It is February, time for Black History Month activities. It is a time to recognize and honor the achievements of many African-Americans throughout our history. For Jersey Family Fun, we wanted to make the connection between Black History Month and New Jersey history in an effort to help families celebrate Black History Month in New Jersey with kids and teens.
When you start to look into books, museums, exhibits, and events with a focus on Black history in New Jersey you start to discover just how rich the history is, how intertwined New Jersey’s history is with the experience of African-Americans in New Jersey. While we are not experts by any means we can tell you there are lots of stories to be told about Black history in New Jersey. There are artifacts to be examined. Photos to be seen. Murals to be admired. Buildings to walk through and exhibits to learn from.
We hope this month as you begin to look for ways to celebrate Black History Month in New Jersey with your kids and teens, that you don’t stop after this month. During February, there are many Black History Month activities, events and museums around the state with special exhibits, you’ll find them listed below.
New Jersey is also home to several museums and historical sites dedicated to preserving and retelling the stories of black Americans in New Jersey and what their experiences have been like in New Jersey. These museums and sites are open year-round so don’t stop visiting, exploring, and learning when February is over.
Continue the learning with your family by checking out books from your local library or purchasing some from Black-owned bookstores. Our book recommendations below include books about Black History in New Jersey as well as books for children and teens written by Black authors from New Jersey.
We also call out some significant African-Americans in New Jersey’s history. We give you a brief overview of why they’re significant. Your kids may decide they want to learn more about famous Black Americans from New Jersey, we give you a point to start from.
If you find our guide to Great Ways to Celebrate Black History Month in New Jersey with Kids and Teens we hope you’ll share it with others.
Celebrate Black History Month with these Local New Jersey Black History Month Activities & Events
The following are Black History month activities and events near me and most of our readers in New Jersey. These will only be offered this month. Fees and advance registration may be required. Please click the links for more information.
Black History Month Concerts
Jubilee! A Celebration of Black Composers in Maplewood NJ
The Maplewood Division of Arts and Culture will present “Jubilee! A Celebration of Black Composers” on February 23, 2023 at the Woodland Great Hall.
Black History Month Chamber Music Concert in Englewood at Englewood Library
Join Quartetto Caliente for an hourlong string quartet exploration of Black History Month. With music spanning the ages and across the globe, including traditional Zulu music, Spirituals, Ragtime, Jazz, Classical and Hiphop. All ages are welcome! Learn more in our Black History Month Chamber Music Concert in Englewood event listing.
Of Our New Day Begun: Celebrating Black History Month in Trenton NJ
Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton welcomes the New Jersey Youth Symphony for a Black History Month concert to perform works by Omar Thomas, Florence Price, and Antonin Dvorak. The group will present, “Of Our New Day Begun: Celebrating Black History Month,” on February 4, 2023, featuring special guests from The Newark School of the Arts and The Discovery Orchestra’s George Marriner Maull in, “Discovering Juba Dance.”
Black History Month Dance Performances
Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble in Berkeley NJ
Celebrate Black History Month with a performance of traditional African music and dance at the Berkeley Branch of the Ocean County library. Learn more in their event listing.
- Jazzy Dance Party – Move and groove at this celebration of some jazz greats and other Black recording artists. For ages 3 – 6 with a caregiver. Lacey NJ Library
Black History Month Movie Screenings in NJ
There are a number of family-friendly movies featuring black cultures, actors, actresses, stories, and more that will be shown across New Jersey this month. Most of them will feature free admission.
- Lakewood NJ Library, February 7, 2023 – Read more details in their event listing.
- Maplewood, February 19, 2023 – Read more details in our event listing.
- Hoboken Library, February 11, 2023 – Read more details in our event listing.
Queen of Katwe
- Long Beach Island NJ Library, February 11, 2023 – Read more details in their event listing.
- Maplewood, February 10, 2023 – Read more details in our event listing.
- I Know a Man… Ashley Bryan Waretown NJ Library, February 18, 2023 – Read more details in their event listing.
More movie screenings
- Mercer Community College will host multiple “Film and Chat” sessions.
Black History Month Performances
The following live performances, with black themes, storytelling, and music will take place this month. Again, please check the links for information regarding the subject matter, fees, and other important information. Not all performances will be appropriate for young children.
Passing Strange in Montclair NJ
From Feb. 16 – March 5, 2023, Vanguard Theater Company will showcase, “Passing Strange”, the 2008 autobiographical rock musical about a young African American’s artistic journey of self-discovery.
From Africa to Zydeco in Fair Lawn NJ
Fit4Kids presents a music program to celebrate Black History Month! Professional musicians will perform an interactive show of roots music from Africa to Louisana using guitar, piano & more. Learn more in our Black History Month Celebration in Fair Lawn at Fair Lawn Library event listing.
African Drum Circle with Music Play Patrol in Atco
Music Play Patrol presents a program about a variety of West African hand drums including the djembe, talking drum, and more. Learn more in our Black History Month Celebration in Atco at South County Branch Library event listing.
Black History Month African Drumming in Glen Ridge at Glen Ridge Library
Celebrate Black History Month with this wonderful African Drumming program. Children will have hands on drumming time. Learn more in our Black History Month African Drumming in Glen Ridge event listing.
Black History Month Games
NJ Scavenger Hunt
- Ocean County NJ Library branches are sponsoring a Black History Month Scavenger Challenge. It will be available throughout February. Visit one of these branches.
Black History Trivia Games
- The Manchester Branch of the Ocean County Library will host a Black History Trivia Game on February 16, 2023.
Black History Story Times & Storytelling
Bilingual West African Folktale and Storytelling Workshop for Children
Maplewood Library presents a chance for children to come and experience West African Folk Tales in a festive atmosphere in celebration of “Black History Month”. A family event not to be missed under any circumstances! Learn more in our Black History Month West African Folktale and Storytelling Workshop for Children in Maplewood event listing.
Black History Month Story Time in Montclair at Montclair Library
Storytelling is a pastime that has guided us since the dawn of humanity. Celebrate Black History Month as storyteller Shirley Johnson shares timeless tales for families. Follow the trickster, Anansi the Spider, as he weaves his web from the African Continent, all the way to the Southern States of the USA. He continues his tricks as he transforms from Anansi to Brer Rabbit in folk literature. Learn more in our Black History Month Story Time in Montclair at Montclair Library event listing.
More story times with master storyteller Shirley Johnson
- Point Pleasant NJ – Sankofa Stories by master storyteller Shirley Johnson
Stories of Slavery in New Jersey
Hosted by the Jackson Branch of the Ocean County Library, local author Rick Geffken brings alive the history of slavery in New Jersey and the stories of its enslaved people from his most recent book, Stories of Slavery in New Jersey. Best for teens and older.
More story times to honor Black children authors
Visit or reach out to these libraries for more information about their story times.
- Mercer County NJ Library
- Twin Rivers branch
- Ocean County NJ Library
- Island Heights
- Point Pleasant Beach
- Toms River
- Upper Shores
- Black History Month Reading Event in Neptune City at McDonald’s
- Black History Month Story Time in Hoboken at Hoboken Library
- Essex County – Black History Month Story Times in Maplewood
Reading Challenges for Black History Month
- The Jackson NJ Branch of the Ocean County Library is holding a month-long reading challenge to celebrate Black Children’s authors. Visit the library branch for more details.
African American Poetry
For the kids, tweens, and teens who enjoy poetry save the date for these events featuring readings and discussions of African American poetry.
- African American Poetry: Past & Present, Berkeley Branch, Ocean County Library
Black History Art Exhibits
SLADE: A Family Affair in South Orange NJ
South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) will be displaying its newest exhibit, “SLADE: A Family Affair”, at The Herb + Milly Iris Gallery from Jan. 26 – March 5. The first father-daughter exhibit for the gallery features photographs by Kelvin Slade, and oil paintings by Corrine Slade, and it portrays the influence that Jazz music had on them both.
Rhythm & Blues in Montclair NJ
Studio Montclair, Inc. will present, “Rhythm & Blues,” an exhibit examining the visual artist’s perceptions of the rhythm and blues musical traditions.
Paintings and Sculptures by Leroy Johnson in West Windsor NJ
Mercer Community College‘s “Paintings and Sculptures by Leroy Johnson” exhibition will be open for viewing through March 24, 2023.
A Family Affair in Maplewood NJ
The art of Timothy J. Simmons challenges the negative stereotypes of African Americans by providing an unbiased “conventional” (i.e. normal ) images of family life of African Americans. Learn more in our Black History Month Family Art Exhibit in Maplewood event listing.
Black History Arts, Crafts, & Projects
This month, NJ libraries and other organizations are hosting arts and crafts programs with projects inspired by black artists and cultures.
Mercer County Library Arts, Crafts, Projects
- Black Lives Matter Painted Rocks
- Drop-in Craft: Celebrate Black Illustrators!
- Crafternoon: Heart Art inspired by Alma Thomas
Ocean County Library Arts, Crafts, & Projects
- Popsicle Stick Shack
- Paper Mosaic Art
- Wreaths of Kindness
- Inspirational Quote Collage
- Craft it Out – Amazing Inventors in Black History
- Tween Art Club
- Paper Dolls & Black Fashion Designers
- Young Artist’s Studio – Quilt-style collages
- Arty Party & More
NJ Libraries with Drop in & Make and Take Black History art projects
- Ocean County Libraries
- Beachwood Branch
Celebrate African American Inventors at these Events
These NJ Black History Months events will fill your mind with cool trivia and impressive facts about everyday items you use that were created by African American inventors.
- Watch & Create: Traffic Light Snack – Stafford NJ Library
- Celebrate the Potato Chip – Tuckerton NJ Library
- Ice Cream – Long Beach Island NJ Library
- 3D illusion transmitter – Stafford NJ Library
- Circuits – Lakewood NJ Library
More Black History Month Fun
Fairytale Theater – The Boy and the Magic Stone on Long Beach Island NJ
Once upon a time… the Long Beach Island branch put on a puppet show! Listen to a classic fairytale told through puppets. This week we will be seeing the African fairytale The Boy and the Magic Stone. Learn more in their event listing.
Black History Month Celebration in Lawrenceville
Join the Black Student Union (BSU) as they express the importance of Black culture, community, and progress to start off Black History Month with the raising of the Black Lives Matter Flag! Learn more in our Black History Month Celebration in Lawrenceville at Bart Luedeke Center Theater event listing.
Black History Month Teen Celebration in Montclair
Join other teens to learn about Black History Month with trivia and stay for a dance party after! Snacks provided, while supplies last. Learn more in our Black History Month Teen Celebration in Montclair event listing.
More NJ Black History Month Events in North Jersey
- Elizabeth – Union County Urban League will be hosting an array of events for Black History Month, including the 2nd Annual Black Business Owners Expo on Feb. 5, a Black History Month College Fair on February 25, 2023, and a “Voices of our Ancestors” program complete with African dance, drumming, the Elizabeth Community Choir and more on February 25, 2023.
- Englewood – The Bergen County NAACP will host its third Black History Month Health Fair on February 11, 2023, offering free health screenings and health information to the public.
- Jersey City – The Jersey City Municipal Council will host a Black History Month Celebration on February 1, 2023, complete with a flag raising ceremony, along with keynote speaker, Lawrence Hamm, which will be held at the City Hall Council Chambers. The 28th Annual Oratory Contest for students in grades 3 – 8 will also be held by the Jersey City Municipal Council from February 14 – 16, 2023.
- Fair Lawn – Enjoy a Black History Month Celebration in Fair Lawn at Fair Lawn Library on February 17, 2023. Fit4Kids presents a music program to celebrate Black History Month! Professional musicians will perform an interactive show of roots music from Africa to Louisana using guitar, piano & more.
More NJ Black History Month Events in Central Jersey
- Ceremony in West Windsor Township – Kicking off Black History Month with a spirited ceremony on February 1, 2023, Mercer Community College will host events such as a market featuring BIPOC entrepreneurs on February 4, 2023. The “Paintings and Sculptures by Leroy Johnson” exhibition will be open for viewing through March 24, 2023, along with multiple “Film and Chat” sessions, Black History Month trivia, and more.
More NJ Black History Month Events in South Jersey
- Black History Month Fashion Show in Mount Laurel – Enjoy a runway-style fashion show on the Mount Holly Arts Campus of Rowan University featuring designs from both RCBC students and industry professionals in collaboration with Atlantic City Fashion Week.
Calendar of Free or Almost Free Black History Month Events
See this month’s NJ Black History Month events at a glance. Click on any day’s dot for a complete listing of that day’s Black History events. Click on any event title for more information.
Calendar of Events
Black History Month Family Art Exhibit in Maplewood 2023
Black History Month Family Art Exhibit in Maplewood 2023
Here are more fun activities in Maplewood, New Jersey. 1978 Art Exhibition - “A FAMILY AFFAIR” - Featuring Artist Timothy J. Simmons The art of Timothy J. Simmons challenges the …
Black History Month Chamber Music Concert in Englewood at Englewood Library 2023
Black History Month Chamber Music Concert in Englewood at Englewood Library 2023
Here are more fun activities in Englewood, New Jersey. Black History Month Chamber Music Concert Join Quartetto Caliente for an hourlong string quartet exploration of Black History Month. With music …
New Jersey Attractions with Black History Month exhibits
More details on additional Black History activities at New Jersey attractions coming soon.
New Jersey Destinations rich with African American History
Our friends from Visit New Jersey have shared with us how Cape May has played a role in New Jersey’s history
“Often celebrated for its quaint shops and idyllic coastal vibe, the town of Cape May, New Jersey, is abundantly rich in Black History. A key stop along the state’s Black Heritage Trail, which highlights sites with historical significance to American Black History, Cape May became a major Underground Railroad hub as enslaved people sought refuge.
In the early 1850s, there were an estimated 100 free African Americans who owned land in the Cape May area and became instrumental in the freedom movement. As a result, visitors will find several significant buildings at the intersection of Lafayette and Franklin Streets, which was once the heart of abolitionist activism.
Tours are available for every visitor’s preference and ability level – from an Underground Railroad Trolley Tour to the African American Heritage Walking Tour, which is available with a guide or self-guided. Highlights include a visit to the Owen Coachman House, a walk in the cemetery where the earliest freed Black settlers were buried, and numerous tales of the Black-only beaches that surrounded the town.
Children have the opportunity to discover the Underground Railroad through the Junior Ranger Activity Book, with a rewarding prize badge at the end. This activity book guides children through the experience, teaching them the significance of history and allowing them to generate thoughts of their own.
The Harriet Tubman Museum, which opened in June 2021, hosts documents and relics that inform and celebrate the efforts of the extraordinary heroine as she worked to fund anti-slavery efforts in the 1850s. With the assistance of park staff, children and teens can receive a set of Civil War to Civil Rights Trading Cards. These seven cards provide knowledge about Harriet Tubman, her life as a child, her efforts along The Underground Railroad, and more. This interactive experience entices children to further develop historical knowledge.”
New Jersey Attractions Dedicated to African American Cultural Awareness
The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum in Skillman
The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum is located at the location of the Mt. Zion AME Church in Skillman, NJ designated to show African American contributions to the Sourlands. It is open by appointment only.
The Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum will be hosting a “Love Letters” exhibit this February, featuring newly discovered love letters from Garland F. Fields to Emeline Gillette; it is a love story from the Sourland Mountains.
The African American Heritage Museum of South Jersey in Newtonville and Atlantic City
The African American Heritage Museum of South Jersey is located in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Newtonville, NJ and Noyes Arts Garage in Atlantic City.
The “The Recent Paintings of Quinton Greene” exhibition will be available at the African American Heritage Museum from January 3 – February 28, 2023 in Atlantic City. The selection of works has been brought to display in honor of Black History Month, as Greene reflects on many aspects of African American culture in his works.
The “African American Quilt Showcase” exhibition will be available at the African American Heritage Museum from January 3 – February 28, 2023 in Newtonville. In African American culture, quilts can carry great meaning. The exhibition of Quilts is by members of the Sewing Club from Rockland County, New York.
To learn more about the museum visit their website, aahmsnj.org or click over to Eye Opening Exhibits at the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey to learn about our visit to the African American Heritage Museum of South Jersey.
Albert E. Hinds Memorial Walking Tour of African American Life in Princeton
Go on a walking tour with the Albert E. Hinds Memorial Walking Tour of African American Life in Princeton. Follow along with this website, princetonhistory.org/tour, to find out information relating to significant sites to see.
Underground Railroad in Allentown
Allentown, NJ has many places that were a part of the Underground Railroad. To learn more about its history visit this article.
Museums in Motion
This is a traveling African American 3-D history museum that has virtual field trips and a virtual museum available as well. There are different themes that can be picked such as The Tuskegee Airmen, Sports Heroes and more. To book them and learn more visit their website, museumsinmotion.org.
Additional Resources for Black History Month Activities in New Jersey
While our guide here to NJ Black History Month activities is focused on activities for children, teens, and their families we recognize that some of our readers may be looking for Black History Month activities for adults. The following resources will help you with that.
- Visit New Jersey’s Guide to New Jersey’s Black Heritage Destinations.
- Maplewood NJ Black History Month
Books for children and teens about Black History in New Jersey
The books in this section have been recommended to me and I look forward to reading them soon. We have included links to where these books can be purchased.
Jersey Family Fun is a participant in the Amazon Affiliates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. Some links listed below in this post are affiliate links. They do not add any additional costs to the purchase price.
Children books about Black History in New Jersey
Finish the Story! Harriet Tubman’s Secret Raid by Jeffrey Bensam for kids 8 – 16 years old.
Finish the Story! Harriet Tubman’s Secret Raid blends a fast-moving, colorfully-illustrated adventure with a carefully researched, true historical backstory. The book’s 20+ interactive challenges are hard to put down and great to share with friends. Each book also connects you to free printable downloads of the challenges, puzzles, and budget sheets so that you can replay the story or make it a group or class adventure.
All-Star: How Larry Doby Smashed the Color Barrier in Baseball by Audrey Vernick for children 4 – 7 years old.
Larry Doby was the first black baseball player in the American League. He played for the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League in 1942 and 1943 before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. After his time in the Navy he played again for the Newark Eagles before being recruited to play with the Cleveland Indians. Learn about him and the racism and barriers he encountered as he smashed the color barrier in American baseball.
Count Basie (American Jazz) by Joanne Mattern for children in grades 4th – 6th grade.
Count Basie (American Jazz) is a 48 biography of a famous Jazz composer written for kids ages 10-13.
Young adult books about Black History in New Jersey
Paul Robeson: No One Can Silence Me: The Life of the Legendary Artist and Activist
The inspiring life and legacy of vocal artist and civil rights icon Paul Robeson―one of the most important public figures in the twentieth century―adapted for young adults by the acclaimed Robeson biographer.
Black New Jersey recommended by Aria Miller
Written by author Graham Russell Grao, Black New Jersey talks about the differences and struggles faced by African Americans mainly situated in New Jersey. How some went from rags to riches while others fought for their spot in today’s society. The book perfectly describes how discrimination can affect lives severely.Aria Miller, Chief Editor at My GRE Exam Preparation
More books about Black History in New Jersey
These books, while not specifically targeted to young adults, may be appropriate for young adults who want to read books about black history in New Jersey. All are available on Amazon.
- Free At Last, Free At Last, Thank God Almighty, I’m Free At Last: A Photographic & Historical Guide to African American Cemeteries In New Jersey, Pennsylvania & New York
- Manhood Enslaved: Bondmen in Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth-Century New Jersey (Gender and Race in American History) (Volume 2)
- The Negro Leagues in New Jersey: A History
- The Marion Thompson Wright Reader: Edited and with a Biographical Introduction by Graham Russell Gao Hodges
- Root and Branch : African Americans in New York and East Jersey, 1613-1863
- The Path to Freedom: Black Families in New Jersey
- If These Stones Could Talk: African American Presence in the Hopewell Valley, Sourland Mountain and Surrounding Regions of New Jersey
- The Franklin Park Tragedy: A Forgotten Story of Racial Injustice in New Jersey
- Hidden History of South Jersey: From the Capitol to the Shore
- Slavery and Freedom in the Rural North: African Americans in Monmouth County, New Jersey
- Underground Railroad in New York and New Jersey
- Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America
- Parallel Communities: The Underground Railroad in South Jersey
- A Study of Slavery in New Jersey
- The Ragged Road to Abolition: Slavery and Freedom in New Jersey, 1775-1865
5 Important New Jersey Historical Figures who are African American
- John S. Rock was born in Salem in 1825 and was the first African American lawyer admitted into practice before the Supreme Court. He was also a teacher, doctor and a dentist.
- Paul Robeson was born in Princeton in 1898 and he was a performer who had many roles such as in the musical “Showboat.” He was one of the first artists who refused to do live performances to segregated audiences.
- Count Basie is known to be one of the greatest jazz musicians and he was born in Red Bank, NJ in 1904.
- Wynona Lipman was born in Georgia in 1923 and was the first African American to be elected to the State Senate in New Jersey in 1971. She made history as the longest-serving member of the State Senate. Her most passionate work related to issues impacting women, minority groups, children, and small businesses.
- Lary Doby was born in 1923 and he became the first black baseball player in the American League.
5 Current Important New Jersey Figures who are African American
- Shaquille O’Neal was born in Newark in 1972 and is known for his time playing basketball for the Lakers.
- Derek Jeter was born in 1974 in Pequannock Township and was a five time World Series champion with the Yankees.
- Lauryn Hill was born in 1975 and is known to be one of the greatest rappers.
- Zoe Saldana was born in Passaic in 1978 and is known for her roles such as Eva in Center Stage, Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy and Nyota in Star Trek.
- Todd Evans is a resident of Willingboro and a poet and author. He founded the Don Evans Players and also runs open mic nights in Willingboro.
More Ways to Support Black History Month in New Jersey
Visit Black-Owned Bookstores and Community Centers in NJ
Shop for Books written by Black authors from New Jersey
Children’s Books written by Black authors from New Jersey
Jamal’s Busy Day by Wade Hudson
This book is a snapshot of a day in the life of Jamal. It is a good one we have used in our house to discuss daily routines with kids. There is a great activity guide that goes along with the book here which helps for a homeschool lesson.
Jamal’s Busy Day is written by Wade Hudson. He and his wife Cheryl are both writers and they also founded Just Us Books, Inc after finding a need for more books showing positive messages that were relatable for Black children.
Just Us Books, Inc is a children’s book publishing company in West Orange, NJ that has a belief that Good books make a difference. To learn more about them and to find other books that they write and publish visit their website justusbooks.com/pages/about-us.html. To purchase this book visit this page of their website, justusbooks.com/9780940975248.
Young Adult Books written by Black authors from New Jersey
Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud
Truly Madly Royally is a lighthearted teen romance that also delves into deeper topics. I enjoyed it since it was a very realistic romance that showed the detrimental impacts of self-doubt, living in the public eye and how people can be affected by microaggressions.
Truly Madly Royally shows some of the difficulties in interracial dating but how it can still be a positive experience where both people can learn and grow from the other’s experiences. The young female protagonist is also a good role model since she is an activist who is constantly striving to help her community.
The author, Debbie Rigaud, lived in East Orange, NJ when she was younger. You can find her other books at her website below. You can purchase Truly Madly Royally on Amazon.