African Association of New Brunswick (1817-1824)


This collection contains the records of the African Association of New Brunswick, including the organization's Minute Book for 1817–1824 and several permission slips from local slaveholders allowing enslaved men and women to join the organization alongside the free people of color who made up the majority of the organization's membership. Among these local slaveholders were major Rutgers trustees and benefactors John Neilson (permission for Phillis), James Neilson (permission for Mark Harris), Andrew Kirkpatrick (permission for Samuel Lane), and the Reverend Abraham Beach (permission for Cato). The Somerset County farmer Abraham Staats (whose house is now a historic site open to visitors) also gave permission to a black man named Harry to join the organization.

Established on January 1, 1817, the African Association was the earliest black institution in New Brunswick. The organization's original stated purpose was to support the African School in Parsippany, NJ. The Parsippany school was founded in 1816 under the auspices of the Presbyterian Synod of New York and New Jersey to educate "young men of Colour to be Teachers and Preachers to People of Colour within these states and beyond." The African Association of New Brunswick quickly became a space of black identity formation and racial uplift as members engaged in discussions of black education, Christianity, abolitionism, and colonization. Some meetings were held in the Sessions Room at the First Presbyterian Church while the majority took place in the homes of free black New Brunswickers. Committee meetings were held monthly, but the New Year's anniversary meeting drew the largest crowds for any given year. In 1823, the association established a local African School for the education of children of color in New Brunswick, holding classes in the home of Caesar Rappleyea, a longtime leader with the organization.

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Collection Items

Permission slip for Mark Harris to join the African Association
Slaveholder James Neilson (1784-1862) gives permission to Mark Harris, an enslaved man, to join the African Association on January 21, 1817. [Mark was first sold to James Neilson on October 15, 1816. Mark was married to Ambo, a woman who was enslaved…

Permission slip for Phillis to join the African Association
Slaveholder John Neilson (1745-1833) gives permission to Phillis, an enslaved woman, to join the African Association on January 1, 1820.

Permission slip for Cato to join the African Association
Reverend Abraham Beach (1740-1828) gives permission to Cato to join the African Association of New Brunswick on March 1, 1817.
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