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.”
A session will take place at Thomas Edison State University in Trenton on June 22 at 5:30 p.m. A virtual meeting will also be announced in the near future. Registration is free; information and location details can be found at https://linktr.ee/njhc
“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, Gov. 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.
Established by law in 1967, the work of the New Jersey Historical Commission is founded on the fundamental belief that an understanding of our shared heritage is essential to sustaining a cohesive and robust democracy.