History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future. – Robert Penn Warren
Explore Black History Sites in Monmouth County on a Local Tour & Talk with Gilda Rogers executive director of the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center, writer, activist, adjunct faculty, Brookdale Community College and Rick Geffken, author, local historian.
Bethel AME Church & Cemetery
The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church at 3 Waterworks Road in Freehold was completed in 1988. The congregation has outlived slavery, both world wars, and segregation under Jim Crow. Its history dates back to the 1690s, when free blacks formed a village called Squirrel Town.
Bethel offered a safe space for black worshipers who were excluded from predominantly white churches for Sunday services and who, decades later, encountered racism in the borough's slowly desegregating schools.
Black Civil War soldiers of the United States Colored Troops are interred in the Church Cemetery near Squirrel Town.
Court Street School
Since 1915, the once all-Black Court Street School in Freehold Borough has had legendary teachers and successful graduates. Now called the Court Street School Education Community Center, the building is one of two still-standing former segregated schools in New Jersey. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
Dr. Walter Greason (Chair of the History Department at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN) who was born in Freehold, says the school formed the heart of the black middle class and was instrumental in New Jersey’s civil rights movement.
Monmouth Battleground State Park
Located on the border of Manalapan and Freehold Township, the Revolutionary War's crucial battle of Monmouth Courthouse was waged in June 1778. One of the largest battles of the war, it demonstrated that the Continental Army could successfully fight professional British forces.
Fighting for both sides, Black soldiers were part of this historic struggle. Seven hundred fought for the patriots; the Black Brigade and the Black Pioneers joined the British effort. Billy Lee, a non-combatant enslaved man owned by Gen. George Washington, was at the battle.
Bus departs from Brookdale Community College Freehold Higher Education Center, 3680 US-9, Freehold