EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ, - In celebration of Black History Month, the Lost Souls Memorial Project (LSP) is releasing the official Request for Design Proposals (RFP), seeking design teams to submit their ideas about what the future Lost Souls memorial will be.  

The LSP seeks to create a permanent memorial to 137 African Americans who, in 1818, were stolen from the state of New Jersey and transported to the Deep South to be sold into permanent slavery. Jacob Van Wickle, a corrupt Middlesex County judge organized an extensive ring that included members of his family as well as highly placed members of the New Jersey elite. The state was phasing out slavery at the time, and under the state’s gradual emancipation laws no slave could be sent out of state without having given formal legal consent. The judge and his ring used deception, fakery and outright kidnapping of both free and enslaved people, who were held under guard in his home in what is now East Brunswick, New Jersey. They were sent on ships from Perth Amboy to Louisiana and Mississippi, many ending on the plantation owned by Van Wickle’s brother-in-law. Had they remained in New Jersey, they would in time have become free according to the state’s laws.

Outrage when the ring was discovered led to a few indictments, but Van Wickle was never brought to account, and the affair was forgotten. The purpose of the Lost Souls Public Memorial is to ensure that these people – children, women, men – are never again forgotten, and this horrific event be brought to light.  In memorializing these Lost Souls, we can meaningfully contribute to the nation’s ongoing healing from our history of slavery, as we reckon with past and current manifestations of systemic racism.

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Thanks to the support of the Township of East Brunswick, and Middlesex County, the memorial will be located at the East Brunswick Community Arts Center.  

The Lost Souls Public Memorial Project is open to all who would like to help it succeed.  The New Brunswick NAACP, the New Jersey Chapter ​of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, and The Unitarian Society, as well as other community groups and individuals, are working to bring this project to life.  

The Lost Souls Public Memorial Project, Inc. is a New Jersey nonprofit corporation in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) status.  For more information about the project, and to access the RFP, please visit our website, www.lostsoulsmemorialnj.org.