Black New Jersey 1664 to the Present Day
(Rutgers University Press, 2018) by Graham Russell Gao Hodges
, George Langdon, Jr. Professor of History and Africana and Latin American Studies at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, is a survey history of African Americans in New Jersey. This is the first published scholarly book-length historical study of African Americans in New Jersey covering the Colonial era to the present in a single volume. Hodges, a prolific scholar, is the author/editor of sixteen books including Slavery and Freedom in the Rural North: African Americans in Monmouth County, New Jersey 1660-1870 (Madison House, 1997) and Root and Branch: African Americans in New York and East Jersey,1613-1863 (University of North Carolina Press, 1999). Black New Jersey
was awarded the McCormick Prize from the New Jersey Historical Commission in 2019. Hodges’s text is organized around eight neat chapters encompassing Pre-Revolutionary New Jersey to the present. Black New Jersey also includes a useful “Introduction.”
In his text, Hodges emphasizes the history of slavery, religion, the rise of the Black middle class, and the quest for social equality through the Jim Crow era. He also discusses some of the more notable intellectuals in the history of New Jersey such as Paul Robeson and Marion Thompson Wright. Both were active in the long black freedom struggle. Wright’s research became the basis for the first case to challenge segregation in the public-school system Hedgepeth-Williams vs. Trenton, Board of Education (1944) before the historic Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education (1954). Wright, a trained historian, worked on the pivotal Brown case conducting historical research for litigation. These intellectuals were instrumental in advancing the Civil Rights Movement in the Garden State before 1954. This text by Hodges is an important study on the history of northern struggles for equality including the Civil Rights Movement that likely first began in New Jersey.
Hettie V. Williams Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of African American history in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University where she teaches courses in African American history and U.S. history. You can follow Dr. Williams on twitter: @DrHettie2017.