In 1993, a glimpse into Newark’s history of enslavement was accidentally resurrected when New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) construction workers uncovered a nineteenth-century interracial burial ground. Despite public protests to halt construction and conduct an in-depth archaeological study, NJPAC officials continued construction, arguing that the site was not a “real” African burial ground. Highlighting the relationship between urban renewal, historic preservation, and Black land dispossession, this paper argues that Black Newarkers’ activism to define the Trinity Church Cemetery as an African burial ground served as a radical political act in legitimizing their place within an evolving Newark.
The Resurrection of a Ghost City: The Fight to Preserve Newark’s African Burial Ground
Lauren C. O'Brien is a public historian interested in preserving stories that explore the relationship between Black placemaking, public memory, and geographies of displacement. In cultivating her professional practice, Lauren intentionally seeks out opportunities that encourage an interrogation of institutional silences and the creation of public platforms that excavate, archive, and celebrate the rich history of African Americans. Over the last several years, Lauren has worked as an educator and researcher with the Jane Addams Hull House Museum, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. As a recent graduate from Rutgers University—Newark's American Studies doctoral program, Lauren is currently the Getty Graduate Intern for the Getty Conservation Institute's Los Angeles African American Historic Places Project.
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Lauren C. O’Brien; The Resurrection of a Ghost City: The Fight to Preserve Newark’s African Burial Ground. The Public Historian 1 November 2022; 44 (4): 104–125. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2022.44.4.104
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