Library lecture spotlights state’s slavery history

Courtesy of The Journal Publication
Local historian Rick Geffken will discuss slavery’s evolution in New Jersey, from its inception in the 17th century to its last days in the 19th century.

The Mullica Hill library will host a special lecture on Thursday, June 20, to tell stories of slave history in the state.

The 6:30 p.m. lecture will focus on slavery’s evolution, from its inception in the 17th century to its last days in the 19th century, and the impact on several of New Jersey’s smaller communities.

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“Slavery was ‘baked into’ New Jersey from its very beginnings,” said the head of adult services at the library, Andrew Brenza. “In the 1664-’65 Concession and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of New Caesarea, or New Jersey,” he added, “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 14 years, which anyone shall send or carry, arriving there.’

“Meant to jump start a new agricultural community,” Brenza added, “this provision of one of New Jersey’s founding documents nonetheless made chattel slavery foundational.”

The lecture is being given by local historian Rick Geffken, a Monmouth County resident who has authored several books on slavery and African American history. They include “Stories of Slavery in New Jersey” – on which his lecture is based – “Hidden History of Monmouth County, New Jersey” and “The Story of Shrewsbury, Revisited, 1965-2015.”

“We welcome well-known lecturer Rick Geffken as he synthesizes a broad range of historical resources in this illustrated talk on enslavement in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in a variety of small communities in New Jersey,” Brenza explained of the lecture.

This event is a part of a series started by the Gloucester County Library System. Other New Jersey History Speaker Series’ topics included a focus on the state’s importance in the Revolutionary War, the work of early-American women and the history and archaeology of Native Americans in the region.

The series was funded through an action grant from the New Jersey Council of the Humanities.

The library lecture is free, but does require registration for either in-person or virtual attendance through the GCLS website (in person) and Zoom’s website.

and for an attendee’s phone number. Each person must fill out the form separately.

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