Introduction: A Consideration of Afro-American Historical Scholarship

Clement Alexander Price
2012 The Journal of the Rutgers University Library  
For two generations historians of the New Jersey Afro-American experience have examined the problems posed by racial injustice in an evolving democracy. Beginning with the pioneering work of Marion Thompson Wright in the 1930s, scholars reconsidered the state's history from the vantage point of African enslavement and the years of racial injustice which followed that profound ordeal. As a result of their work, we know that New Jersey's legal traditions, labor systems, communities, and political
more » ... ties, and political behavior were deeply influenced by racial intolerance. We know, too, that long after Africans settled the state, they were treated with a disdain largely unknown to recently arrived European immigrants. Their story, at once tragic and poignant, is .one that many students of the past easily recognize as an enduring metaphor for the larger history of the American nation. Nonetheless, historians tell us that the wrongs fostered by racial injustice were often tempered by episodes of individual and group uplift by those of African ancestry, demonstrations of the mettle of a proud and resourceful people. Mindful that slavery was wrong, and seeking to minimize the horrors of bondage, blacks survived it. As free men and women, they protected the integrity of their culture, laid the foundation for their communities, contributed to the wartime defense of the Republic, and, in spite of cycles of white racist reaction, became as much an American people as those who despised them. This following study by L.A. Greene of Seton Hall University is a synthesis of the major developments and themes in New Jersey Afro-American history, a unique and timely contribution to our understanding of the susceptibility of an ostensibly democratic society to racial intolerance and the role that New Jersey blacks played in expanding the concept of freedom for themselves and others. It continues in the tradition of Afro-American historical scholarship which has always reminded the nation of the irreconcilable differences that exist between its democratic ideals and
doi:10.14713/jrul.v56i1.1729 fatcat:mltjoc7sjrebvi3lpkhr4vskwy