Newark’s Third Ward: Geography of Despair, Geography of Resistance

Authors: Erin Royals*, Rutgers University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: black geographies, cultural landscapes, urban geography, newark
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon C3, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Regularly appearing atop “America’s Most Miserable Cities” and “America’s Most Dangerous Cities” lists, Newark, New Jersey has long had a negative reputation, especially after the 1967 rebellion. Far before the rebellion, however, the seeds of discontent among black Newarkers had been sown. For several hundred years, blacks lived among whites in every ward. That began to change in the early 20th century, when blacks began to migrate to Newark in large numbers from the south. The rapid influx of African-Americans caused clashes in various arenas, from labor to housing.

Although African-Americans lived in every Newark ward, they began to concentrate in the city’s Third Ward. There, they built a vibrant network of churches, community institutions, labor unions, and jazz clubs. In the face of virulent discrimination, black Newarkers persevered and created a community that was uniquely their own. Building upon the works of Rose (1978), McKittrick and Woods (2007), and Lipsitz (2011), to name a few, this paper explores the ways in which the despair that has come to become associated with Newark (and particularly, black Newark) was created through racism embodied in local and state policy and how such misery continues to be reproduced. As Newark strives to reassert itself as a major player in the greater New York metropolitan area, the stories of resistance, which were imparted onto the black geography of Newark’s Third Ward, are gradually being erased in favor of redevelopment. This paper seeks to give a voice to those stories.

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