PLAY AUDIO

The Cemetery on Red Bank Avenue in Woodsbury, New Jersey was founded in 1832. The land was the final resting place for 47 blacks before and after Emancipation. Eleven Civil War veterans and a prominent AME bishop were buried there, which is now a hospital parking garage. In 1962, those buried were transferred to the Presbyterian Cemetery on North Broad Street.

A plaque at the new Broad Street Cemetery honors those blacks who were buried on what was considered sacred ground of the past. Now an effort is underway to put a historical marker at the original cemetery at the parking garage. Gloria Holmes of the Woodbury African-American Oral History Project has been working for nearly a decade to get recognition for the past burial grounds.

Holmes addressed the Woodbury City Council to appeal for a historical marker at the parking garage at the Inspira Medical Center Woodbury.

In1832, John Tatum donated the land to the black community as a burial place under the following conditions: The land must be enclosed with a good sufficient fence at their own expense; it must not be sold or used for any other purpose; it must not be unoccupied for a period of longer than seven years; and meetings are to be held at seasonal hours, not later than 10 o’ clock in the evening.

Among those laid to rest was African Methodist Episcopal bishop, Rev. William Fisher Dickerson. At 35 years old, Dickerson, a Lincoln University graduate, was the city’s youngest AME bishop. He traveled around the globe with his ministry and assisted in the opening of Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina.

For 80 years after its dedication, black families buried their loved ones, until around WWI. The cemetery was abandoned and the grounds were left unkempt. But despite its lack of physical care, military veterans would gather each Memorial Day to honor the 11 black war veterans buried at the site. That ended in 1962 when the government took over the land and the bodies were transferred to their new home on Broad Street.

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