Abraham Clark House To African Americans (New Jersey)

Abraham Clark House. Built in 1940, this dwelling in Roselle Borough is a replica of the home of Abraham Clark, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The original farmhouse was destroyed by fire at the turn of the twentieth century. The reconstruction, commissioned by the Abraham Clark Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the American Revolution, was based on photographs and anecdotal evidence of former owners and residents. The building serves as a meeting hall and memorial for the SAR and the DAR, with one room set aside as a museum, displaying items that belonged to Clark, as well as objects of historical interest.

Absecon. 5.72-square-mile city in Atlantic County, two miles west of Absecon Bay and five miles west of Atlantic City. Although never a modern resort like its neighbor, Atlantic City, Absecon was a "resort town” for its early American Indian visitors. Members of the Lenape tribe came here during the summers. They called it Absegami, which, according to historians, has more than one translation. One was "little sea water,” and another "place of the swans.” The Indians not only fished and prepared their catches here for winter use but also gathered seashells to be used as money.

Absecon’s first non-Indian settler was Peter White, who built his home there in 1699. By 1776 Absecon was a busy seaport, with shipbuilding as its major industry. In 1777 the Friendship Saltworks was established, and salt-making soon became Absecon’s biggest industry. Absecon was chartered as a town in 1872 and incorporated as a city on March 31, 1902, when it was set off from the towns of Galloway and Egg Harbor.

For most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries residents earned their livings working in Atlantic City’s resort hotels. Currently, for the most part, they work in Atlantic City’s casinos.

Although Absecon has business sections along Route 30 and Route 9, the city today is mostly residential, with more than 2,500 households and a 2000 population of 7,638. Eighty-three percent of its population was white and 7 percent was Asian. The median household income in 2000 was $55,745. For complete census figures, see chart, 129.

Absecon Lighthouse. The Absecon Lighthouse is located between Pacific and Rhode Island avenues in Atlantic City. Lieutenant George Meade (who later achieved military fame in the Civil War) played a role in the design and construction of Barnegat Lighthouse and signed the surveys and plans for Absecon. Work began on the lighthouse in 1856, and it was first illuminated the night of January 15, 1857. A first-order fixed Fresnel lens intensified the light from Funck’s style oil lamps so that the lighthouse cast a beam of white light that was visible up to twenty miles at sea. At 167 feet tall to the focal plane of the lens, the lighthouse is the equivalent of a sixteen-story building. Visitors climb 228 steps to the base of the light platform, and there are 12 more steps to the lightroom. The lighthouse is the only first-order lighthouse in New Jersey with its original lens still in place. Daniel Scull was the first keeper, appointed on November 25, 1856, and was paid an annual salary of $600. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1933 and turned over to the state of New Jersey. The Inlet Public/Private Association currently operates it.

Academy of Medicine of New Jersey. The Academy of Medicine of New Jersey (AMNJ), located in Lawrenceville, is the umbrella organization for New Jersey medical and medical-specialty groups that deliver health services and medical education. The AMNJ was founded in 1911 and is a teaching branch of the Medical Society of New Jersey. Under the auspices of the Accrediting Council for Continuing Medical Education, the AMNJ designs and sponsors continuing medical education courses for physicians, dentists, and supporting health care providers. The AMNJ also assists in the establishment of medical libraries and archives and presents awards for achievement in the field of medicine.

Adams, Harriet Stratemeyer (b. Dec. 11, 1892; d. Mar. 29, 1982). Author and businesswoman. Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, the daughter of Edward L. Stratemeyer, a born storyteller who initiated the Rover Boys series in 1899, was graduated from Wellesley College in 1914. In the year between graduation and her marriage to Russell Vroom Adams, Harriet edited manuscripts written by authors employed by her father’s syndicated book firm. In 1930 Adams and her sister inherited the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which had published several hundred juvenile books in several series, including the Rover Boys, Tom Swift, the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew series. Adams hired a nurse to care for her four children and began to edit her father’s remaining manuscripts.

The syndicate’s series were created using a very successful, simple formula. First, the name of the book was chosen, and a general theme developed. Then Adams or one of her three partners created each plot and a detailed outline, insisting on clean, wholesome stories, full of suspense, humor, and action. These outlines were given to freelance writers (who agreed to relinquish all royalty and authorship rights for a flat fee) who would then flesh out and add dialogue to the novels. The first page was designed to hook the reader, the last page of each chapter to be a cliff-hanger. The text was revised and then edited and checked for accuracy and consistency with other books in the series by at least three syndicate employees.

In the 1970s Adams, who by then had written several books in the Nancy Drew and other series, revealed in an interview that she was Carolyn Keene.

Adams was still writing and running the Stratemeyer Syndicate full time when she died at age eighty-nine in 1982. Before Adams died, the Nancy Drew books alone had sold 70 million copies in the United States and hundreds of millions of copies in eighteen languages around the world.

Adams was a world traveler, an avid doll collector, and the owner, with her husband, of two New Jersey farms. According to her daughter, Adams believed strongly that a woman should not be dependent upon a husband and that education was the best way to prepare for life. Widely honored, Adams was named 1979 "Mother of the Year.” In 1978 Adams endowed a chair for the study of children’s literature at Wellesley College.

Addams, Charles (b. Jan. 7, 1912; d. Sept. 28, 1988). Cartoonist. Westfield-born Charles Addams was best known for the series of Addams Family cartoons he drew for The New Yorker. Created in 1937, the ghoulish family lived in an old Victorian house modeled on one that Addams was fascinated with as a child. The Addams Family appeared in The New Yorker dozens of times over a period of decades. In 1964, a television sitcom based on the Addams Family was aired; the characters were also adapted into an animated series, as well as two feature films and many books. In addition to the Addams family, Addams created over thirteen hundred drawings during his career, all of them using a macabre twist to poke fun at the mundane. His dark humor took current or everyday events and commented on them in cartoons that were funny as well as foreboding. He indulged his preoccupation with the eerie and received inspiration for new drawings by spending time in a local cemetery trying to imagine what the people in the graves looked like. Another of Addams’s hobbies was collecting and racing automobiles. He died in Westfield, while sitting in his Audi 4000.

Admiral Farragut Academy. This naval prep school was located in Pine Beach from 1933 to 1994. The first school of its kind in the country, the academy was named for Civil War admiral David G. Farragut, who was renowned for his 1863 battle cry, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”At its height the school enrolled 300 students, but by 1990, the number had declined significantly. Efforts to increase the student body by admitting day students, and then women, failed to preserve the New Jersey facility, and today only the campus established in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1945 remains.

Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center. The Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC) was the first freestanding prison in the United States devoted exclusively to sex offenders. Authorized by statewide referendum in 1967, the ADTC opened in 1976 in Avenel, near Rahway State Prison. It is both a therapeutic prison, in which sex offenders receive psychological treatment, and a diagnostic center. During the 1980s, rising rates of convictions for sex crimes and longer sentences generated severe overcrowding and a construction boom at the ADTC. In the 1990s, the ADTC came under increasing attack because of crimes committed by released convicts, but it survived.

Advisory Commission on the Status of Women. The Advisory Commission on the Status of Women is an eleven-member board under the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ Division on Women. The commission advises the division regarding policies and programs affecting women and coordinates county and municipal advisory commissions. Members serve three-year terms, and are appointed by the governor with the consent of the senate. The commission was first established in 1964 as the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, with Doris Hubatka, former president of the New Jersey Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, elected as the first chair. It was later subsumed under the Division on Women, Department of Community Affairs, with passage of the Division on Women Act of 1974.

Advocates for New Jersey History. A not-for-profit educational organization, the Advocates for New Jersey History was incorporated in 1993 to promote and support the work of the history community in New Jersey. In 1995 the Advocates successfully spearheaded the effort to keep funding for history services in the state budget. The organization worked to support the efforts of the Task Force on New Jersey History and developed a plan for expansion of history services statewide. The organization sponsors the History Issues Convention each year, educates the public about history, and works to promote New Jersey’s history services to state and local government.

Affirmative action. When affirmative action programs were developed in the 1960s and 1970s, they were intended to remedy past discriminatory actions and patterns of inequality in employment and education. The first program, which was developed by President Richard Nixon under the Office for Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), aimed at reducing African American unemployment in an attempt to quell urban unrest. In the private sector, affirmative action is required only when an employer has a substantial contract with either the federal government or, in some states like New Jersey, with a state or local government. In New Jersey, the state treasurer formulates and administers these requirements.

Affirmative action plans, however, have come under increasing scrutiny in the courts, and in some cases they have been struck down as violations of equal-protection or statutory antidiscrimination provisions. For example, in 2001, the affirmative action plan adopted by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, which established goals and laid out plans for the employment of women and minorities, was struck down by a federal district court as running afoul of equal protection.

Affirmative action law in the area of public education also continues to be in flux. In its 1978 decision in University of California v. Bakke, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state universities could use race as one factor in admissions decisions, but could not employ quotas. Here the Court established that affirmative action plans had to pass muster under the strict scrutiny standard, and that states had to establish that these plans furthered a compelling state interest and that this interest could not be achieved without them. Later court decisions have disagreed about whether an interest in racial and ethnic diversity is sufficiently important to be deemed compelling, as was debated in the 2003 Supreme Court cases against the University of Michigan. Concluding the widely publicized proceedings, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the right of universities to consider race in admissions procedures in order to achieve a diverse student body.

Some have argued that affirmative action programs will continue to come under fire, not only because of the judiciary’s ongoing hostility to all racial and ethnic classifications, but also because changes in immigration and racial and ethnic identification and increased intermarriage are blurring traditional demographic categories.

African Americans. For African Americans, New Jersey has been at various times a place of oppression and a place of sanctuary. Although the state did not fully abolish slavery until after the Civil War, free blacks had established their own communities in the early 1800s, and runaway slaves found a highway to freedom through New Jersey’s Underground Railroad routes. The duality of the black experience in New Jersey continued into the twentieth century as well. New Jersey, like other northern states, provided opportunity to the descendants of southern slaves looking for more economic security, wider participation in politics, and greater personal freedom than possible in the legally segregated South. African Americans progressed in this more liberal atmosphere, but not without a struggle. New Jersey’s efforts to ensure racial equality were tentative and gradual.

Among the northern colonies, New Jersey and New York had the largest populations of slaves. As early as 1627, the Dutch West India Company began importing Africans into its New Netherland colony, where they worked on fortifications and other projects. After the British forced the Dutch to surrender the colony in 1664 and renamed it New York, many Dutch farmers began to migrate with their slaves into the New Jersey counties of Bergen, Middlesex, and northern Monmouth. New Jersey’s first constitution (1664), "The Concessions and Agreements of the Lords Proprietors,” encouraged the importation of African slaves by providing a land grant totaling 150 acres for every slave imported. In succeeding years, the grant was reduced to 45 and then 30 acres. During the first half of the eighteenth century, thousands of blacks were brought into New Jersey and New York from Barbados and Jamaica. The black population increased from 2,581 out of a total New Jersey population of 32,422 in 1726 to 4,606 out of 61,383 by 1745.

In the eighteenth century, New Jersey’s African workforce was employed in avariety of occupations commensurate with the colony’s diverse economy. Black males toiled in agricultural work, but in winter months were often hired out for nonfarming jobs. Black women often provided domestic labor. In addition to farm and domestic tasks, black labor supported such enterprises as salt works and tanneries. Slave laborers could be found at the ironworks of Charles Read in Burlington County and at the Andover ironworks in Sussex County. Copper ore mined by slaves on the lands of the Schuyler family in Bergen County proved a lucrative enterprise. Even the Lambertville ferry in Hunterdon County used black labor.

Some blacks became skilled artisans and entrepreneurs after obtaining their freedom. In West Jersey, where members of the Quaker religion encouraged manumission, a free black population began to emerge. In Burlington County, for example, two former slaves operated successful businesses: Cyrus Bustill opened a bakery and Caesar Murray ran a shoemaking shop.

Although slaves in New Jersey may have worked in more varied occupations and perhaps had a greater chance for manumission than their southern counterparts, the reality is that most blacks in the colony endured an oppressive bondage maintained by regulation and violence. As in the other colonies, slaves in New Jersey resorted to various forms of resistance, from the destruction of farm tools and animals, to flight, to conspiracies to rebel. In 1713, fearful of the spread of rebellion after the slave insurrection in New York City in 1712, New Jersey authorities tightened the laws regulating slavery in their colony and enacted duties on slave importations to limit the size of the black population. Earlier laws in 1682 and 1694 had limited blacks trading with others and black access to guns. A rash of fires in New York City in 1741 led to a belief that blacks were attempting to burn down the city; when several barns in Hackensack were destroyed by fire, a hysterical reaction culminated in the conviction and burning alive of three black New Jerseyans.

The fortunes of Africans in New Jersey gradually improved in the eighteenth century. Quakers like John Woolman and John Hepburn proselytized among their coreligionists about the incompatibility of slavery and Christianity, and the influence of the democratic rhetoric of the American Revolution concerning the inalienable rights of men convinced enough New Jersey legislators to support a law in 1804 that provided for gradual emancipation. Passage of this law may have been influenced by black participation in the Revolutionary War. Despite the Continental Congress’s decision in 1775 to exclude blacks, both slave and free, from the Continental Army, New Jersey’s Militia Act of 1777 allowed the enlistment of free blacks, and the state’s Militia Act of 1781 did not exclude free blacks or slaves. Oliver Cromwell, a slave from Burlington County, served in the New Jersey Continental Line, and a free black, James Array of Readington, joined the Continental Line and the Hunterdon County militia. Blacks even served with British forces, hoping that a British victory might result in their freedom. Pro-British blacks played an important role in Loyalist raids on the East Jersey coast. Ty(e), a black man with the title of colonel, frequently commanded blacks in raids in the Sandy Hook area.


In the years following the Revolution, the condition of blacks improved, but they were still viewed as a people apart. Some of the divisions and compromises at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia reflected the developing abolitionist sentiment in the North, which led to the creation of the New Jersey Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery in 1793 and New Jersey’s eventual passage of a gradual abolition law in 1804. That law, deferring to the economic interests of slaveholders, did not confer immediate emancipation. Slaves born on or after July 4, 1804, would be free only after they came of age.

Three years later, the state passed a law excluding blacks and women from the franchise.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Robert Finley of Basking Ridge played an important part in the formation of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in 1817. Believing a multiracial society based on racial harmony and equality to be impossible, the members of the ACS supported the repatriation of America’s black population to Africa. The New Jersey chapter of the ACS purchased a ship, the Saluda, and 160,000 acres of land in Liberia in 1838 to establish a New Jersey settlement. Perhaps not surprisingly, colonization never attracted a significant portion of the black population. Of the 8,204 blacks who settled in Liberia between 1820 and 1853, only 24 were from New Jersey. Blacks at an anticolonization meeting in Newark in 1839 gave Samuel E. Cornish, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Newark, and Theodore S. Wright, a Presbyterian minister from New York, the task of drafting a letter explaining that large-scale resettlement of blacks would leave too few advocates for their southern brethren still in slavery.

Despite the political and economic limitations that still burdened blacks, emancipation in New Jersey set the stage for the emergence of an increasingly important free black population. Freedom brought the ability to establish churches with black ministers and deacons. By 1818, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) churches were flourishing in Princeton and Trenton, and the first African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) congregation, the Clinton Memorial Church, was founded in Newark in 1822. The first black abolitionist society in the state grew out of a meeting in Newark in 1834 that formed an auxiliary of William Lloyd Garrison’s American Anti-Slavery Society. Reflecting the growth of black activism, the first statewide convention of blacks met in Trenton’s AME Zion Church in 1849 to petition the state legislature to overturn the continued exclusion of the black population from the franchise under the revised state constitution of 1844. In attendance was one of the state’s most distinguished blacks, Dr. John S. Rock, physician, dentist, and the first black attorney to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Opposition to racism and slavery was expressed beyond protest meetings. While employed as a cook in a Cape May hotel in the summer of 1852, Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave from Maryland, worked clandestinely as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, helping slaves from Delaware and Maryland to escape across Delaware Bay to Cape May. Similarly, William Still, a New Jersey-born black abolitionist in Philadelphia, played a major role on the Underground Railroad as the head of the General Vigilance Committee, which offered financial and other aid to runaway slaves, many of whom passed through New Jersey. His 1872 account, The Underground Railroad, vividly records this story of courage and sacrifice. Some of the escapees who reached New Jersey along the Underground Railroad settled in the state and helped to establish a number of all-black towns, including Skunk Hollow in Bergen County, Timbuctoo in Burlington County, Lawnside in Camden County, and Gouldtown in Cumberland County.

The efforts of abolitionists and conductors on the Underground Railroad contributed to the sectional tensions that ultimately culminated in the Civil War and emancipation. Blacks played a significant role in their own liberation, enthusiastically joining the Union ranks. Some 2,872 blacks can be counted among New Jersey’s 88,000 Civil War soldiers, and 469 of the state’s black troops died. Their sacrifice was not wholeheartedly appreciated in a state where many residents opposed Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, mistrusted the midwar admission of black soldiers into the Union army, voted against Lincoln in both i860 and 1864, and resented the migration of blacks into the state. Hostility toward the improved status of blacks can be seen in New Jersey’s official reactions to postwar constitutional amendments: in 1865 the legislature rejected the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, and in 1868 the Democrat-controlled legislature rescinded the previous Republican legislature’s passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, which provided citizenship to freedmen. In 1870 the legislature even refused to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment, which extended the franchise to men of all races. Enough other states approved the amendment, however, and Thomas Mundy of Perth Amboy became the first African American in New Jersey to vote under the Fifteenth Amendment.

Racial progress was also advanced with the passage in 1881 of a state law prohibiting the exclusion of children from public schools because of race, religion, or nationality. The state supreme court upheld the law in i884, when the Rev. Jeremiah H. Pierce brought suit against Burlington City for its refusal to admit his students to white schools. In that same year, the state passed a civil rights act guaranteeing equal access to public accommodations under penalty of fines and damages paid to the victim. Nonetheless, public schools in South Jersey remained segregated for many more decades, and establishments continued to bar black patrons. Subscribing to the philosophy of self-sufficiency advocated by Booker T. Washington, the Rev. Walter A. Rice of the AME church founded Ironsides School, which became known as the Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth at Borden-town when the state took it over in i900.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 created a demand for labor that could not be filled entirely by European immigrants. Southern blacks migrated in huge numbers to northern cities, looking for work in factories. New Jersey’s black population increased from 89,000 in i9i0 to 208,000 by i930. In their search for housing, the newly urban blacks were generally confined to former working-class districts, like Newark’s old Third Ward. Amid this ghettoization of the black population, new black newspapers, fraternal associations, and businesses developed, such as the Apex Beauty Products Company, founded in Atlantic City by Sara Spencer Washington. The expanding black population also supported the rise of black politicians to elective office. In 1921 Walter G. Alexander, a Republican, became the first black man elected to the New Jersey Assembly. These gains, however, were largely overshadowed by the heavy toll of the Great Depression. The rate of black unemployment by i930, 30 percent, was almost twice as high as that for the state as a whole. By i935, 26 percent of all New Jersey families on relief were black. Still worse, a survey by the New Jersey Conference of Social Work (i932) revealed that 57 percent of employers excluded qualified black workers from better jobs and opportunities available to white workers. Under these conditions, the black vote nationally swung to the Democratic party in i936 for the first time, and Guy Moorhead was elected as the first black Democrat to the New Jersey Assembly.

Following the nation’s declaration of war in 1941, nearly twenty-five thousand black New Jerseyans served in the armed forces. At the same time, still more southern blacks sought jobs in the defense industries in northern states. Between i940 and i950, New Jersey’s black population increased by more than 40 percent, to 3i8,565. The successful national movement to pressure President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue an executive order in 1941 banning racial discrimination by companies with defense contracts set the precedent for postwar national and state civil rights legislation. In i945 New Jersey passed an act to forbid racial discrimination in employment. Two years later, a new state constitution, drafted under the liberal leadership of Gov. Alfred E. Driscoll, prohibited segregation in the public schools and state militia. The Freemen Act, written with the help of officials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and introduced by Assemblywoman Grace Freemen in i949, banned racial discrimination in public accommodations and public places. This act and others laid the legal foundation for combating racial discrimination within the state.

The gains and limitations of state and national civil rights legislation became apparent in the i960s, as racial progress failed to keep pace with rising expectations for employment, housing, and political influence. Racial polarization and interracial divisions along class lines exploded in the i967 Newark riots and Black Power Conference in Newark. Those low points were followed by steady gains, as the growing black middle class acquired better jobs, education, and status through hard work and the strengthening of civil rights legislation. In 1970 Kenneth Gibson became the first black mayor of Newark; the Rev. S. Howard Woodson, Jr., was selected as speaker of the New Jersey Assembly in 1973; and Daniel Payne was elected as the state’s first black congressman in 1988.

Yet, far too many of the state’s African American families are locked in a cycle of poverty. In 1997-1998, the median income of white families in New Jersey was $63,382,while for black families it was only $36,507. Blacks were more than twice as likely to be unemployed as whites in 2002. Racial profiling by state police remained a troubling issue at the turn of the twenty-first century. Progress has been made, but even more needs to be made before equality is reality.

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