APHS presents the History of Slavery in New Jersey

Did you know that in 1866 New Jersey was the last northern state to abolish slavery? That enslaved people were in the Garden State since the 1600s?

Learn more about this noteworthy and interesting subject when the Asbury Park Historical Society (APHS) presents the history of slavery in New Jersey on Thursday, Feb. 18 as part of its Black History Month celebration. Author Rick Geffken will give a virtual presentation of his newly-released book “Stories of Slavery in New Jersey” via Zoom at 7 PM. People are invited to join the Zoom meeting at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84388111677. The meeting ID is 843 8811 1677.

“The AP Historical Society is pleased to host Rick Geffken for his enlightening presentation on this subject. We recognize that the history of New Jersey is more than Washington’s crossing the Delaware River. Stories of slavery, as well as the indigenous inhabitants of these lands, are essential in ensuring that the comprehensive history of our home state, including Monmouth County, is captured and shared,” APHS President Kay Harris said. “Rick’s writings cover how slavery had taken root in New Jersey as well as the personal stories of some of the early enslaved Black families through multiple generations.”

Walter D. Greason, Dean Emeritus of The Honors School at Monmouth University, writes in his Foreword to the book that Geffken used a broad range of historical resources to reconstruct the processes of enslavement through the centuries in small communities in New Jersey.

“His analysis emerges from a decade of digital resources that were not easily available before the expansion of online collections. Using this information, he provides a detailed examination of slavery as it evolved that show that tobacco, cotton, and sugar were not the only systems that dehumanized African-Americans,” he wrote

Geffken said he began coming across slavery references and information as he was researching other New Jersey subjects.

“I accumulated so much material I felt compelled to write a book on the subject. Slavery of African Americans was all over New Jersey. There was a lot of material out there just waiting for me,” he said.

Geffken said he also wanted his book to be “very readable.”

“There are many academic tracts on this subject out there but I wanted to explain it very easily, especially so white readers can relate to it. There was always the thought that slavery was a southern issue but that is just not true. This horrible history is everywhere,” he said.

“Stories of Slavery in New Jersey” [Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2021; $21.99] is available from the publisher, on Amazon, or directly from Geffken.

For a signed/dedicated copy of the book, mail a check for $25.99 ($21.99 plus $4 S&H) to: Rick Geffken, 5 Custer Street, Farmingdale NJ 07727. Include your mailing address and any special dedication to be inscribed in the book.

Slavery was “baked into” New Jersey from its very beginnings, Geffken writes. In the 1664-65 Concession and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of New Caesarea, or New Jersey, Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret granted prospective colonists 75 acres of land “for every weaker servant, or slave, male or female, exceeding the age of fourteen years, which any one shall send or carry, arriving there.”

The decree was meant to jump start a new agricultural community but this provision of one of New Jersey’s founding documents nonetheless, made chattel slavery foundational.