South Jersey’s Place in Civil Rights History

28687210826_a24e2d689d_oFor those who learn about the Civil Rights Movement in history textbooks, it can seem like all the action happened in the South. A new exhibit proves there was plenty of work being done for equality right here in South Jersey.

“A Time For Change: Civil Rights in Southern New Jersey” will be open at the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey through September 28. The museum is located within the Noyes Art Garage of Stockton University, where a group of graduate and undergraduate students worked to put together the exhibit.

The artifacts and photographs on display include pictures of protesters outside a Vineland Woolworth’s in 1960, railing against the lunch counter segregation policies of the chain’s Southern stores.

Visitors can admire dancers’ costumes from Atlantic City’s legendary Club Harlem, which opened in 1935 and for more than 50 years showcased African American talent. Headliners included music greats like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Sammy Davis Jr., Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald and others.

49b3d4325e879ec9c4d0cdfbfe00c2bbOther parts of the exhibit showcase the civil unrest that shook Camden in 1969 and 1971, and Lawnside’s 1968 declaration of an official holiday in memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The town was the first in the nation to declare a Martin Luther King Day, just five days after the civil rights leader’s assassination.

Also featured is the Miss Black America Pageant, founded that same year in Atlantic City, and held just four blocks from the Miss America Pageant, which at the time was closed to African American women. The pageant memorabilia on display includes photos of Oprah Winfrey as a contestant in 1972 and rare video footage compiled from TV news coverage.

After September 28, the exhibit will move to Stockton’s main campus in Galloway, and then to the museum’s Newtonville location.

The Noyes Arts Garage is located at 2200 Fairmount Avenue, Atlantic City. For more information, call 609-626-3805 or visit


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