NJ Governor visits Newark and signs bill to create ‘Black Heritage Trail’

NEWARK, NJ — New Jersey has long been at the center of African-American history in the United States, including Newark, its largest city. And on Wednesday, this storied past provided a fitting backdrop for officials to announce that the state will create a “Black Heritage Trail” to highlight its landmarks, heritage sites, museums and other modern attractions.

Surrounded by other elected officials, Governor Phil Murphy visited the Newark Public Library to sign a bipartisan bill, A2677. The new law requires the New Jersey Historical Commission to establish a Black Heritage Trail to promote knowledge and appreciation of black history, heritage and culture in the state.

The governor’s office released a statement about the road and the signed bill on Wednesday:

“In January 2021, the New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism within the Department of State launched the New Jersey Black Heritage Trail, which invites visitors and residents to ‘discover the remarkable achievements and legacies of New Jersey’s African-American scholars , famous figures and everyday people. citizens who shaped the state’s history for nearly four centuries.’ The New Jersey Black Heritage Trail will highlight modern landmarks, heritage sites, museums and attractions, presented in downloadable three-day travel itineraries and map views. Under the bill, which allocates $1 million to the State Department to establish historical markers, the Historical Commission must pay particular attention to sites that are in close geographic proximity, linked thematically by surrounding arts and other tourist destinations. , or recommended by the New Jersey Black Heritage and Cultural Initiative Foundation.”

“Celebrating and commemorating black history is not something that we should relegate to just the month of February or June 16,” Murphy said.

“Black history is New Jersey history,” the governor continued. “It must be honored every day of the year.”

Murphy was one of several Democrats who praised the bill. But the new law also received support from Sen. Michael Testa, a Republican who represents the state’s 1st legislative district.

“This trail will honor the accomplishments of so many Africans and their descendants who have contributed significantly to the fabric of New Jersey’s history for nearly four centuries,” Testa said. “This is a long-awaited recognition for many who deserve to have their stories known.”

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Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said that New Jersey in general, and Newark in particular, “have long been at the center of African-American history in the United States.”

“African Americans have made many contributions to our state and nation, from the battlefields of Trenton in 1776, to the ongoing fight for freedom and the revival of modern Newark,” Baraka said.

“It is truly appropriate that we create a historic trail with itineraries, landmarks and historical information, so visitors and residents alike can learn about our unique heritage and the contributions African Americans have made in New Jersey,” Baraka added.

“If we omit this history, it’s like we’re looking at ourselves with one eye,” agreed Derek Davis, a board member of the Camden County Historical Society and the NJ Black Heritage Foundation.

“We as a people and a nation have been selective for far too long in how we understand and talk about history,” Davis said. “This reservoir of information and its public acknowledgment will teach us who we once were and may contextualize who we are, pointing us toward a better shared future.”

Other support for Wednesday’s announcement came from:

US Representative Donald Payne Jr. – “The Black Heritage Trail will highlight the major historical contributions of African Americans and the events that helped shape our state. There are many stories in black New Jersey culture that need to be told. New Jersey played a major role in the Underground Railroad that helped enslaved blacks in the southern US escape to freedom in the north. Additionally, many blacks became permanent residents of the state during the Great Migration of blacks from the south to northern cities after World War I. I applaud Governor Murphy for signing the bill to create this trail and focus more attention on the significant contributions of Black people to New Jersey history.

Secretary of State Tahesha Way – “With the establishment of the Black Heritage Trail, New Jerseyans and visitors from around the world will learn more about the significant contributions, history and culture of Black people throughout New Jersey over the past four hundred years. Through partnership with the New Jersey Black Culture and Heritage Initiative Foundation, this is an exciting opportunity for the New Jersey Historical Commission to help people identify and understand the places where black people made history in New Jersey”.

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Senator Troy Singleton – “For nearly 400 years, African Americans have been a part of New Jersey’s history. Black heritage and history have, for far too long, been underrepresented and untold despite our contributions to industry, culture, and the arts. The purpose of this new law establishing the Black Heritage Trail is to promote and honor these achievements through education, public programs and historical milestones.”

Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter – “Black history plays an integral role in the history of our country and our state. By creating the New Jersey Black Heritage Trail to highlight and celebrate so many important historical sites, we are able to raise awareness and educate our fellow New Jerseyans about the historical contributions of Black people to our state.”

Assemblyman Antwan McClellan – “I am honored to help shine a light on New Jersey’s rich African history and encourage tourism to hidden places of Black heritage throughout the state. From Ocean City’s former segregated Westside to Cape May’s new Harriet Tubman Museum, there are so many sites and stories that testify to our state’s significant black history. This trail will highlight Black abolitionists, veterans, artists, entertainers, and other leaders who have left their indelible marks on New Jersey history and deserve to be recognized and celebrated. It ensures that New Jersey’s African-American history and culture is properly documented and appreciated for future generations.”

Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson – “Despite the great influence that the African-American community has had in New Jersey, black history has gone unnoticed for far too long. With the New Jersey Black Heritage Trail, we can ensure important landmarks across the state receive the recognition they deserve while highlighting the moments and people who helped shape our nation.”

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