MONTVILLE, NJ - Montville residents learned a little darker side of local county history through the subject of America’s wicked past with slavery at the Montville Township Public Library on March 14.
The lecture was conducted by New Providence resident Mike Snyder, who is a 2017 graduate of Rutgers University, in Newark, where he earned a Masters in history. His own graduate research was on the public slavery history of Morris County.
“I’m fascinated by local history,” said Snyder. “There are many types of slavery. All are bad, but when investigating, I discovered how slavery was the backbone of labor in the United States. Even universities in New Jersey were brought and paid for from the monies raised in slavery sales.”
Snyder has lectured on the subject of slavery in local regions for the past two years, while working his day job as an assistant car parts manager at Madison Honda.
“Slavery originally came with Dutch and English settlers, as well as with the French. New Jersey didn’t have the climate for year-round cash crops. Therefore, there was no increase in a self-perpetuating slave population, like in the South.” Snyder spoke about the hard life of slaves. The life expectancy was about 36 years of age in the late 1700s. They often suffered from disease, such as smallpox, of which there was an outbreak in 1777. There was also a movement to “Christianize” slaves through the children.
“Pequannock had 51 slave owners and 127 slaves, according to estate inventories filed between 1751 to 1850,” said Snyder. “I believe that was because of the Dutch influence in the area. The Dutch were of course who started the slave trade in Europe.”
Snyder’s slideshow presentation included historic papers and records, including slave’s medical records, marriage and death certificates, slave sale receipts, newspaper advertisements of slave auctions, wills of deceased owners who leased their slaves to relatives, and reward posters for runaway slaves. All of these documents helped to show the detailed history of slavery in the Morris County region.
At some point, several notable slave owners were discussed, including George P. Macculloch, a wealthy Morristown businessman who came up with the idea for the Morris Canal. There was also discussion on notable slaves, such as Phebe of Beverwyck, who was said to be the inspiration behind “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Phebe was born into slavery in 1785 on the Beverwyck Planation in the Township of Hanover New Jersey. She served presidents, founders, and students of some of the country’s most prestigious colleges in New England.
“Slavery would eventually end in New Jersey in 1846, with the gradual emancipation law,” said Snyder. “But still New Jersey would be on the opposite side of the 1864 presidential election during the Civil War. It was also the last to ratify the 13th Amendment, which officially abolished slavery in the United States.”
Numbering to about 50 attendants, Snyder’s lecture received positive reception.
“I never heard of slavery in New Jersey before,” said Montville resident Howard Chesler, who was once a president of the library’s board. “The Montville Library always has wonderful programs and they are very diverse in what they show. They bring in great people and fun subjects. Director Allan Kleiman and program organizer Pam O’Gorman are on top of everything.”
For more information on the programs and events of the Montville Township Pubic Library, and to register for any of these activities, visit the library’s website at www.montvillelibrary.org.
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