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Vineland African American
The Carl V. Arthur Center
Vineland, New Jersey
Dr. Virginia Perry
New Jersey Youth Corps
At the threshold of the museum
directly to your right is the
African people were captured
and stolen in mass from their
motherland and packed into ships
for the long journey to the Americas.
Step into the box and feel what it
might been like to be confined for
months upon months without bathing,
without toilet privileges, and having to
live in your own others‘ filth.
Follow the Tracks to Freedom
The extra large tracks from Confinement into the middle of the
room are indicative of the Underground Railroad, which was a
system of people working
together to set up safe places
and hideouts to help slaves flee
slavery, and walk to freedom.
Situated on the Cohansey River
not far from the Delaware Bay,
conductors led the way across
the 30 miles of water in the Bay
to safe places in Greenwich.
Signs, Symbols, and Hideouts
Smashing the shackles of slavery meant breaking the
Southern slave holders called those
involved in abolition and the UGRR
A system of signs, symbols and unique
Hideouts became a way of life for
both the abolitionists and the fugitives.
Messages hidden in quilt squares
indicated the routes to follow.
Quilts were one of many of the ways
that veiled, covert, messages were given to those who
traveled the Underground Railroad.
For the African-American, the bandanna may be the of the
present day du-rag. It was designed to be utilitarian for
cowboys and field hands.
The bright colors of the bandanna
signify the original method of
coloring cotton or silk.
The size of the square of cloth was
35" by 35" and it was as much a part
of dress as pants or boots.
It had many uses.
The Black cowboy existed long before American slavery.
Many Africans tended large herds of cattle. As slave owners
America learned that these men had these skills and abilities, a
number of them bought Africans and took them to places
like Texas, Louisiana, Alabama,
South Carolina, and Florida.
Several of these so-called Black Cowboys
fled the plantations and settled in the
northern parts of Mexico, where they
traded their skills for lessons in riding and roping from
Vaqueros. Large numbers also joined with tribes of
This sculpture portrays one
the many hidden and
apparent dangers cowboys,
including Black ones, faced
A cattle driver had to
continuously be on guard.
The Cross and
The African-American Church
The Empty Cross symbolizes hope in God's resurrection It is a
metaphor for the bigger picture
of everlasting life in the presence of God
the Father and Christ the Son.
The significance of the African-American
Church is ultimate. The church is the
oldest black American institution outside
of family. African roots are steeped in
The value of this belief system translated
to American shores and kept the tie that binds us.
The Dioramas placed around the room are replications of egg
scenes which were popular in
the 19th and 20th centuries.
The egg scenes represent
fugitive slaves moving toward
In the boxed scenes the themes
are Homesteading and
Patriotism. The concept carries
the assumption that we who
are of African descent also hold a stake in America and we are
willing to invest in our homeland. All of these factors played a
great part in African-American life.
Homelife was of utmost importance because home was more
than just shelter. Owning land and a
home signified a share in America and
the promise of a better life.
Home was the place where
there was relative safety. It was a respite
from the worries of the day, a place to
kick back and relax, and a refuge from
heat and cold.
Home was a spot to regroup, refresh,
and appreciate family. Home was also
a place to refuel with the harvest of the
fruit of the land. And it was a resting place.
Grandma's attic was a secret place of fun and imaginative
process. Hidden in the upper reaches of
the house it held treasures for youngsters
to explore, pretend, and play with.
"Dress up" was the most popular past
time on a rainy or snowy day. The attic
held odors that spoke of days gone by.
Old military uniforms, Sunday dresses,
men’s suits, a wedding dress, other
interesting clothing, a dressmaker's form,
shoes, old pictures and picture frames,
and trunks filled with toys and other
items of interest for little hands to touch.
Grandma’s attic was a safe, happy place at the top of the
By penalty of law a slave could not be taught to read. If a slave
knew how to read, it was kept secret. Some slave owners
thought that if a slave was illiterate,
he was kept in bondage, and more easily
With the help of some compassionate
whites, and the slave's desire to learn, a
number of fugitives and freemen became
In newly formed African-American
Communities learning to read was of
great importance, and churches often supported schools.
Springtown and Gouldtown both had schools. Reading and
writing were the heart of the curriculum for the free black settlers.
The Welcome Table
African-American slaves never had the opportunity to sit at the
table with the master to eat: they were not welcomed, although
their hands had grown, harvested and
prepared the food and drinks.
In one of the old Negro Spirituals this
concept of being able to sit at the table
was reflected. In heaven Blacks will sit at
the welcome table and will enjoy a
sumptuous feast that the Master has
prepared for us.
This particular table has no head or foot indicating that everyone
who sits here is equal. One of the tenants of Christianity says that
there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male or female, but
we are all One in Christ Jesus.
African-Americans have participated in every American war
since the Revolution, in fact an African-American from
New Jersey, Crispus Attucks, was the first to be murdered on the
night of March 5, 1770.
Altogether five citizens of Boston
died when eight British soldiers
fired on a large and unruly
crowd that was menacing them.
Boston's patriots, led by
Sam Adams, immediately
labeled the fray the
Boston Massacre and hailed its
victims as martyrs for liberty.
Take time to look through the book on the MILITARY
African Americans hold the position
of being a people who came to
North American shores in chains
by way of slave ships.
Few, if any, came by way of
Ellis Island as the masses of
immigrants from Europe did.
Consequently, Lady Liberty
does not hold the same significance
for us as it does for others, and
certainly her inscription does not
have the same impact on a people who were brought by force
to this new, foreign, contentious land.
Patriotism: It's My Flag, Too
Although America has not treated
us very well, African Americans
The tie to Africa having been almost
completely and traumatically
severed, America is the only homeland
later generations have ever known.
African-Americans have bled,
fought and died, and been buried
in her soil. We have made extreme
sacrifices for her. And we continue
to invest ourselves in America.
We seek to live productive lives,
we buy houses and land, we work, we pay taxes.
Our families are rooted here. They probably will grow up here
and die here. We are American patriots.
Toward the center of the room you see a worn out bridge that
spans a small river. The bridge
represents obstacles along the
route to freedom. Under cover of
night, a slave would have crossed
the river at its most narrow place.
The other center stage exhibit is
called Freighted to Freedom.
An African-American man had himself boxed with the help of a
white friend in Richmond, Virginia.
He was freighted by wagon to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He spent twenty-six hours in the box.
Freighted to Freedom
In 1849, After his family had been sold
away, Henry Brown Enlisted the help
of a white friend who had him crated
in a box 2 feet by 3 feet.
Brown pressed his 200 pound frame
into the box along with a few biscuits
and some water.
He was shipped from
Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia.
The trip, by boat, by wagon and by
train took 26 hours.
Some of the time Brown was traveling on his head and shoulders.
The Big Dipper and North Star
Look up. The Big Dipper is part of a larger constellation known
as Ursa Major, or The Great bear. The Big Dipper, also known as
the Drinking Gourd, was a very important
part of the Underground Railroad.
There were songs spread among the slaves
that veiled a message with references to
The Drinking Gourd. Fugitives were told
to follow it to get to a better life.
The North Star, called Polaris, is said to be
the brightest star in the heavens. Polaris
has been used for navigation because it is
positioned at the North Celestial pole and
remains stationary in the heavens.
All other stars in the Northern Hemisphere rotate around it.
Closing and Credits
The fossils on the corner stand
were taken from sea and land
not far from Jersey shores. The
pottery pieces, made by the
Lenni Lenape, were
uncovered near Greenwich.
The Library is available to you
as an on site reading library.
Unfortunately, it is not set up
to be a lending library.
The History Quilt is a gift from Mrs. D. K. Smith at the
Johnstone School in Vineland. It is the product of a
joint effort by students, parents, teachers, and friends
Thank You for Visiting
Vineland African American
Enjoy Your Journey!