Timbuctoo and the First Emancipation of the Early-Nineteenth Century
Timbuctoo is an unincorporated community in Westampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey. It was settled by formerly enslaved and free Black people beginning in 1826, reaching approximately 125 residents by 1860. The community also included at least two churches, two schools, and a benevolent association that helped people in the community in need. A vast collection of documentation of Timbuctoo’s founding and early development is available for research, including more than 100 years of deed and legal documents in a single PDF file; deeds and certificates of incorporation for churches, schools, and the benevolent association; newspapers that include death notices and feature articles as early as 1851; as well as vital records. The vital records are found in the New Jersey Births and Christenings Index and the New Jersey Deaths and Burials Index, with Timbuctoo resident listings as early as the 1850s. Prompted by recent emphasis on celebrating the end of slavery with the establishment of Juneteenth as a national holiday, this article explores what emancipation meant for an antebellum free Black community in southern New Jersey, drawing substantially from the primary sources above to provide a unique contemporaneous perspective. Questions for future research are mentioned throughout the narrative to illuminate compelling potential research projects.
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