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Newark Public Library Presents Exhibit, Voices from the Rebellion, Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Newark Rebellion
The Newark Public Library has mounted a new exhibition, Voices from the Rebellion, examining the causes, events, and impact of five days of rebellion by the African American community in Newark in July 1967, marking the 50th anniversary of events that continue to be felt to this day.The exhibit, curated by Librarian Thomas Ankner and scholar Peter Blackmer, is on view on the first floor of the Main Library at 5 Washington Street, Newark, through August 26, 2017.A symposium will be held in conjunction with the exhibit, on Saturday, July 15, 2017, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.
The exhibit is a joint project of the Newark Public Library and the Center for Education and Juvenile Justice, the sponsor of The North: Civil Rights and Beyond in Urban America, a digital archive of stories of resistance in urban centers. The first digital archive created for the project was Newark, under the direction of Junius Williams, lawyer, author, activist, and community leader, who most recently served as chairman of Newark Celebration 350, which organized more than 200 events to celebrate the city’s 350th anniversary. Newark History Society is a cosponsor of the exhibit.
Library Director Jeffrey Trzeciak, commenting on the importance of this exhibition, stated that “The events of five days in July 1967 continue to be deeply felt by our friends and neighbors in Newark. Voices from the Rebellion is able to simultaneously look at the large forces that were at work in our city and our nation, forces of institutional racism, the flight of businesses and families to suburbs, and the rising calls for economic and political empowerment, while at the same time presenting the actions of individuals and local institutions.”
Trzeciak continued, “The Newark Public Library welcomes the opportunity to serve as a forum for memory and reflection, and a place to discuss our shared future.We thank our partners: the digital archive The North: Civil Rights and Beyond in the Urban America, the Center for Education and Juvenile Justice, and the Newark History Society, with special thanks to Junius Williams for all the ways he has moved our city forward.”
“The 1967 Newark Rebellion, which shook the city for five days in July, represented the breaking point for African American and Latino Newarkers who had had enough of racist policies and everyday oppression,” said Junius Williams, activist and producer ofThe North: Civil Rights and Beyond in Urban America. “It is imperative that we preserve the historic record of this event with firsthand accounts and other primary sources, learn from it, and use its lessons to improve our present and future. The North is grateful to have the Newark Public Library as one of our partners in pursuing this important mission via the Voices from the Rebellion exhibit.”
The 1967 Newark Rebellion was rooted in years of institutional racism. For decades, African Americans from the South had been coming to Newark as part of the Great Migration, seeking employment and opportunity, but were met with widespread discrimination in housing, education, healthcare, and employment. African Americans were also met with police brutality.
The migration of African Americans to Newark and other northern cities coincided with the growth of suburbs, and many white residents and white-owned businesses of Newark left the city for the growing suburbs of northern New Jersey, particularly after World War II. By 1967, Newark was a majority black city, but political power remained in the hands of whites. Only two African Americans served as members of the City Council, and many residents had grown impatient with a moderate approach to racial equality.
African Americans had been actively organizing in Newark and other northern cities, to gain an equal share in economic, political, and social power structures. Black communities in Newark protested discrimination in housing, employment, education, and law enforcement, but by the 1960s those protests were met with hostile resistance from City Hall and law enforcement agencies.Other cities, facing similar issues, erupted into violence in the years before 1967. For some, the absence of “race riots” in Newark was “evidence of alert, intelligent and forward-looking leadership” in the city. For others, however, it was a wonder that Newark’s rebellion didn’t come sooner.
Voices from the Rebellion traces the underlying causes, the events immediately before July 12, 1967, that provided the spark, and the immediate aftermath of the violence. The exhibition concludes with an examination of the ongoing effects of the Rebellion on Newark.
Some images in the exhibit are from the collection of the Newark Public Library. Others are archival images from other repositories, made available by arrangement with The North, and can be viewed on line at riseupnewark.com.
About the Newark Public Library Since 1888, the NewarkPublic Library has been an anchor institution in Newark. It is New Jersey’s most comprehensive municipal library, serving some 10,000 patrons per week and providing equal access for all to vast educational, cultural, literary, historical and digital resources, including the James Brown African American Room, the New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center, and the Charles Cummings New Jersey Information Center. The Library serves as a gateway to knowledge and lifelong learning, presenting programs that serve diverse audiences, including art and history exhibitions, author readings, children’s programs, film screenings, and music, dance, and theater performances.
About The North: Civil Rights and Beyond in Urban America: The North’s mission is to develop a powerful multimedia interactive archive to teach the lessons of African American struggle for empowerment in the nation’s major urban centers in the North, focusing on the era of the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. It is a new educational tool for all people, but primarily for youth in grade school through college and beyond, to enable research and to preserve the record of those people who were “foot soldiers”in the Civil Rights, Black Power and other Movements in the North. We hope educators, students, activists, and historians will use this resource as a means to teach social justice issues through history of the African American struggle for power, and keep these stories alive for generations to come.