By: Richard L. Smith
On this 6th day of Black History Month, we shine a light on Burlington County, New Jersey, a region renowned for its rich and vibrant African American history.Dubbed the "Cradle of Emancipation," this county stands out for its deep connections to the Underground Railroad movement and its significant role in the transformation of the African American community over three centuries.
Burlington County, by 1790, boasted the largest free black population in New Jersey, a testament to its pivotal role in the emancipation narrative. Situated in the Delaware Valley, an area heralded as a hub for the liberation of enslaved individuals, the county's geographical location played a crucial role in this historical journey.
The area's substantial Quaker presence, known for its early and vocal opposition to the evils of slavery, further cemented Burlington County as a leader in the movement towards freedom.
Significantly, Burlington County served as a crucial stop on the Underground Railroad.
It was known as Station A, a key transition point for horses on the rapid journey from Philadelphia to Princeton, with Bordentown, or Station B, acting as a vital link in this network of freedom.
Among the many illustrious figures in Burlington County's history is Mr. Oliver Cromwell, a decorated black soldier who served under George Washington during the War for Independence.
Born a freeman in what is now Columbus, Mansfield Township, Cromwell's enlistment in the 2nd New Jersey Regiment was a proud moment, reflecting his deep commitment to the country.
Cromwell's distinguished service included participation in pivotal battles such as Short Hills, Monmouth, Brandywine, Springfield, and Yorktown, earning him the esteemed "Badge of Merit" for his six years of faithful service.
In his later years, Cromwell successfully petitioned for a well-deserved pension, a recognition of his contributions and sacrifices.
Burlington County's rich black history, highlighted by the legacy of figures like Oliver Cromwell, continues to inspire and educate. It stands as a testament to the enduring spirit and resilience of the African American community, making it a proud beacon of black history in New Jersey.INFORMATION & IMAGE CREDIT: Burlington County African American History Journal
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