am proud to oversee the New Jersey Historical Commission and its work uplifting these aspects of the American story.”
As part of the legislation, the NJHC is working 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 Foundation, which prioritizes broadening and diversifying statewide participation in and appreciation for Black arts, history, and culture.
“Our goal is to showcase the many contributions of Black Americans to more than 300 years of New Jersey history,” explained Sara Cureton, executive director of the NJHC. “African Americans have been integral to U.S. and New Jersey history. The trail will highlight the variety of ways African Americans have played a vital role in the story of our state.”
In an ongoing effort to incorporate public input into its most important public history initiatives, the NJHC sought out public comment throughout the development of its nomination guidelines for the Black Heritage Trail. These efforts included hosting community meetings and launching an online survey to solicit public feedback.
Any member of the public, or any public or private institution may make nominations to the Black Heritage Trail. Applicants are required to submit an online application that will include a historical narrative, a bibliography, site location, and documentation of the site. You can find the application on the NJHC website’s African American page history.nj.gov.
For individuals or organizations interested in learning more about the Black Heritage Trail and the nomination process, a recorded application video is now available on the NJHC YouTube channel at youtube.com/watch?v=I2A8KZNvoSM.
The NJHC also provides workshops on the application process. More about these workshops can be found at history.nj.gov.