Henrietta Crawford: Radical Black Evangelist in Post-Civil War New Jersey

James Elton Johnson


Representing Black feminisms of the so-called, “First Wave era of American feminism,” forgotten icon Henrietta Crawford impacted Black political representation in southern New Jersey during the post-Civil War decades. As a noted evangelist, universal suffragist, Black community organizer, Civil Rights activist, homemaker, and intergenerational caregiver for minor dependents, Crawford crafted an intersectional legacy worthy of commemorative re-remembrance.  Collectively, scattered bits and pieces of information recorded over the past eighty years in newspapers and in recent scholarly accounts offer an incoherent combination of disparate hints at Henrietta’s historical significance. Buttressed, however, by historical insight, contemporary newspaper accounts, Civil War pension file records, real estate deed transactions, federal and state census records, vital statistics data, the evidentiary record sheds light on Crawford’s important role in the operation of historically significant Mt. Pisgah [U.A.M.E.] Church in Vineland and her associated development and implementation of important social justice initiatives. In 1948, a fifty-year commemorative notation about James and Henrietta Crawford’s 1898 departure from Vineland was published in the Daily Journal newspaper. Twenty-five years later “New Jersey Mother of the Year Award” recipient Rebecca Lassiter noted the Crawfords' important role in her life as foster parents. In year seventy-three since the Daily Journal’s acknowledgement, this essay conveys Henrietta Crawford’s legacy to students, scholars, and the general readership for current and future generations. As the present confluence of national political and economic crises resolves within an encapsulating global pandemic that is exacerbating socio-economic inequalities, Crawford’s life and record offers a critical example of faith-based social-justice activism and the seamless role of African American women in American history.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14713/njs.v7i1.225


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