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Black History NJ: The Complete Series


Jersey Joe Walcott

Black History NJ: Jersey Joe Walcott

Arnold Raymond Cream, aka Jersey Joe Walcott, was born in Merchantville, NJ, on Jan. 31, 1914. He held the record for the oldest heavyweight champion for more than four decades. His father, an immigrant from Barbados, died when Walcott was 15, which forced him to go to work to provide for his mother and younger siblings. At 16-years-old, he began boxing professionally and adopted Jersey Joe Walcott as his moniker…

Carla Harris

Black History NJ: Carla Harris

Montclair resident Carla Harris is an author, a highly sought-after public speaker and accomplished gospel singer. Harris earned her MBA from Harvard Business School and an AB in economics from Harvard University. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and has since won numerous awards and been recognized many times for her achievements, including being inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame’s 2015 class….

William Neal Brown

Black History NJ: William Neal Brown

William Neal Brown was born in Warrenton, Georgia on February 24, 1919. Brown’s grandfather was a former slave who began a career as a farmer in Georgia, in 1863, after being freed. Brown’s father followed in his footsteps before eventually moving the family north to Aliquippa, Pennsylvania in 1924 to work as a steel worker for Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation…

Milt Campbell

Black History NJ: Milt Campbell

American decathlete and native New Jerseyan Milton Gray Campbell was born on December 9, 1933, in Plainfield. Typically referred to as Milt Campbell, the soon-to-be athlete attended school in his home town. While he was still in high school, he competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, where he won a Silver Medal in the decathlon at just 18-years-old…

Clarence Clemons

Black History NJ: Clarence Clemons

While he was born in Virginia, Clarence Clemons was inextricably tied to New Jersey’s musical lore the moment he met Bruce Springsteen in 1971. Clemons moved to New Jersey in the early 1960s, attending Maryland State College on music and football scholarships. He also worked as a counselor for emotionally disturbed children at the New Jersey Training School for Boys in Jamesburg from 1962-1970…

Edith Savage-Jennings

Black History NJ: Edith Savage-Jennings

In the 1950s and ‘60s, New Jersey was no stranger to the Civil Rights Movement, which pushed the country towards a much greater sentiment of social justice and tolerance. In fact, NJ played a role in the movement as well as the events leading up to it. One major component was young New Jerseyan, Edith Savage-Jennings. The Civil Rights “champion” (as she’s known) was born in Florida in the early 1920s…

Marion Thompson Wright

Black History NJ: Marion Thompson Wright

The first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in history in the United States, Marion Thompson Wright, was born on Sept. 13, 1905 in East Orange, New Jersey. Wright, who also was the first African American historian to receive a Ph.D. from Columbia University, was one of two black students at Newark’s Barringer High School during her attendance. Wright earned an academic scholarship to Howard University…

James Dickson Carr

James Dickson Carr

James Dickson Carr was born in Baltimore, Maryland on September 28, 1869. His father, William, was a Presbyterian minister. Though he was born in Maryland, Carr and his family made a couple major moves, resulting in public school attendances throughout New Haven, Connecticut and Elizabeth, New Jersey. At the age of 18, in 1886, Carr entered the Rutgers College Grammar School…

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels

Black History NJ: Darryl DMC McDaniels

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels has been a cultural unifier all his life. As one-third of the pioneering rap group Run-D.M.C. alongside Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons and their late DJ, Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell, McDaniels — who happens to be a longtime northern New Jersey resident, and proud of it — helped break down cultural barriers in the ’80s by crossing rap music over into the mainstream…

Tasha Smith

Black History NJ: Tasha Smith

Actress, comedian and model, Tasha Smith, was born in Camden on February 28, 1971. She was raised by a single mother who gave birth to twins at the age of 15. Smith grew up amid gangsters, poverty and drugs, but never let go of her dream to be a part of Hollywood. During her first year living in LA, Smith saw Martin Lawrence at the Comedy Act Theater, igniting her career in the performing arts…

Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Black History NJ: Eddie S Glaude

Both the Chair of the Center for African American Studies and the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University, Eddie S. Glaude Jr. was born on Sept. 4, 1968, in Moss Point, Mississippi. He is a self-professed man of humble roots, as he acknowledged in a commencement speech he delivered at Colgate University on May 17, 2015…

Todd Bowles

Black History NJ: Todd Bowles

New York Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles was born on Nov. 18, 1963. He grew up in Elizabeth, NJ in the now-demolished Pioneer Homes projects. His mother, Joan, raised four kids while juggling two jobs. In his youth, Bowles helped turn the Elizabeth High School football team around before playing college football at Temple. Bowles wasn’t drafted out of college, but the Washington Redskins signed him…

Carl Lewis

Black History NJ: Carl Lewis

Olympic track and field champion Frederick Carlton Lewis (aka Carl Lewis) was born in Birmingham, Alabama on July 1, 1961. His mother, Evelyn Lawler, competed in the 80-meter hurdles at the 1951 Pan American Games, where she finished in 6th place representing the US. Lewis’s younger sister, Carol, was also a track and field star in the long jump. Carol went on to win a number of medals…

Keisha Knight Pulliam

Black History NJ: Keshia Knight Pulliam

Actress Keshia Knight Pulliam was born in Newark, New Jersey on April 9, 1979. She lived with her parents and two brothers. Her career actually began in New York City, not far from her childhood home, when she was just nine-months-old. The gig was a print advertisement for Johnson & Johnson baby products. After that, her career was a non-stop series of successes…

Victor Cruz

Black History NJ: Victor Cruz

Football star Victor Cruz was born on Nov. 11, 1986, in Paterson, NJ. Cruz, who helped lead the Paterson Catholic High School football team to an undefeated season in his senior year, has dealt with and overcome adversity his entire life. He spent a post-graduate semester at Bridgeton Academy in Maine, where he earned an SAT score that helped him gain eligibility to play at the University of Massachusetts…

Avery Brooks

Black History NJ: Avery Brooks

The state of New Jersey has facilitated the growth of countless actors, activists, musicians, directors and educators. Among them is multi-talented star Avery Brooks, who encompasses all five traits in one. Brooks has accomplished a great number of things in his lifetime, often known for his role in Star Trek, but his dedication to preserving African American culture is especially noteworthy…

Althea Gibson

Black History NJ: Althea Gibson

Tennis icon Althea Gibson was the first African American to win a Grand Slam title, in 1956. She was born in Silver, South Carolina on Aug. 25, 1927, but moved with her parents to NY when she was very young. Gibson grew up on West 143rd St., between Lenox and Seventh Avenue, a block that was designated as a play street with a paddle tennis court right in front of her family’s apartment…

February 16: Flip Wilson

Flip Wilson

Clerow “Flip” Wilson, Jr. was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 8, 1933. His family frequently faced major financial difficulties, due to the combination of being raised in a big family during the Great Depression – Wilson was one of ten children – and his father’s difficulty maintaining a steady job. In 1941, Wilson’s mother walked out on the family, and his father was unable to take care of the children by himself…

Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman

Dennis Keith Rodman was born on May 13, 1961 in Trenton, New Jersey. His father, Philander Rodman, Jr., walked out on the family when his oldest child was just 5 years old. Controversy surrounds the family, as Rodman has stated that his father had 46 other children, though Philander Rodman, Jr. claims he only has 29. His mother Shirley took up a number of odd jobs—sometimes four at a time—in order to support the family…


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