Social Justice Remembrance Coalition project commemorates life of Samuel Johnson

EATONTOWN – The New Jersey Social Justice Remembrance Coalition in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), Montgomery, Ala., is preparing for a 3 p.m. Oct. 24 soil collection ceremony at Wampum Park, 35 West St., Eatontown.

The location is where Samuel “Mingo” Jack Johnson was lynched in 1886. The coalition is acknowledging and honoring the life of Johnson, with a series of community initiatives to follow, according to a press release.

The ceremony will include a representative from the EJI who will speak about the organization’s Community Remembrance Project, of which this event is a part.

The event will also feature performances by Tyrone Law on the African drum, and Lorraine Stone, who will offer a dramatic monologue as anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells (1862-1931), according to the press release.

Johnson was an African American resident of Eatontown who was murdered on March 5, 1886, after being arrested on unsubstantiated charges of raping a white woman. He was dragged by a mob from his cell, beaten and hanged to death. This was the only known lynching in New Jersey, according to the press release.

The historical marker that will be placed at the site required approval by the Borough Council, whose members voted unanimously to have the marker installed by the coalition, which also received a resolution from the council for its work, according to the press release.

“The soil under our feet tells a story,” said Minister Kerwin Webb, who is the coalition’s liaison to EJI. “Soil holds many memories that are hidden and overlooked, and we want to tell those hidden stories so we can grow something new and different.”

Webb, who is the president of the Greater Red Bank NAACP, initially learned of the project almost two years ago when he was approached by Monmouth County resident Tim Hartley, who was aware of the lynching that had taken place in Eatontown, according to the press release.

Hartley, who visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, learned about the community coalition initiative started by EJI founder Bryan Stevenson. He reached out to the Rev. Terrence Porter of Pilgrim Baptist Church, who put Hartley in touch with Webb, according to the press release.

The coalition is comprised of social justice advocacy organizations from across the state. Fore more information, email soil@njremembrance.org

The Oct. 24 soil collection ceremony will be postponed in case of inclement weather. If the weather is questionable, call 813-799-2694 for an update.