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BLACK HISTORY MONTH IN NJ: We Salute The "Cradle of Emancipation" Burlington County New Jersey

Burlington County

By: Richard L. Smith 

Officials say, "no New Jersey county has a more vibrant black historical presence than Burlington County."

According to Burlington County officials, the county has been called the "Cradle of Emancipation" because it's directly related to the underground railroad movement and has been identified to demonstrate three centuries of transformation of the black community of Burlington County.

According to a published report from Burlington County officials, by 1790, the county had the most abundant free black population -of any county- in New Jersey.

Officials say this can be attributed to its location in the Delaware Valley, known as the "cradle of emancipation," where enslaved people were freed on a large scale.

The sizeable presence and influence in the valley of Quakers, America's first organized group to speak out against bondage evils, enabled this region to be the pacesetter regarding black emancipation.

Burlington served as a shortstop, where horses were changed after a rapid twenty-mile trip from Philadelphia to Princeton. The stop would be Station A. Bordentown, known as Station B, which served as a continuous connection to Philadelphia's line to Princeton.

Another line ran east through Station B, which followed the northern route. Its southern route remained independent for sixty miles before intersecting with the Bordentown corridor.

Officials say a prominent Burlington County black history figure is Mr. Oliver Cromwell, a decorated black soldier who fought under George Washington in the War for Independence.

He was born a freeman in Black Horse, present-day Columbus, in Mansfield Township, on May 24, 1752. Cromwell joined the 2nd New Jersey.

Recruits of color were not always welcomed into the army, but Cromwell was allowed to enlist and took great pride in our country.

Officials say while in the Second New Jersey, Cromwell served at the battles of Short Hills, Monmouth, Brandywine, Springfield, and Yorktown. Officials said that he received my discharge on June 5, 1783, and it noted I had earned the "Badge of Merit" for his six years of faithful service.

In 1818, the United States Congress passed a law providing pensions to former Continental soldiers in need.

Cromwell made his first application statement explaining his service on April 2, 1818, and then filed a second document on May 27, 1820, to prove that he needed the pension. Officials said, fortunately, Cromwell was awarded a pension of $96 a month, Burlington County officials said in the published report.

INFORMATION & IMAGE CREDIT: Burlington County African American History Journal

SPONSORS: Metro Media Institute of Harrison, Nino's Pizza, Bergen Street Harrison, NJ, and William Paterson University