Free People of Color in New Jersey


Free People of Color in New Jersey


New Jersey was a slave state. Throughout the 18th century and well into the 19th, people in New Jersey were enslaved and sold. New Jersey had plantations and Black codes--it also has a Confederate cemetery, but that’s another story. In the middle of the state, a Black community grew. Thread.

In central New Jersey, free People of Color settled on the Sourland Mountain. It’s actually more of a hill, but half of the name was true: the soil was poor. William Stives, who fought in the American Revolution, lived there. So did Friday Truehart, who arrived in 1780 accompanying a minister who was his enslaver.

Truehart’s fourth-great-granddaughter is Sourland historian Beverly Mills. Mills and Elaine Buck have spent the past decade documenting the community and creating a new museum, the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum @SSAAmuseum. 

Among their many extraordinary finds, they know that some men in the community voted: their names are on the rolls found by @amrevmuseum. Don’t miss >> 

The @SSAAmuseum has not (yet!) identified women from that community who voted. Only unmarried women who owned property could vote until 1807, at which point most New Jersians of color were still enslaved. The @AmRevMuseum exhibit includes Black women voters from elsewhere in NJ.

Don’t miss this really wonderful video about the @SSAAmuseum, which is going strong in the pandemic with archaeological digs and more. The video explains the history of the AME Church that houses the museum, plus eye-popping photos of the community over the past century.

I learned about the Sourland Mountain, the Stoutsburg Cemetery, and the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum from @jennyschuessler, who is on a mission to repair the errors of New York Times reporters past.


Daily Suffragist


December 28, 2020


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Daily Suffragist, “Free People of Color in New Jersey,” Daily Suffragist, accessed July 14, 2024,

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