Black Heritage Destinations in Northern New Jersey
In Newark, a bustling metropolis, enjoy an energizing array of offerings, especially New Jersey’s largest museum—the Newark Museum of Art. Trek the Arts of Global Africa Gallery, displaying exquisite pieces from a comprehensive collection numbering 4,000 objects of ritual, ceremonial and daily use, plus popular urban and fine arts. They include masks and figural sculptures, textiles and dress, pottery, jewelry, furniture, photography and paintings.
Bask in Morristown’s historic charm and natural beauty, as you travel to the Bethel Church of Morristown, the county’s first Black church. Established in 1843 as the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Morristown, its first pastor was Bishop Willis Nazery, born a slave in 1803 Virginia. The church once served as the only school for Black and Native American children in Morris County.
Just across the Hudson River from Ellis Island and Manhattan, Jersey City reflects its Black heritage amid the flavors and influences of the multicultural populations that call it home. Among its compelling riches, discover the Afro-American Historical Society Museum, devoted to the research, collection, preservation and exhibition of African-American history and culture.
West of the Hackensack River, visit Gethsemane Cemetery, located just off Route 46 in Little Ferry, between Summit Place and Liberty Street. Created in 1860 as the “burial ground for the colored population of the Village of Hackensack,” this one-acre site is now on the State and National Register of Historic Places for its important role in New Jersey’s early civil rights legislation and its evidence of West African burial customs. View panels listing the names of over 500 people buried here, and take time to reflect in the meditation areas. (Location here; open by private appointment only.)
Last stop: Tenafly, overlooking the Hudson River, across from New York City. Immerse yourself in the wonders of the African Art Museum of the SMA Fathers (Society of African Missions). It’s one of only a rare few museums in the US devoted exclusively to the arts of Africa. Travel through the amazing permanent collections, exhibited on a rotating basis, promising a captivating glimpse of sub-Saharan sculpture and painting, costumes, textiles and decorative arts, religion and folklore.