TRENTON, N.J., February 1, 2024 – The New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism (NJTT) today announced a variety of special sites, tours and more taking place around the state for Black History Month, where residents and visitors can discover the invaluable contributions of African Americans to the arts.
“This year’s Black History Month theme of ‘African Americans and the Arts’ provides the perfect opportunity for the Garden State to celebrate the invaluable contributions of Black artists throughout our history,” said Lt. Governor Tahesha Way. “The Black community in New Jersey has long been shaping art, history and culture statewide, with roots that trace back to the mid-1600s. This influence can be seen in New Jersey’s art museums and galleries, which welcome visitors from across the globe to experience their unique collections and exhibitions this February.”
The arts in New Jersey reflect the state’s diverse nine-million-resident population by displaying collections from nearly every cultural heritage and nationality, including the African American community. The arts, within the entertainment and recreation sector, provided nearly 57,000 total jobs in the state in 2022, representing 36% of the total tourism industry employment.
“In addition to special programming showcasing Black artists, New Jersey’s Black Heritage Trail allows both locals and visitors alike to discover sites of historical importance in every region of the state,” said NJTT Executive Director Jeff Vasser. “Highlighting New Jersey’s unique Black history and heritage, as well as some of its best Black-owned businesses, the Trail features a diverse range of things to experience, such as the first Black-owned country club in Scotch Plains, the underground railroad tour in Cape May, and Hackensack Brewing Company, to name just a few.”
The following is a selection of ways to explore the influence of African Americans on the arts in New Jersey during Black History Month, as well as places to dine and shop in the Garden State:
Northern Region (Newark, Montclair)
Discover the Arts:
Newark Museum of Art is home to the Arts of Global Africa Gallery with a collection of 4,000 pieces ranging from masks and sculptures to jewelry, paintings, photography and more, as well as a temporary exhibit featuring Black art. The Story of Newark Fashion: Atelier to Runway exhibit details Newark’s history as a center for the fashion industry from the 1950s to contemporary designers of today.
The Montclair History Center will be offering a guided house tour to explore 200 years of Black history in Montclair and New Jersey through rare first-hand accounts and documents at the Crane House & Historic YWCA on February 18.
Where to Support Black-Owned Businesses: Blueprint Café offers handcrafted beverages, Burger Walla is known for its tasty and inventive burgers, and a unique blend of Puerto Rican and homestyle soul food, also known as RicoSoul cuisine, can be found at The Weekend Spot.
Source of Knowledge Bookstore draws avid readers to browse its shelves. Akwaaba Gallery is an eclectic art hub of the West Ward featuring over 70 different artists, while Bella Nail and Beauty Bar in Newark is a great place for people to get glammed. At The BrownMill Atelier, visitors can watch how the company’s products are made and shop the selection of streetwear-meets-prep styles.
Central Region (Trenton, Stoutsburg, Princeton)
Discover the Arts:
New Jersey State Museum is hosting the Discovering Grant Castner Exhibit, honoring the prolific local photographer whose images span the 1890s through 1910s. Castner’s subjects often included the African American community in New Jersey and reflect life in Trenton at the turn of the century. Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum tells the African American story from the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the present day, focusing on the New Jersey community. On February 9 & 10, Dr. Daisy Century will deliver an original performance showcasing Phillis Wheatley, an 18th-century poet who overcame slavery to become the first African American woman to publish poetry.
Where to Support Black-Owned Business:
1911 Smoke House Barbeque serves up some of the best barbequed food in central Jersey. Or people can visit Bamboo Grill Jamaican restaurant for jerk chicken and other Jamaican dishes. For a sweet treat afterward, Dylilah’s Sweet Sin’Sation offers specialty cakes, cookies, pies and more.
Southern Region (Cape May)
Discover the Arts & History:
Discover the pivotal role Cape May played in the Underground Railroad at the Harriet Tubman Museum. Harriet Tubman lived and worked in Cape May in the 1850s and eventually brought fugitives from Maryland to the area. Travelers can also take a two-hour Underground Railroad Trolley Tour with Cape May MAC to travel through the town and unravel the history of the streets. The Stephen Smith House allows visitors to discover the untold story of Stephen Smith and his prominent role in the country’s historic freedom trail. Carroll Gallery in the Emelen Physick Estate will be hosting the Line in the Sand: Segregated Beaches in Cape May and Atlantic City exhibit exploring the history of these beaches through art and photography.
Where to Support Black-Owned Businesses:
Freda’s Café is an American restaurant beloved by Cape May locals. The quaint eatery is famous for their crab cakes and top tier service.
About New Jersey
New Jersey offers a wide variety of experiences to visitors all year long. Travelers and residents can enjoy outdoor adventures, renowned culinary offerings, educational opportunities, and a strong arts and cultural scene. With numerous state and national parks, beaches, skiing, tax-free shopping, historic sites, museums and more, New Jersey blends together its rich history and exciting present. Home to the nation’s first beach resorts and the birthplace of major inventions, New Jersey offers a picturesque escape and dynamic opportunities for visitors from near and far. For more information, visit www.visitnj.org.
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