NJ Black Heritage Trail: Sites in South Jersey That Create Recognition for Black History

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Dr. James Still’s Office since 1830, in Medford. Photo by Erika Heinrich

BY ERIKA HEINRICH | South Jersey Information Equity Project

HADDONFIELD — The New Jersey Black Heritage Trail is gaining momentum, as the New Jersey Historical Commission has approved its first 32 historical landmarks to be a part of the Black Heritage Trail.

This bill was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2022. The bill’s purpose is to call on the NJ Historical Commission to establish a “trail-like path… that highlights Black life.”

According to a Department of State press release on April 26, 32 sites were given an “unanimous approval” by the New Jersey Historical Commission across 15 counties. These historical sites represent Black resilience.

Photo by Erika Heinrich

Dolly Marshall, a historic preservation activist, was responsible for the two sites in Camden, including the Kaighn Avenue Baptist Church in 1838 and the Rev. Alexander Heritage Newton tombstone in Mt. Peace Cemetery. She anticipates the further creation of the Black Heritage Trail to recognize the local history for all.

 “As we honor the past, I hope these markers inspire curiosity and a reframing of our collective history leading up to the Semiquincentennial or the 250th anniversary of the birth of the United States In 2026,” Marshall said The New Jersey Black Heritage Trail builds upon a virtual Black Heritage Trail that was launched in 2021 by the NJ Black Heritage Foundation. Murphy has allocated $1 million in taxpayer funds to place historical markers along the physical Black Heritage path.

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The Dr. James Still Office is located in Medford New Jersey. It is a red rectangular building surrounded by healthy greenery and small yellow flowers. The building that was once Still’s office space was built in 1855.

Still, known as the “Black Doctor of the Pines,” was a self-educated herbalist who resided in Burlington County where he had his herbalist practice. His brother, William Still, is a notable American abolitionist, who was one of the founders of the Underground Railroad.

Still healed many people throughout the Burlington County area, up until 1882 when he passed away.

As of right now, James Still’s Office is permanently closed for tours. The area still contains an active trail namedDr. James Still’s Nature Trailwith woodlands and meadow terrain, a butterfly garden and multiple trails. The NJ Historic Preservation Office is responsible for the preservations of these sites.

It would be a great addition to the New Jersey community to see Dr. James Still’s Office reopened so it can get proper recognition as a New Jersey Black Heritage Site.

A neighborhood in Haddonfield, formerly known as The Point, the intersection between Ellis Street and Potter Street has multiple historical sites that show Black resiliency. The Point was a part of Haddonfield that was home to a majority of Black residents dating back to the 1700s.

Photo by Erika Heinrich

Adrienne Rhodes, the co-founder of the Preserving Black History Project, Rhodes is very happy with the outcome of The Point being recognized on the trail, Rhodes said.

“It was a very competitive process,” Rhodes said. “To meet the standards and requirements. But I am very happy we made it.”  

The Preserving Black History in Haddonfield Project shared that located at 230 Douglas Avenue. It is formerly a school used in the segregation process, known as only School No. 4. Now, it is currently a home residence.

Not far from there is Mount Olivet Baptist Church, another landmark in The Point. The church came to fruition in 1891 by Mary A. Rodneywho lived on Ellis Street in Haddonfield. One of the oldest African American churches in the area.

It is still an active church today. In the early 1900s, preservationists said that Haddonfield Black residents made up 10% of the population. However, the current census data reads that Black residents have decreased to only 1%.

The Black Haddonfield History Project shared on CBS that Black families were being pushed out of their home, due to the local government for a Little League Baseball field to be built. For The Point to be remembered supporters said they will create an awareness of the maleficent systematic occurrences that were unfair to the Black communities.

Rhodes shared how all of this didn’t seem possible years ago.

“This project is uniting people in a way that would’ve been unimaginable,” Rhodes said.

The Historic African American Borough of Lawnside is another site recognized for its rich African American history, formerly known as Snow Hillor Free Haven. In 1926, Lawnside was granted municipality status.

Lawnside became the only African American incorporated municipality with a self-governing Black community in New Jersey. However, the lobbyists who pushed for this are still hidden in history.

“There is so much history we still don’t know…Who negotiated it, who made it happen? We owe them the debt because of their boldness to help.” Linda Shockley said about wanting to research more who are the people who pushed for Black  leadership in the municipality.

The Historic African American Borough of Lawnside helped produce many Black leaders, including Peter Mott. This landmark is not specifically a part of the Black Heritage Trail, but still worth mentioning as a historical place rich with Black history and impactful presence in New Jersey.

The oldest home in Lawnside is the Peter Mott House (built in 1832) Mott and his wife Elizabeth Mott used their homeas a station in the Underground Railroad in Camden County. It is also said that other local women would help in secret by providing extra food for the Motts for their railroad travelers. The Mott House is open for public tours every Saturday. Peter Mott was an abolitionist himself, and a leader in the community serving as a superintendent in their county Sunday schools.

Likely in contact with other Black leaders at this time, it was important to see how history can connected the dots and fascinating to see how the Black Heritage Trail connects them.

The New Jersey Historical Commission estimated to reopen applications this time next year. The Black Heritage Trail is a journey across New Jersey. Along the way, it takes you to see small town communities and great local businesses. The spring greenery makes each site a calming atmosphere, with great history to learn about Black resiliency and success.


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