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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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Cape May Explores Its Rich African American History

The Harriet Tubman Museum in Cape May.

By Vince Conti

CAPE MAY – At the city council meeting Sept. 20, Nancy Zerbe with the historic preservation consulting firm Arch2, presented the council with the result of her research into the city’s rich African American history. 
The consulting work was fully covered by a grant and is being done as part of a city initiative to establish an area of significance depicting the Black experience in and contribution to Cape May. The city already boasts the status of a National Historic Landmark.
Presenting what Mayor Zack Mullock called “amazing research,” Zerbe combined documentary and oral history evidence to showcase the African American experience in churches, education, housing, finance and labor.
She added a little-known aspect of the experience when she discussed the travel and leisure facilities that were available to vacationing African Americans of means. 
Zerbe spoke of the efforts at advancement made by the city’s African Americans and of the resistance those efforts encountered. 
In terms of historic buildings, Zerbe lists several, including the Stephen Smith House and the Harriet Tubman Museum building. Mullock called the research an important beginning as the city pursues its goal of recognition and registration of facilities and a specific area focused on Black history.
The presentation is available to interested members of the public on the city website as part of the video recording of the entire council meeting. It was among the first items on the agenda. The presentation begins seven minutes and thirty seconds into the video and ends at the 30-minute mark. 

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