Though one of the most diverse states in the nation, New Jersey has a long way to go in identifying and preserving historic sites that reflect that diversity. When historic sites associated with underrepresented communities are not identified, they face erasure. When sites are identified, we can fight for the stories, and ideally, the physical structures to be preserved. Just this year, Rutgers-Newark announced the addition of the former site of The Plane Street Colored Church to the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Network with the extensive research by historian Noelle Lorraine Williams into the black abolitionist movement. In Cape May, a state grant will help the Historic Preservation Commission conduct more targeted research into African American history after the opening of the Harriet Tubman Museum. New Jersey needs more funded research including local, county, and statewide context studies that match themes with specific sites, and at the same time, begin to break down the barriers that prevent sites from being listed on local, state, and national registers. Preservation New Jersey urges municipalities, counties, and statewide bodies to apply for and develop resources to identify sites that tell underrepresented stories and push forward the national conversation around retooling the criteria and process for historic designation.
Preservation New Jersey