Black History Month: Historian reveals New Jersey’s ‘true’ history, ties to slavery in book

Author and historian Rick Geffken wrote about how New Jersey was in many ways founded by those forced into a life of servitude. In his book, he explores the deep ties the Garden State has to slavery.

News 12 Staff

Feb 21, 2023, 4:01 PM

Updated 506 days ago

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One man's mission is to explore the deep ties New Jersey has to slavery and share this part of American history.
Author and historian Rick Geffken, who grew up in New Jersey, was shocked after learning just how entrenched the state’s history is in slavery. He says when he moved to Farmingdale 12 years ago, he started to research back to colonial times and came across references to slavery in every New Jersey county and municipality. This led to Geffken writing the book “Stories of Slavery in New Jersey.”
“We thought slavery was restricted to those bad people down south, we had nothing to do with it,” Geffken said. "The history of enslavement for Black people goes back in this state to the 1620s.”
Geffken says Black history is American history, and it is what helped build and lead New Jersey to being what it is today.
Geffken says he was hesitant to write the book at first, out of concern it would appear he was attempting to profit from the misery of others. He says after receiving advice from Black and white scholars, he's hoping the book is used as a way of educating everyone about New Jersey’s honest history.


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