5 Historical Black Figures from New Jersey

Image Courtesy of Baseball Hall of Fame.

For Black History Month, we are highlighting 5 notable African-Americans that changed New Jersey.

1.  Gus Heningburg

Gus Heningburg (right), chats with NBA star Bill Russell (left) and MLB start Maury Wills (center) at an event in Newark. Image Courtesy of Newark Public Library.

Gus Heningburg was the host and creator of ‘Positively Black’ a popular long-running NBC public affairs show starting in the 1970’s.  He was also monumental in integrating New Jersey’s construction trade and breaking racial barriers.

“Gus’s contribution was multilayered,” says historian and Rutgers University professor Clem Price. “He was involved in housing reform, the desegregation of high school referees in New Jersey sports, and it is fair to say, Gus was among a cadre of white and black leaders who helped put Newark back together after the ’67 riots.”  Gus passed away in 2012.

2.  Larry Doby

Image Courtesy of Baseball Hall of Fame Museum.

Everyone is familiar with Jackie Robinson but few know about Larry Doby.  Only 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the Nation League, Doby knocked it down in the American League with the Cleveland Indians.

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Doby was raised in Paterson before eventually settling in Montclair.

3.  Thomas Mundy Peterson

Image source unknown.

Besides his epic beard, Thomas Mundy Peterson is known as the first African-American to vote in an election.  Under the newly enacted provisions of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution. His vote was cast on March 31, 1870.  The Perth Amboy native lived from 1824 until 1904.

4.  Jacob Lawrence

Image Courtesy of MOMA.

Jacob Lawrence is best-known for his series “Migration of the Negro,” produced in 1940. Born in Atlantic City in 1917, he was one of the greatest American painters in the twentieth century.

Migration Series. Image Courtesy of Museum of Fine Art.

He was known as the first black artist to represent a major commercial gallery and to receive recognition for his work.

5.  Jessie Redmon Fauset

Image Courtesy of Biograhy.com.

Jessie Redmon Fauset played a vital role in the Harlem Renaissance. She was born in Fredericksville, Camden County in 1882.  Jessie was a skilled writer that wrote reviews, fiction and essays that heavily contributed to African-American literature. In 1919, she became the literary editor of Crisis, the official organ of the NAACP.  She died in 1961.

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