Burlington County is celebrating Black History Month with events, exhibits and small business highlights throughout February that show the county’s rich Black historical presence and culture.
A special lecture at the Lyceum of History and Natural Sciences on Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech is one of this year’s key activities.
Art exhibits at the Warden’s House Gallery in Mount Holly and at the Worker’s House Gallery and Smithville Annex Gallery in Historic Smithville Park also highlight African American culture and artists.
“Black History is both American history and Burlington County history,” said Commissioner Felicia Hopson. “Our county was known as the ‘Cradle of Emancipation’ because it was home to many of the nation’s leading slavery opponents and had at least 16 stops on the Underground Railroad. Numerous Black historical figures have also lived here, including Oliver Cromwell, Dr. James Still, William Still, Ethel Lawrence and Willie James.”
Besides the exhibits and events, the Burlington County Commissioners are using social media to highlight Black leaders and historical figures from the county and Black-owned businesses throughout the month of February.
“We’re proud of our county’s connection to so many great Black leaders, innovators, groundbreakers and achievers, past and present, and we want to celebrate them and their many contributions to our county, state, nation and world,” Hopson added.
Businesses that would like to be listed on the maps and promoted on the County’s social media sites should email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Burlington County is rich with Black history and culture, and our Board wants to recognize and celebrate them, not just this month but year-round,” said Commissioner Director Dan O’Connell. “We, as a nation, have so much to be thankful for because of the immeasurable contributions of Black Americans and it’s essential that we honor and recognize their legacies and achievements.”
New Jersey Senator Troy Singleton and Assemblyman Herb Conaway applauded the County for drawing attention to Black leaders and their achievements.
"The Burlington County Commissioners' effort to highlight impactful, Black historical and cultural figures from our local communities is both admirable and educational," said Singleton. "I hope that residents of all backgrounds take advantage of the wonderful programming being offered during Black History Month, and walk away from them with an understanding that Black History is our shared history, especially here in Burlington County.”
“From Frederick Douglas and Martin Luther King to Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Barack Obama, the achievements and contribution of Americans of African descent can be seen in every part of our society and all aspects of our life,” said Conaway. “Black Americans have helped defend and strengthen our nation and their achievements are part of our American story. They deserved to be recognized and celebrated, so it’s gratifying to see Burlington County call attention to them.”
I Have a Dream lecture
The lecture titled “I Have a Dream: The story behind the Speech” will be held Thursday, Feb. 10, at 2 PM at the Lyceum of History and Natural Sciences. The event will focus on Dr. King’s most well-known speech, how it came to be, and what followed afterwards. It will also touch on the contributions of Clarence Jones, a Palmyra graduate who assisted Dr. King with writing the famous speech. Registration is required and can be done online at https://secure.rec1.com/NJ/burlington-county-nj-/catalog?filter=c2VhcmNoPTE4MDkwNjM=. Masks are required for all attendees.
The lecture will also be broadcast on Zoom at 6 PM Thursday. A link for the event will be sent to those who register at https://secure.rec1.com/NJ/burlington-county-nj-/catalog?filter=c2VhcmNoPTE4MDkwNjM= .
Starting Thursday, Feb. 10, through May 1 the Annex Gallery at Historic Smithville Park will feature an art exhibit about African American culture. “Sweet Cream of the Struggle” features multiple artists and diverse styles.
In addition, the works of New Jersey-based artist Jazlyne Sabree are being exhibited at the Warden’s House Gallery, 150 High Street in Mount Holly, now through March 13.
Sabree specializes in contemporary art, and her work often expresses themes related to social justice, peace and healing.
The creations of artist Quinton Greene are also being exhibited now through March 20 at the Worker’s House Gallery in Smithville Park.
Greene is a disabled veteran and self-taught artist whose work features many bright acrylic paintings and mixed media construct collages.
All three galleries are open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 AM to 4 PM and Sundays from noon to 4 PM. Admission is free and all three are ADA accessible.
Photo: The Burlington County Lyceum of History and Natural Sciences will host a lecture about Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech on Thursday, Feb. 10, at 2 PM. The lecture will also be broadcast on Zoom at 6 PM